VISTA European Commission Project, ESPRIT HPCN Programme
VISTA (Virtual Studio Applications Using Networked Graphical Supercomputers)
has received 3.6m ECUS for 2.5 years which started 1 July 1996
The main objective of the project is the integration and demonstration of
a generic and extensible telematics platform that supports the execution
of scenarios in the domain of real-time interactive television. This can
be regarded as the realisation of a Virtual Studio and offers the capability
of mixing real and synthetic objects and characters in any combination controlled
remotely by TV viewers.
The networked platform to be implemented will enable the realisation of
innovative interactive teleservices for homes. These will take the form
of television programmes broadcast over conventional television channels,
with the important difference that viewers at home will be able to direct
and interact with the programme being viewed. The image content of the programme
will be generated (and transmitted) in real-time by high-end graphics computers
and networks. As the viewers at home need a cost- effective way of interacting
with the programmes, the existing and affordable infrastructure of the traditional
telephone networks will be utilised for feeding the viewers' interaction
back to the programme being transmitted which is controlled by servers.
The number of simultaneous viewers that actively can take part in the interaction
will depend upon the programme (i.e. the application) at issue, and will
vary from just a few to several hundreds.
Within the VISTA project, the objective is to develop and test three concrete
and specific applications on the platform:
- Interactive Drama: Creation of an interactive television program (simultaneously
on three channels) in which viewers are participating in a cultural drama
- Interactive Presenter: Creation of a virtual presenter that can be
- Defensive Driving: Creation of an interactive television program
to learn the traffic rules by means of driving through a virtual environment.
These applications can be considered as being supported within a Virtual
Studio Environment which is capable of being interacted with, and changed
by, remote users.
The public broadcasting companies BRT-N (Belgium) and VPRO (Netherlands)
are the broadcasting users in VISTA and have excellent links to the European
Broadcasting Union (EBU), the ideal user group for the project. For the
first time in history, broadcasting companies will be able to develop and
execute truly interactive TV-programs where the images are an integral part
of virtual environments and in which the viewers can actively participate
and direct the programme being transmitted. The actual way in which the
television medium is experienced will change through platforms such as the
one to be implemented in the VISTA project.
From a technical point of view, VISTA will build on the expertise and software
technology of the academic partners in the consortium within the area of
virtual humans and virtual environments in the European projects HUMANOID,
HUMANOID-2 and CHARM. Furthermore, the project will build on the experience
gained by the consortium partners on interlinking high-end graphics computers
over ATM-networks in the European RACE TEN-IBC project VISINET.
BRTN (BE) and VPRO (NL) have the role of users, being the broadcasting companies,
and will drive the project objectives. Alcatel Bell (BE), University of
Bradford (GB), EPFL (CH), NOB (NL), Limburgs Universitair Centrum (B) and
University of Geneva (CH) are acting as suppliers. As developers in the
domain of 3D computer graphics, interactive multimedia and virtual environments,
they are very interested in collaborating with the broadcasting companies,
as this opens up excellent opportunities for future collaboration.
R. A. Earnshaw