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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:

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.

Consortium Partners

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