World's First Gigaconference Pushes Videoconference Equipment Limits

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- August 5, 2005 -- The world' first Gigaconference videoconferencing event opened at noon EST today to showcase the use of high-end, high-performance videoconferencing equipment. The Internet2 Commons and Codian Corp are sponsoring the event.

More than 20 participating sites from around the world are giving presentations on a variety of topics including animated videos, musical performances, classroom teaching experiences, remote medical collaborations, and much more.

Some of the highlights include: "Classical Music and the IP Prince" by the Cleveland Institute of Music; "Telemedicine via Live High-Performance Video" from Helsinki, FN;

"Live from the Distance Teaching and Learning Conference" in Madison, WI; and "The Ohio State University Marching Band."

In addition, viewers can come aboard the sailing vessel "Denis Sullivan" as she navigates the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Seaboard. This vessel uses wireless connectivity to Internet2 to create a floating platform for students around the world. Viewers can also tour a science museum in Toledo, Ohio, to see "Super Cool Science" which uses liquid nitrogen to demonstrate the three states of matter. For a complete list of presenters see http://commons.internet2.edu/gigaconference.

Dr. Bob Dixon, one of the world's foremost videoconferencing experts, said the idea for this event was born out of a desire to test the limits of new videoconferencing equipment being produced by such companies as Polycom, Tandberg, Codian, Sony and Radvision, in order to determine the strengths and weaknesses.

"As television is moving toward high definition, so is videoconferencing," said Dixon, who is Chief Research Engineer for The Ohio State University Office of the CIO, and a Senior Research Engineer at the Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC).

"The capabilities of all the major vendors will be pushed to the utmost, and the Gigaconference will serve as a milestone for what is possible with high bandwidth at this point in time," Dixon said.

Dixon said a connection speed of at least 1 Megabit per second is required, in addition to 4 CIF resolution, or 30 frames per second or higher. Both SIP and H.323 endpoints are welcome, as well as other high-performance videoconferencing technologies. The event is being streamed at various speeds for those who cannot participate interactively. It is also being recorded, and highlights will be shown at the Fall 2005 Internet2 Member Meeting in Philadelphia, September 19-22.

OSC Video Engineer Arif Khan said a lot of work goes on behind the scenes to produce events like this such as testing equipment and network connections, making sure no problems exist, and keeping things running.

"My team spends many hours working on events like Gigaconference, Megaconference, and Megaconference J." Kahn said. We always encounter problems with equipment and on the network, but it's our job to fix them prior to a videoconference to ensure things run smoothly."

Khan said on average OSC hosts about two videoconferences daily at any given point around the world and for a variety of educational, government, cultural, medical, and research institutions.

OSC and OSU work collaboratively to house and maintain the Commons for the Interet2 community. OSC also operates Ohio's Third Frontier Network (TFN), the nation's most advanced fiber optic network for education, research and government. For more information on TFN see www.tfn.oar.net.

Jim Christopoulos, Codian Sales Directly for the Americas, said his company's product, the Codian MCU 4200 Enterprise IP, is being used by the Internet2 Commons at full capacity for the first time since its debut in May 2004. Codian was founded in 2002, and is based in San Jose, Calif.

Christopoulos has been working in the vidoeconferencing industry for years and has participated in Megaconferences 4, 5, and 6. He said that while Megaconference seeks to connect as many sites as possible, Internet 2 is all about bandwidth.

"This is the first conference to be held completely at speeds above 1 Megabits, and Codian is the only MCU that can achieve this. We could have included as many as 40 locations on a single bridge this time," Christopoulos said. I think the Gigaconference demonstrates the leading edge of videoconferencing capabilities, both in terms of bandwidth and picture quality."