Wednesday, 16 January 2008 11:56

Melbourne, San Diego researchers link via video wall

By
The University of Melbourne's new OptiPortal visualisation wall was demonstrated to senior politicians and other invited guests today.

The 96 megapixel display was built from two dozen 30in LCD panels and is driven by 13 quad-core PCs to combine the benefits of high-resolution videoconferencing and visualisation of very large data sets.

The demonstration connected the Melbourne campus with the University of California San Diego and featured the work of neuroscientist Professor Graeme Jackson and water researcher Professor John Langford.

Among the guests at the Melbourne end were Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Victorian Premier John Brumby, Victorian Opposition Leader
Ted Baillieu, the Federal Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research Kim Carr, the Federal Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy Senator Stephen Conroy, and the Victorian Minister for Industry and Trade, Information Technology and Major Projects Theo Theophanous.

The Dean of Engineering at the University of Melbourne, Professor Iven Mareels, said "The real-time nature of the technology means people on opposite sides of the world can work together on projects in real-time. For instance, a surgeon in Australia could direct an emergency surgical intervention by operating a robot in Antarctica; scientists in Australia and Japan could share research tools such as the Synchrotron [located adjacent to Monash University in suburban Melbourne], or operate an underwater robot exploring the Great Barrier Reef – all from the comfort of an OptiPortal room.

The amount of data involved requires a high bandwidth connection provided by the AARNet backbone in Australia, the Southern Cross Cable network across the Pacific, and Pacific Wave and CENIC in California. The 1Gbps link ran over a dedicated fibre optic lightpath, so there was no contention with other traffic.

According to AARNet CEO Chris Hancock, almost all Australian universities and the CSIRO have the connections necessary to put this technology to work.

But an OptiPortal isn't cheap - the University of Melbourne spent $A500,000 on the project, with another $A120,000 coming from the state government of Victoria. Despite the current cost, Hancock added "you can visualise that in the future OptiPortals will be commonplace."


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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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