WHY is it importaint

An improvement in the quality of current multimedia conferencing facilities is urgently needed to fill the gap between existing quality, and required quality.

Newly available methods of human-machine and improved human-human communication, such as voice recognition technology, and 3D spatial audio, have the potential to increase the effectiveness of distance learning. Multimedia mobile access networks are currently being designed in industry, but integration with existing low- cost multimedia networks, such as the Mbone, must be investigated in the near-term if the impacts are to be taken into consideration by industry.

The facilities are being developed for a range of heterogenous multi-tasking operating systems (especially PCs), with no extra specialist hardware. This premise means that the systems can be used by the masses, and the potential revenue generation is far greater.

This research is extremely timely, given industries drive towards multimedia teleconferencing, and multimedia mobile access.

The research plans to improve the quality of multimedia conferencing facilities, while investigating the resulting network and terminal impacts. Newly emerging developments in user interface communication methods will be integrated into existing multimedia conferencing facilities. Multi-way mobile access over the Internet will also be implemented.

This research is very user-focused, which is pertinent at the present time, because it directly addresses the multimedia networking and terminal issues relating to the provision of a real service, and therefore can influence the workstation and networking development decisions currently being made. The existence of a user group is extremely important for this research, because low-cost solutions rely on the exploitation of human perception characteristics.

The results of this project will not only provide HE institutions with low-cost distance learning, and remote language teaching solutions, but provide improvements for use in many other applications. The potential applications identified so far as part of projects MICE and MERCI (piloting multimedia conferencing facilities) include medics (demonstrations of novel surgery techniques to a world-wide audience of other surgeons, and students), the research community (conferences are regularly broadcast over the Mbone), and industry (training, teleworking and Computer Supported Collaborative Working).