If only Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were around today to take a spin with new technology being developed and tested by a team of computer scientists in Illinois and California.
If they were, they’d be dancing circles around each other – only from a considerable distance. That’s the beauty of Tele-immersive Environments for EVErybody, or TEEVE, a system that’s being test-driven simultaneously across thousands of miles this spring in the labs of Klara Nahrstedt, a computer science professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Ruzena Bajcsy, a professor of computer science at the University of California at Berkeley.
In technical terms, TEEVE is a distributed multi-tier application that captures images using 3-D camera clusters and distributes them over Internet2 (the network reserved for research and corporate clients), compressing and decompressing the 3-D video streams, rendering them into immersive video and displaying them on one or multiple large screens.
Nahrstedt predicts that it will be at least five to six years before TEEVE and other tele-immersive 3-D multi-camera collaborative environments are routinely used in university or corporate settings.
"Videoconferencing equipment – 2-D, single view – has been available for the last eight to 10 years, and only maybe in the last three years has it become common to have a conference room equipped with polycom conferencing equipment or access grid or net-meeting on a more regular basis."
In the meantime, Nahrstedt said, she and her colleagues will continue to design new software systems, protocols and hardware capabilities as common new platforms, such as multi-core processors and better cameras, become available.
A number of interesting research issues remain ripe for exploration as well, she said. They include figuring out how to simplify human-computer interfaces to allow people to customize their content and displays in order to more easily process multiple views and large amounts of information, and real-time processing and communication that would bring 3-D tele-immersive content closer to the quality of current television and radio quality.
Another big goal for the researchers is to focus on ways to automate the technology and make it more user-friendly.
Ultimately, she said, "the environments should be set up with a push of a button – this is absolutely impossible at this point."
Research on TEEVE was presented earlier this year at the Multimedia Computing and Networking conference in San Jose, Calif., and featured in the February issue of ProAV magazine. At Illinois, Nahrstedt’s research team consists of graduate students Jigar Doshi, Jin Liang, Wanmin Wu, Zhenyu Yang and Bin Yu. Working with Bajcsy at Berkeley are Ross Diankov and Samuel Morris Johnston.
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