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Messages from RCAST Students
Hi. My name is Jochen Ehnes. I arrived from Germany last April (2003). First, I was a research student, and since last October, I'm in the PhD program in the Hirose Laboratory. My major is about augmented reality.
Ehnes Jochen Walter 
RCAST Dept. of Advanced Interdisciplinary Studies
Interviewer: First I would like to ask you, how did you know about the RCAST?
Ehnes: Yeah, well, I didn't know the RCAST directly. The whole thing started maybe in 2002 when I was at a conference in Yokohama, and I met a student from the Tachi Lab.
Interviewer: Sorry. Which lab?
Ehnes: Tachi Lab. Professor Tachi.
Interviewer: Okay.
Ehnes: He's also doing virtual reality but from a more tele-presence point of view. And so Professor Tachi and Professor (Hirose) were organizing this conference together. And yeah, so I was in contact with him, and he showed me around, and I thought it's very interesting what is done in the University here. And although I was doing similar things in Germany, I had been in an institute for several years; it was interesting to see things from a slightly different point of view.
Interviewer: Yeah.
Ehnes: Yeah, then private reasons also came into account. My girlfriend was here in Japan, and so I became interested and tried to apply as well to come here. And just when I was talking more about what kind of research I wanted to do with an assistant of Professor Tachi, he thought, he told me it might be better to do it in Professor Hirose's Lab. So I contacted Professor Hirose. So it wasn't that I really knew about RCAST in the first place, but by meeting with Professor (Hirose) I came to be aware of RCAST.
Interviewer: Right. Okay, so, did you have any anxiety about coming to Japan? Or about coming to RCAST? I mean anything?
Ehnes: I mean, of course. When you are going to a foreign country, or even if you are in your own country, when you start a new job, you are always a bit nervous. So, of course, I had this feeling of nervousness. But at the same time, since I had my girlfriend here and have visited her before several times, and I had met Professor (Hirose) before.
Interviewer: Oh, before you came here?
Ehnes: Before I came here, even before I applied for the scholarship. Maybe it was the summer before I came. And so, I at least had an image of what the place would be, so I thought there wouldn't be too major problems. But of course, I was also a bit worried about how I would really be able to work in an environment where I don't really speak the language. Of course, I tried to learn Japanese but even with the beginner's course, I won't be able to talk in Japanese in a lecture environment. So, of course there were some worries. But I think that's normal.
Interviewer: Normal. Yes. True. You of course had some worries and anxieties about coming to Japan, and being in this community or something. But how about the current situation? Is there... I mean, do you still have any problems being in this community? Or do you... Have the worries vanished?
Ehnes: Yeah.
Interviewer: How do you feel?
Ehnes: Yeah, I think I'm not really worried now. I mean, I like it here and feel well.
Interviewer: That's great.
Ehnes: Just of course I have to say that sometimes the language is a problem. And, for example, our lab meetings we have usually on Saturdays and students present their work. Of course these meetings are usually held in Japanese. And so, I mean, okay, they make PowerPoint slides and pictures, so I know what they are talking about. I can at least ask them later about their work. But of course in these meetings, I don't really understand what they are talking about. While the presentations maybe okay because I can see those slides, afterwards, the discussions with the Professor and maybe some other people, I cannot really follow these discussions. So I just sit there being bored, or maybe doing something on my lap-top. So...
Interviewer: Yeah, yeah. Of course. Will the system be changed or do you think the Japanese presentation system will be continued in your laboratory?
Ehnes: Yeah, I think it will be continued. Especially since in my laboratory, I'm the only foreigner. So they don't really want to change it. It's just for me, as one person, I think. And also often I think these presentations are also test presentations for maybe exams, or sometimes when the students are going to a conference or symposium and have to present their work there. Then they are doing the test presentations at our meetings. And if they're going to present it in Japanese, of course they are going to give the test presentations in Japanese as well.
Interviewer: Oh, yeah. Sure, sure.
Ehnes: Of course I was lucky when they were preparing for an English conference or an international conference because I could understand everything. So.
Interviewer: True.
Ehnes: Yeah, but from that point of view, I don't think that they will change much. Maybe if more foreigners are in the lab, then the situation would be different.
Interviewer: Yeah. True. Okay, we will switch the topic to your research. Can you explain briefly about your research topic? What are you really doing, and what are you going to do? And what is your dream? And so on.
Ehnes: Yeah. My research topic is augmented reality using projectors, even video projectors. And the idea is, I mean, augmented reality is not so new, it has been done before, but usually the researchers are using head-mounted displays to display the additional information on top of the real-world images and real objects. And of course the idea for applications is to instruct workers in a factory, for an example what they have to do. But these workers in the factory don't want to wear their head-mounted displays for 8 hours a day when they are working. It's just not feasible. And so the idea was sometimes you don't really need the 3D impression which would be possible with the head-mounted displays. And it would be enough if you have just the information projected onto the real objects to give you hints about what to do next. So you could do the same thing if you have the video projector doing this.
Interviewer: Yeah. Um, so how long have you been involved in that field? And what is the attractive point for you, of the research?
Ehnes: I've been doing virtual reality for many years in Germany. Including my time as a student, maybe 8 years.
Interviewer: Okay.
Ehnes: And, yeah, I'm still interested in that field but I realize the next step of augmented reality is to bring or combine that technology with real objects and optical tracking and so on. It's more interesting and offers more chances to be useful. So that's why I wanted to do this. At the same time, however, I saw the problem of the technology with the head-mounted displays so far, and so I try to conquer this problem.
Interviewer: Okay so, the next question. What are you going to do after this research? Not right after, but your future dream or something like that. What do you expect for yourself?
Ehnes: That's a really difficult question. Frankly, I don't really know what I'm doing afterwards. Of course I guess it will be somehow in that field still. Maybe going somewhere else or doing post-doctorate work and staying in the university. But of course, there is also a possibility that maybe such technology will be adopted in companies and I would join the research team of this company and so on.
Interviewer: Right. Currently do you have any concrete plan, for an example, corporate research with some companies, or do you have any exact plan for?
Ehnes: At the moment I'm doing my research basically alone. I mean that is basically because I have just started a few months ago. I have to build proto-type systems for a demonstrator. And then of course I hope that I'll have some demonstration applications for it. I can show these to some companies maybe. If they think it's good for them, then there could be some projects made together. But at the moment, I don't have any connections.
Interviewer: Okay. I think that's all the time we have for this interview. The last thing to ask you is to give future students of RCAST, some messages to them.
Ehnes: If you are thinking about coming to Japan, but you're worrying about how to survive here, I can tell you, don't worry. At least in the big cities like Tokyo, the station names, subway stations, etc., are all written in English as well. And the people are in general very helpful and very kind especially my colleagues. Although of course there are sometimes language problems, but so far none of my problems have remained unsolved. And, all in all it was a very good move for me to come to RCAST because for once, it was really easy to get the equipment that I need, and at the same time I have time to do my research because I don't have many extra obligations which I had in my previous position. Thank you.
(February 27, 2004)

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