Exploring New Possibilities of High-Speed Communication Technology Through Art.
SoftBank’s aim is not only to research technology but also to utilize it in order to bring about societal changes. In particular, communication technology becomes valuable when combined with innovative methods of application, rather than in isolation. Therefore, we collaborated with artist Daito Manabe to embark on an experimental endeavor, free from the constraints of conventional concepts, to explore the possibilities of communication technology. This article provides an explanation of the technologies used in the artwork and discusses its potential for further development.
From April 1st to May 10th, 2023, the exhibition "EXPERIMENT" by Daito Manabe was held at Tadao Ando’s Museum of the Light, the Kiyoharu Art Colony in Hokuto City, Yamanashi Prefecture. In this exhibition, experiments and implementations were conducted to explore the concepts of ultra-high-speed communication technology and life intelligence, and the entire process was publicly showcased in real-time. SoftBank provided low-latency communication technology for two artworks: "EXPERIMENT1: Telephysarumence" and "EXPERIMENT2: Teleffectence".
In this artwork, Museum of the Light and SoftBank's data center were connected via network, allowing the real-time delivery of video generated by the data center's servers to the monitors in the venue. Sensors located beneath the monitors at Museum of the Light captured the movements of visitors in real-time and transmitted the data to the data center's servers. On the server side, a simulator emulating the behavior of slime molds was running, generating video and audio based on the received data of the audience's movements. The generated video and audio were then delivered to the monitors and speakers in the venue. To achieve high-definition video and interactive expressions, abundant computing resources for real-time rendering and analysis are required. In the past, it was necessary to install powerful computers at the venue. However, in this artwork, a remote connection was established to high-performance computers located in a distant location, using a network to achieve low-latency communication, enabling the exhibition to be presented at the venue using simple facilities such as sensors and monitors. The connection between the venue and the data center was established using SoftBank's mobile network to create a closed network.
Comparison of Local and Remote Configurations in terms of Latency
We conducted a comparison of the experience between the traditional setup of installing powerful computers at the venue (local configuration) and the setup used in this exhibition (remote configuration). To assess the impact of network connectivity in the remote configuration, we measured the latency between the servers in the data center and the laptop at the venue. The results, as shown in the table below (Network Delay in the Remote Configuration), yielded values that were nearly identical to those of the local configuration.
To visually compare the latency between the local and remote configurations, the following video demonstrates the processing of sensor information under the monitor for both setups. It can be observed that there is minimal difference in the displayed video on the monitor.
Significance of Implementing within a Mobile Network
In this artwork, a closed network was established between the venue and the data center using a mobile network. The table below compares the latency when accessing servers on the Internet and accessing servers on the mobile network. The internet, due to traversing various operators' infrastructure, presents significant challenges in control, leading to high latency variations. On the other hand, the mobile network, controlled by SoftBank, allows for better control of latency variations. Therefore, in cases like this exhibition where consistent and stable quality is required, leveraging the characteristics of the mobile network is advantageous. Additionally, the closed network environment, which does not require internet access, offers security benefits from a security perspective.
Potential Enabled by the Network
In this artwork, analysis and rendering processes are performed on servers in the network, allowing the exhibition of the artwork in multiple venues within the same network. The utilization rate of the NVIDIA A40 GPU allocated to the virtual instances responsible for analysis/rendering tasks was less than 25%, indicating that there are surplus resources available. By efficiently distributing surplus resources through the network, there is potential for utilization in new expressive techniques and other applications.