Virtual Reality Trial over ATM - VISINET
What is VISINET?
The European Commission (DG XIII, TEN-IBC) is funding a trial using
virtual reality techniques for prototyping, known as
"virtual representation", over broadband ATM
(Asynchronous Transfer Mode) networks.
A preliminary study has shown that there is scope for reducing the
time from design to production by several weeks by using virtual
prototypes rather than physical mock-ups.
Very often the design department, the marketing team and the production
facility are in different locations. Introducing high speed networks
for working on the prototypes allows team-work over a wide area and
this is the aspect which the trial sets out to explore.
Networked virtual representations offer the opportunity for remote
access to visualization facilities and the sharing of data and results
via the network (computer supported collaborative work). Demands on
the network for the support of data, images, voice and video have
been evaluated. This will provide the basis for the scenarios to be
studied further in the current VISINET Trial.
Objectives of the VISINET Trial
The objectives are:
to demonstrate different types of collaboration across broadband networks using
advanced 3D visualization systems in the context of shared environments
to investigate the extent to which collaboration using virtual representation
reduces deliverable lead times and increases overall user effectiveness.
The commercial benefits of remote working will be measured and
interest in the exploitation of broad-band communications by vendors
and application developers will be stimulated.
Application areas to be studied include architectural design and
The objectives of the Trial therefore encompass both network-based
applications and the development of the right infrastructure to
support these. Quantitative measurements in both these areas will
provide a firm basis on which to develop future network-based services
in the areas of visualization, design, digital media,
collaborative working, and remote access.
Hardware and Software
The trial will use standard hardware and software components from the
leading edge suppliers Silicon Graphics, Division, and visualization
vendors, which are already proven (and which already work over local
area networks), and which can support most of the packages required
In order to fulfil the high bandwidth requirements needed in a wide
area, the ATM Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) network of the
European PTT's will be utilised to provide international connectivity.
In the Netherlands, the users will be connected via 155 Mbit/s links
to a local node of the PTT in Eindhoven, which in its turn is connected
to the ATM MoU network via Amsterdam. In the UK the SuperJANET
high-bandwidth academic network will be used which will be connected
to the ATM MoU node of British Telecom.
Figure: Network configuration diagram
In Portugal, access to the ATM MoU will be realised via the SMDS MAN
installed by TLP. In Belgium, connection to the Belgacom MoU node
in Brussels will be realised via 34Mbit/s lines.
The trial will be driven by users based in:
Netherlands (European Design Centre, Philips, City of Eindhoven)
UK (University of Leeds, Division)
Portugal (Adetti, OA)
Belgium (Limburg University, Androme, Brics).
A phased implementation of the trial applications will place increasing
demands on the networks and will provide the framework for the production
of interim results and reports to allow progress to be monitored.
Using similar systems and stable environments at each site will enable
viability to be established and provide opportunity for systematic
assessment of the benefits that accrue to applications and their
users from cooperative working.
Technical evaluation of the performance of the applications over fast
networks (including ATM) and their interfaces will take place. User
evaluation and economic analysis will also be undertaken to provide
quantitative information on benefits and business cases for users and
Information dissemination will take place using workshops, seminars,
and state-of-the-art presentations and reports on the evolution of
ATM and virtual representation.
Funding is provided by the European Commission, Directorate General
XIII: Telecommunications, Information Market, and Exploitation of
Research, Directorate B: Advanced Communications Technologies and
Services. The total budget for the project is 2 Million ECU. It
comes under the programme: Trans European Networks Integrated
Broadband Commun-ications (Ten-IBC).
The project number and official title are:
Project B2007: VISINET: 3D Visualization over Networks.
Partners include European Design Centre, Netherlands
(Mr Joao Mena de Matos), Philips, Netherlands, City of Eindhoven,
Netherlands, University of Leeds (Dr Rae Earnshaw), UKERNA
(formerly JNT), Division Ltd, Analysys, Telecommunications Users'
Foundation, Adetti, Portugal, Oficina de Architecture,
Portugal, Alcatel Bell Telephone, Limburgs University Centre,
Belgium, and Androme CV, Belgium.
Research at the University of Leeds on ATM Networking
(Professor Peter M Dew)
The University's experience in ATM networking dates back to 1992
when it installed an experimental ATM network based on a Synoptics
LattisCell ATM switch with 16 TAXI ports. This network has grown
with the purchase of a second FORE ASX100 switch to undertake ATM LAN
integration trials under a project funded by the Joint Information
Systems Committee (JISC). The ATM LAN network forms an integrable
part of a Real-time Collaborative Computing Environment to support
a number of key research projects that exploit desktop-to-desktop
ATM networking. These are:
Virtual Science Park (VSP)
This is a major University of Leeds project, led by Dr C M Leigh,
that exploits the advances in real time collaborative computing and
networking to provide an environment that can meet the objectives of
physically based science parks without the need for organisations to
physically relocate. The objectives of the VSP are to enhance the
University's ability to interact with industry and to develop
and enhance its applied research and workplace learning activities through an
integrated set of services built around a person-centred information model.
The VSP is currently undergoing trials with regional companies and
the Leeds Environment Centre.
- Distributive Virtual Engineering
This is a project which is based in the Keyworth Institute of
Manufacturing and Information Systems Engineering, to demonstrate
the feasibility of real-time sharing of product information
within a virtual organisation. The research is focusing on a
technology demonstrator sharing an assembly modeller
using maintenance simulation and analysis as the application
- Visual Surveillance
This project which is lead by Professor David Hogg builds a
virtual environment from a number of strategically placed
video cameras and tracks moving objects (e g people) in
the environment. The video cameras are connected to
Video-to-ATM convertors (from K-Net) and exploit the
switching capability with an ATM switch.
In addition to these projects, the School of Computer Studies is
Virtual Reality Trial over ATM - VISINET continued undertaking a
number of related ATM research projects. For example to develop
collaborative scientific visualization software in association with
the physical chemists at Leeds. A new collaborative research project
in conjunction with IBM UK (Hursley) Ltd., TORCH Telecoms and BISS Ltd.
is underway to study management and tariffing of city-wide, multi-media
network services. A case study will be undertaken using the IBM LAKES
collaborative computing architecture.
University of Leeds Virtual Science Park (Dr Christine M Leigh)
Two years ago the University of Leeds concluded that a conventional
science park would be inappropriate for an inner city university in
a mature industrial region wishing to work with leading edge research
partners either from other universities or, increasingly, with industry.
Expertise within the University of Leeds has an international standing
and our natural collaborators are found over a far wider area than
the local and regional. A programme of research and development has
therefore been undertaken to create a Virtual Science Park (VSP)
which will allow interaction and collaboration between researchers,
teachers and students irrespective of distance. The Virtual Science
Park is virtual in the sense that the working environments only exist
when they are required.
A technical team based within a Virtual Working Environments
Laboratory at the University of Leeds has built software to
demonstrate the concept and to undertake early trials with key
groups within the University.
The VSP integrates emerging collaborative, multi-media computing
tools into a system which also provides a carefully structured
information architecture to describe the skills and expertise of
organisations in the VSP. Navigation and browsing facilities are
provided to allow quick and easy identification of potential
collaborators and a range of conferencing tools is available to aid
communication between geographically separate people. In addition,
issues such as security and accounting are addressed. The VSP will
require the use of broadband networks and is being piloted over high
performance ATM networks as well as ISDN and SuperJANET.
Pilot projects are being developed to better understand the
customisation of VSP services; they include virtual research
consultancies, access to specialist information services, virtual
research clubs and work based projects.
A number of strategic partners including IBM and BT have been
identified and are helping to accelerate the development of the
technology in order to allow the University to build a state-of-the-art,
real time, collaborative computing environment.
The ATM, ISDN and SuperJANET experiments are testing the capacity
of both the VSP and the available networks to link widely distributed
research laboratories into cooperative and collaborative working
This Trial is the result of a pilot study undertaken from 1993/94
to define the facilities required for network based 3D visualization
within the European TEN-IBC framework. The pilot study was funded
by the European Commission. Some of the above partners participated
in the study and the user evaluations. A report was produced and
delivered to the European Commission in June 1994.
Demands on the network for the support of data, images, voice and
video have been evaluated. This will provide the basis for the
scenarios to be studied further in the current VISINET Trial.
Particular areas of interest identified by the study were as follows :
the impact of applications on the design of TEN-IBC
the traffic implications of supporting remote collaborative work
what generic applications can be supported
what developments in standards are required
the likely market utilisation of the facilities provided by TEN IBC
how the regulatory framework will affect the range of applications.
Further Information and Press Contact:
Joao Mena de Matos
European Design Centre
5611 ZX Eindhoven
Tel: +31 40 466350
Rae A Earnshaw and
Alan B Haigh