ERCIM News No.22 - July 1995 - GMD

Broadband Communications and the Visual Arts

by Thomas Luckenbach

Based on the results of the RACE-II project LACE (Local Applied Customer Environment for Integrated Communications, R2068) GMD is currently setting up international ATM links between Berlin, Ipswich (BT Labs) and Oxford (Ashmolean Museum, Rutherford Appleton Labs). Via these Pan-European ATM links (34 Mbit/s) different multimedia applications will be tested in the next six month.

The LACE project has developed and implemented a broadband Customer Premises Network (B-CPN), including ATM switching and gigabit LAN elements. Applications suitable for demonstrating multimedia capabilities have been developed and integrated into the B-CPN which has been installed, tested and demonstrated in the Ashmolean museum in Oxford in March 1995.

Following this demonstration three partners (University Oxford/Ashmolean, BT, and GMD) of the LACE consortium have expressed interest in using the Pan-European ATM network as a basis for further experiments with distributed multimedia applications.

The LACE project selected and implemented three application prototypes. One of them - called "the museum application" - retrieves multimedia information from Unix workstations distributed across the LACE demonstrator. The stored objects can be still image, graphics, text, audio, or video. In the present implementation three audiovisual sequences are available on the Ashmolean Museum itself (history of the cast collection, catalogue of casts, etc), on Athena (presenting different statues from various museums throughout the world - Paris, Toronto, Nashville, etc - with technical details about each of them) and on Athens. The coding used is JPEG for still images and M-JPEG for moving pictures. The quality of the presentation is excellent and can be adjusted by changing the compression factor.

A second application prototype builds on the real time video capabilities of the demonstrator to add a video surveillance application, based on connections between remote workstations and several cameras placed at strategic points under the ceiling of the Ashmolean museum.

The third prototype is a real time multimedia conferencing system, based on Ethernet technology and integrated into the demonstrator via an ATM/Ethernet interworking unit developed by LACE. The system is targeted at multiparty desktop conferencing, where audio and video links and simple window sharing applications are integrated as part of virtual meeting rooms.

Especially the museum application is of high interest considering the fourth framework of the European Comission (especially ACTS) which gives high priority to information society programs, specifically programs which deal with european cultural heritage and general education.

Therefore the museum application will be the first one to be distributed between Sun based client/server workstations located at the partner premises. The hardware of the LACE demonstrator prototype will be partly replaced by commercially available ATM equipment (e.g. switches, adaptor boards) already installed and used in the access networks of the involved partners.

The GMD ATM acces network used for the VisA (Visual Arts) project is installed in the ATM Test and Conformance Center at GMD-Institute for Open Communication Systems in Berlin and consists of about six ATM switches of different vendors, different adaptor boards as well as sophisticated test systems and tools for troubleshooting and performance measurements.

Please contact:
Thomas Luckenbach - GMD
Tel.: + 49 30 25499 245

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