Leeds Metropolitan University has been developing its information strategy to include multimedia based usage in all areas of teaching and learning, administration, internal information provision, advertising and marketing, presentations and external communication. This paper describes the approach being adopted, indicating the opportunities provided by multimedia and the areas to which Leeds Metropolitan University is devoting its energy. External communication via the intimate is also providing an opportunity for active external marketing of Leeds Metropolitan University courses, research collaboration, consultancy and short courses. The paper also presents interesting research activity related to the Arts on the one hand and to motion analysis on the other.
Firstly, the power and flexibility of the desktop workstation has increased at an amazing pace. A revolution is taking place caused by the amazing developments in the area of digital media. Multimedia is the term generally used to describe the integration in a seamless environment of a variety of media such as video, still images, audio and text. The technology is certainly well developed. The software in terms of authoring languages and other tools for integration are rapidly being refined.
Over the next decade or two, digital media is likely to have an impact on nearly every aspect of creative endeavour - an impact that will rival that of the printing press, the telephone, and the motion picture - while incorporating aspects of all of them (Cruickshank, 1992).Second, a revolution has taken place in the world of communications technology which, through the use of the Internet, allows computers all over the world to communicate. A more recent phenomenon has been the introduction of the World Wide Web. Graphical interfaces to the structured hypermedia have been developed making the tool relatively accessible to a wide range of people. Indeed, in the original paper the authors say "The aims of the W3 initiative are twofold : firstly to make a single easy user interface to all types of information so that all may access it, and secondly to make is to easy to add new information that the quantity and quality of online information will both increase" (Berners-Lee, 1992).
However, all of this is certainly not without its problems. The characteristics of multimedia make very significant demands on both storage and transmission systems. Although data compression can be used to reduce these demands, that is usually at the expense of loss of detail. Also, the ways in which users access multimedia can impact seriously on the networks. For example, multimedia learning material can be accessed directly from a server during a class or downloaded to student machines at the beginning of a session. Further, if the connection to the Internet is via a shared backbone on, say, an ethernet, the WWW may be the "killer application" if a lot of use is made of downloading multimedia images. There are also strategic issues to be addressed. Although the WWW is apparently seen to be very popular, many sites have not installed a corporate server and most do not have a well developed strategy for its use.
The complete information strategy for the University is concerned with access by the University's various communities to internal and external information sources, and includes strategies for the provision of.
The detailed strategy statements are expressed under the following headings:
Information InfrastructureThe following extracts give a feel for the nature of the strategy, though there is clearly a lot more detail to underpin these broad strategic statements.
Information Sources and Access
The capacity of the data network will be sufficient to allow:
This includes the provision of information sources and appropriate access or delivery mechanisms for print, electronic, video and multimedia materials in support of teaching and learning.
All network delivered information sources and services should be accessible from the same delivery platform via a common, user friendly interface.
Access to specialist information sources should be provided on the basis of 'need' but will be influenced by resource constraints, eg. initial access to certain information sources may be restricted to specific delivery points or to specific communities before wider access (to, say, all staff desks) can be provided.
The University will provide campus wide information services which provide access to basic information, provide a range of electronic messaging and conferencing facilities and serve as an introduction to the range of information sources available elsewhere.
Organisations are realising that the web can be a complete internal information delivery system, with a number of advantages over some proprietary systems. For example, it is an open system in that it is independent of platform. As long as they support the underlying TCP/IP protocols you can mix and match any hardware and operating system. Similarly it is scaleable in that you can start with a minimal system where the HTML files reside on the same machine as the browser and expand to as complex a network as is necessary.
Use of the web in this way provides a plethora of opportunities for organisations: internal communications, company organisation charts, corporate newsletters, replacing telephone directories, annual reports, minutes of committee meetings. This can be especially valuable for an organisation occupying multiple sites, and especially so for multinational companies.
Papers at previous Perth Conferences (Willis, 1994; Hobbs & Moore, 1992) have given an indication of a range of work being undertaken at Leeds Metropolitan University in the multimedia area, much of it in the form of student projects. This work continues unabated. For example there are currently a number of final year students doing individual projects concerned with producing multimedia teaching packages in a variety of domains such as addressing mechanisms in assembler programming, the data link layer of network protocols though to network topologies and network management.
Another interesting application of multimedia (in the form of digital video) is associated with motion analysis. The following section describes the work being undertaken by the author in collaboration with colleagues in Biomechanics.
Such routine, repetitive tasks are ideally handled by a computerised system. However, several aspects of automated motion analysis have proved intractable in the past, and so general success was not achieved. The project is a new approach to the problem that has been adopted by the development team.
The new approach has been implemented in a prototype automated motion analysis system and tested on sets of human motion data. The new system can successfully track designated parts of the body through complicated manoeuvres, completely automatically.
If we are processing the first pair of images, the system operator will be asked to indicate (digitise) the required targets. This provides the necessary initial estimate of position. The feature extraction algorithms will then be invoked to obtain a description of the target. Targets are recorded individually, and processed separately during each iteration.
Subsequent pairs of images use the estimated position output from the tracking algorithms, plus the stored target description from the last iteration.
The feature extraction algorithms process a region about the estimated position. Potential targets are discovered, and a description for each is produced. The list of candidates is then passed to the feature identification process.
Much of the complexity of the total system lies in the feature extraction, description, and identification portions of the code. The tracking algorithm used in the prototype is an extremely simple linear predictor. In other words, the difference in position of a target between times t and t+1 is assumed to be the same as the positional change between times t-1 and t. Motion is therefore initially assumed to be linear with no acceleration. This assumption works perfectly well where targets are not occluded, and where the frame rate is moderately high. More sophisticated algorithms are required to handle more difficult scenarios.
Since we are able to input images from standard video equipment we are able to process data asynchronously using video recorders to capture data in the field, which can then be replayed later in the laboratory for analysis. This too offers considerable advantages in terms of operational flexibility.
A major advantage of the new system is its sheer speed. For example, the image sequence digitisation of say 150 frames would take a skilled operator almost one day to input. It would be subject to operator error and fatigue. The same series of 150 frames would be processed in approximately seven seconds by the prototype of the system running on an IBM RISC System/6000 computer. Numerical results obtained are within 3% of those obtained manually.
Development of the motion analysis system itself will concentrate on using more sophisticated algorithms, particularly in the tracking phase. The simple linear estimators used will be replaced by adaptive non-linear predictive algorithms. These algorithms will allow us to track the designated points of interest even if they are obscured in one (or more) of the images.
The "CAL Group Engineering Consortium" of 14 UK Universities aims to increase the productivity, quality and flexibility of course provision by the development and implementation of open learning materials covering first and second year mechanical, electrical and manufacturing engineering (Ball, et al, 1993).
More specifically, the provision of highly interactive material (examples, case studies, simulations, experiments) to support a "key note" lecturing approach and reduce lecturer involvement in tutorial and laboratory work is a fundamental aim, but one which brings with it an enrichment of students' learning experience. CAL also provides the opportunity to undertake intelligent automatic assessment of student progress and provide remedial support.
One primary objective of the studies is to focus on the implementation aspects of the Artline service from the terminal specification level.
The other objective is the production of trials specification to develop a prototype for the transnational visual arts information service, Artline, based on knowledge gained from market research and consultation forums in the 'Definition Phase'. The trials should allow the prototype to be refined to produce 'a beta version' of the product based on the feed back from selected user groups. Furthermore, to evaluate the capabilities of the bearer network to provide a viable commercial service based on the user requirements.
The first database is AXIS, a multimedia information system encompassing the contemporary artists, craftspeople and photographers in England, Scotland and Wales. The information service is aimed at art libraries, visual artists, architects and various other users to promote the contemporary artists both in the UK and overseas. The prototype database was created using a limited number of artists utilising initially MS Access 1.1. AXIS was developed on a PC platform based on Intel 486DX-66MHz microprocessor, 16MB RAM, 640 MB hard disk, 17 inch high resolution colour monitor and 24 bit video card, which at the time of inception was the top of the range available user platform.
The second database was DISCOVER which is multimedia tourist information system aimed at presenting the visitor to a region with an interactive tool to explore the regions landscape and it's tourist cultural resources. This system was originally developed by ERA Maptec as a stand alone system on an Apple Mac using SuperCard and Omnis 5 database. Later it was developed on a UNIX platform. The user interface used Motif toolkit running over X windows. An Oracle database is used to store the information.
Based on a critical comparison of the above systems and taking into account parallel studies and surveys of the user requirements it was concluded that the ARTLINE project should be based on AXIS prototype.
The study of the available technologies of the day, and in accordance with the initial market studies of the user requirement, has resulted in a proposed trial to use the SuperJanet networking system with the incorporation of ISDN for comparison. The proposed connection for this ATM trial is between Trinity College Dublin and Leeds Metropolitan University in the first instance with possible inclusions of another site(s) in France and/or Switzerland. The presentation will report further on the current state of the development of this system.
Berners-Lee, T. J., Cailliau, R. and Groff, J. (1992). The World Wide Web. Computer Networks and ISDN Systems, 25(4-5), 454-459.
Cruickshank, D. (1992). Digital Media. IRIS Universe, No 20, p16-21.
Hobbs, D. and Moore, D. (1992). Instructional technology for student centred learning: The Leeds Polytechnic experience. In Promaco Conventions (Ed.), Proceedings of the International Interactive Multimedia Symposium, 227-234. Perth, Western Australia, 27-31 January. Promaco Conventions. http://www.aset.org.au/confs/iims/1992/hobbs.html
Willis, N. (1994). Multimedia in a university teaching/learning environment. In C. McBeath and R. Atkinson (Eds), Proceedings of the Second International Interactive Multimedia Symposium, 576-582. Perth, Western Australia, 23-28 January. Promaco Conventions. http://www.aset.org.au/confs/iims/1994/qz/willis.html
|Author: Neil Willis|
Assistant Dean and Head of School of Computing
Faculty of Information and Engineering Systems
Leeds Metropolitan University
Leeds LS63QS, UK
Tel. +44 113 283 2600 ext. 3729 Fax +44 113 283 3182
Please cite as: Willis, N. (1996). Research, arts, information and service: The RAIS against time at Leeds Metropolitan University. In C. McBeath and R. Atkinson (Eds), Proceedings of the Third International Interactive Multimedia Symposium, 419-425. Perth, Western Australia, 21-25 January. Promaco Conventions. http://www.aset.org.au/confs/iims/1996/ry/willis.html