Most Recent R & D Project – 2012-13

UK Technology Strategy Board Programme: “Convergence in a Digital Landscape”

To encourage innovative, hyperlocal cross-media platforms and enabling technologies that will drive new service offerings, reach out into communities, and provide conduits for public services.

Project Title

“Emergent Mobile Technology as the Catalyst for Business Collaboration and Partnership in Business and Industrial Parks”

Funding ~£100K

SME: RCP21 Community Interest Company

Summary of Project

To conduct research into the feasibility of a mobile based technology platform that enables businesses based on Business and Industrial parks (BAIPs) in the UK to collaborate in order to reduce costs, create business opportunities, retain and fully utilise staff between companies, and identify potential partnerships between businesses that have a mutual benefit.


Previous Grants

Silicon Graphics Supercomputer, £350K, 1996 (HEFCE/OST)

Equipment grant.

VISINET: 3D Visualization over Networks, 2 million ECU, 1994-98 (EU)

The objectives of the trial extension to VISINET were to demonstrate the use of advanced 3D visualisation systems in the context of shared environments across broadband networks, and investigate the extent to which collaboration using virtual representation reduces deliverable lead times and increases overall user effectiveness.  Commercial benefits of remote working will be measured and interest in the exploitation of broadband communications by vendors and application developers will be stimulated.  The primary motivation for the trial was to use standard hardware and software components from the leading edge suppliers Silicon Graphics, Division, and visualisation vendors, which are already proven (and which already work over local area networks), and which can support most of the packages required by users.  The trial is user driven with key application domains in the each of the Netherlands (EDC, Philips, City of Eindhoven), UK (University of Bradford, Division), Portugal (Adetti, OA), and Belgium (Limburgs University, Androme).  A phased implementation of the trial placed increasing demands on the national networks PTT-NL, SuperJANET, TLP Portuguese MAN, Belgacom, and the MoU, and their international connections, and provided the framework for the production of interim results and reports to allow progress to be monitored.  Using the same systems and stable environments at each site enabled viability to be established and provided 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 has taken place.  User evaluation and economic analysis were undertaken to provide quantitative information on benefits and business cases for users and telecommunication operators.  Information dissemination has taken place using workshops, seminars, and state of the art presentations and reports on the evolution of ATM and virtual representation.


Lamotte W., Earnshaw R.A., Van Reeth F., Flerackers E. and Mena De Matos J. (1997): “VISINET: Collaborative 3D Visualization and Virtual Reality over Trans-European ATM Networks” IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications, Special Issue on 3D and Multimedia on the Information Superhighway17 (2): 66-75.  DOI:

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MAID: Multimedia Assets for Industrial Design, 4.8 million ECU, 1996-98 (EC)

The MAID project was the result of a Feasibility Study performed January to June 1995 and which resulted in the Report: “Interactive Multimedia Tools and Information Systems for Industrial ProductDesign” (IE 737).  MAID was designed to demonstrate the viability of multimedia and virtual reality telematics as an economically justified and professionally effective tool for the design industry.  As a Telematics project using ISDN and ATM, it was expected to have a significant impact on the professional market for high-speed multimedia communications, and to extend knowledge and awareness of the technologies’ capacities both inside and outside the professional community.  MAID developed and demonstrated systems which allowed designers and industry to –

  • interactively access multimedia databases
  • integrate data into their own design computing environment
  • participate in distant work groups and receive on-line design tools and services
  • implement projects at a distance

The MAID project designed, tested and demonstrated a range of high-level Information Services for the industrial design sector, aimed at improving the competitiveness of the design-based industries and professions.  It addressed a wide range of Information Engineering problems and demonstrated effective systems of multimedia data exchange and asset trading involving existing technologies and offering scaleable solutions.  The Information Engineering research covered tasks in the key areas of the creation of multimedia assest; the creation of a networked information centre managing the dissemination of data; methods of connecting different users’ environments, incorporating disparate data, and connecting the service to the design and prototyping chain; data finding, selection, tracking and payment.  The development of novel and user-friendly interface models was a particularly important element of the project.  MAID demonstrated networked services based on the concepts of a Design Information Centre and a Design Services Centre for test by target users as a prelude to commercial exploitation.  The system handled ‘conventional’ multimedia data assets (including video), 3D CAD data and simulation data, and allow the integration of VR design tools.  It was conceived as a transaction-based system with a commercial charging mechanism.  The business plan also included the exploitation of generic sub-products and information engineering solutions developed in the project.  It was a large project with partners as follows –

Centre for International Technology and Education, UK, European Design Centre, Eindhoven, Netherlands, University of Bradford, UK, Philips Interactive Media Centre, Belgium, Expertise Centre for Digital Media, Belgium, Stichting Centre for International Technology and Education, University of Art and Design, Helsinki, Finland, Post and Telecommunications of Finland Ltd, Finland, Wyt Uitgeefgroup bv, Belgium, Design Zentrum Nordrhein Westfalen, Germany, Centro de Laboratorios y Servicios Industriales de Madrid, Spain, Universitat de Illes Balears, Spain, ADTTI, Portugal, Athens Technology Centre, Greece, Instituto de Enghenaria de Sistemas e Computadores, Portugal

VISTA: Virtual Interactive Television Studio Applications using Graphical Supercomputers, 3.6 million ECU, 1996-99 (EC)

VISTA (Virtual Interactive Studio Television Applications using Networked Graphical Supercomputers) integrated and demonstrated a generic and extensible telematics platform that supported the execution of scenarios in the domain of real-time interactive television, which could be regarded as the realisation of a Virtual Interactive Studio (VIS).  A VIS offered the capabilities of mixing real and synthetic objects and characters in any combination – depending on the circumstances – controlled remotely by TV viewers.  The networked platform enabled the realisation of innovative interactive teleservices for homes.  These took the form of television programmes broadcast over conventional television channels, with the important difference that viewers at home were able to direct and to interact with the programme being viewed.  The image content of the programme was generated over ATM in real-time by high-end graphics computers and networks.  As the viewers at home needed a cost-effective way of interacting with the programmes, the existing and affordable infrastructure of the traditional telephone networks was utilized for feeding the viewers’ interaction back to the programme being transmitted which was controlled by servers.  The number of simultaneous viewers that actively could take part in the interaction depended upon the programme (i.e. the application) at issue, and varied from just a few to several hundreds. Partners were –

BRTN (Belgium) and VPRO (Netherlands) had the role of users, being the broadcasting companies, and drove the project objectives.  Alcatel Bell (Belgium), Bradford University (UK), EPFL (Switzerland), NOB (Netherlands), Limburgs Universitair Centrum (Belgium) and University of Geneva (Switzerland) were acting as suppliers.


Flerackers C., Earnshaw R.A., Vanischem G., Van Reeth F. and Alsema F. (2001): “Creating Broadcast Interactive Drama in a Networked Virtual Environment” IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications21(1): 56-60.  DOI: 10.1109/38.895133

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Virtual Theatre Rehearsal, £440K, 1998-99 (DTI Virtual Centre of Excellence in Digital Broadcasting and Multimedia Technology) (Bradford and University College London)

The University of Bradford was one of the six Universities in the UK to be the academic partners in the new Virtual Centre of Excellence on Digital Broadcasting and Multimedia Technology – initiated by the Dept of Trade and Industry in 1996.  The other academic partners were Bristol, Cambridge, Essex, Surrey, Imperial College and University College, London.  Industrial partners in the Virtual Centre included Alcatel, BBC, BNR, BT, Dig-Media Vision, ITC, Mitsubishi, NTL, Nynex, Philips, The Radio Agency, and Sony.  (The Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering in the University was also a founding academic partner in the Virtual Centre of Excellence in Mobile and Personal Communications).  This Virtual Centre thus represented a major link-up between key academic institutions and leading industries and the objective was to address a major programme of work in the digital broadcasting arena.  £3 Million of DTI funds are potentially available for supporting the activities of the Virtual Centre.

VPARK: A Virtual Amusement Park, 1 million ECU, 1998-2000 (EC)

The European Commission ACTS programme funded the project VPARK: “A Virtual Amusement Park” (994KECU) which started on 1 April 1998 for 2 years.  This project was in collaboration with Integrated Information Systems s.a.(Greece) (Project Co-ordinator), NMPFT (UK), University of Geneva (CH), and Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (CH).  EIMC and NMPFT receive about 25% of the total funding of 1 million ECU for the project.  The main technical objective of this project was to create a Virtual Amusement Park as an integration of several applications based on Distributed Virtual Environments.  The general framework of the project allowed the creation of key attractions and also offered to future users the opportunity to incorporate their own applications.  This meant that the Virtual Amusement Park was developed as a major infrastructure to be used at the Pan-European level.  Key attractions in Virtual Theatre and Virtual Dance were developed.


Joslin C., Molet T., Magnenat-Thalma N., Esmerado J. and Thalmann D. (2001): “Sharing Attractions on the Net with VPARK” IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications21 (1): 61-71. DOI: 10.1109/38.895134

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VIP: Virtual Interactive Presenter, £750K, 1999-2000 (DTI/EPSRC)

VIP was a project funded by the DTI/EPSRC LINK Broadcast Technology Programme. The Project ran for 2 years from October 1998.  Partners were: University of Cambridge (Dr Tony Robinson). Advance Digital Communications plc, BBC, and Sony.  The VIP Project aimed at developing an intelligent interface based on a talking character communicating with the user through speech recognition and speech synthesis.  With the advent of 500-channel TV, the traditional user interface based on direct channel selection through a remote control, was expected to become obsolete as browsing 500 channels can take as much as 40 minutes.  Since TV Guides themselves will come under electronic formats (as Electronic Programme Guides) the selection of TV programmes will become largely a user interface issue.  The user interface consisted of an animated talking face, with some snapshots or video in the background, related to the current programme selection process.  The Virtual Presenter addressed the user through a text-to-speech system making appropriate comments and suggestions to assist the user in the selection process as well as “reading aloud” some short sections of the textual programme descriptions from the TV Guide.

MEDIA-TECH – Multimedia Technopole, £359K, 1999-2001 (ERDF)

Media-Tech was a strategic technology which provided innovation across the breadth of industry whether in service, manufacturing, construction, education, or entertainment.  Media-Tech aimed to develop a supportive environment which brokered access to skills, people, technology, and information required for innovative improvement and enhancement of company products via multimedia technology.  A support network of expertise in multimedia applications was developed which linked together Universities, SMEs, and leading organisations in the region.  This included information services for specialist areas of multimedia production by seminars, workshops, and newsletters.  The region has seen an emergence of companies which fit into the broad category of multimedia in either providing service for other industrial sectors, in developing own products and markets for multimedia, or in research and development of new technologies for widening the means of communication.

SIMULA – Advanced Modelling and Simulation, £1.03 million, 1999-2001 (ERDF)

The objective of SIMULA was to develop advanced modelling, simulation, and visualisation techniques for multimedia and other industries.  The emphasis was upon real and lifelike simulations which reflected the physical properties of the object or scene being represented.  Realistic modelling and animation of synthetic and virtual humans, soft objects, garments, furnishings, clothing, and other non-rigid materials were the key research area to be investigated to produce better tools and techniques.  This had particular relevance to three industrial clusters: film, television and advertising; medical and cosmetic; and game and virtual reality companies.  It was anticipated that these techniques would enable enhanced products to be produced and costs to be reduced – thus increasing competitiveness.  A central facility for advanced modelling and simulation in these sectors was established.  This linked the sectors by providing the development and visualisation of new products using modelling, visualisation, animation, and presentation.  Such models could be utilised across networks to link together customers and suppliers for design and decision-making purposes.  With the rapid increase in use of the Internet and e-business, it was essential to be able to represent products as close to physical reality as possible.  The growth in the use and applicability of multimedia demonstrated its potential for a wide variety of application domains.  In particular, the areas of film, television and advertising; medical and cosmetic; and game and virtual reality companies – all needed state of the art techniques appropriate to the high-tech nature of their products and services.

SIMULA 2 – Advanced Modelling and Simulation, £1.1 million (£350K UoB), 2001/2003 (ERDF)

This was an extension of the above project.

CHIPS – Consumer Hybrid Information Products and Services, Euro 1 Million (Euro 127K UoB), 2001/2003 (EC)

CHIPS was a large multi-partner European working group to define the RTD issues associated with the creation of future Consumer Hybrid Intelligent Products and Services, with a particular emphasis on the factors of design, content, market, social and environmental impact.  It stressed the importance of creative professionals and interdisciplinary research.  The 3-year programme was designed to shape the RTD agenda for intelligent devices and services in a future environment of ambient intelligence, and construct partnerships between design academies, universities, research centres, and industrial companies for executing the agenda through subsequent RTD and professional training.  CHIPS focused on information gathering, agenda building, standards input, interdisciplinary links, and the wide dissemnation of results to the Commission, research programmes, and the design and industrial communities.  Project Partners included –

ENSCI – Les Ateliers (France), Design Zentrum Nordrhein Westfalen (Germany), University of Art and Design Helsinki UIAH (Finland), CS Systèmes d’Information (France), Thomson Multimedia (France), Centre national de la recherche scientifique (France), Pôle Universitaire de Nancy-Metz (France), Limburgs Universitair Centrum (Belgium), Dublin Institute of Technology (Ireland), Universitat Pompeu Fabra (Spain), Wavecrest Systems Ltd (UK), Ecole nationale supérieure d’Arts et Métiers (France), British Standards Institution (UK), Université Pierre et Marie Curie – Paris 6 (France), Institut national polytechnique de Grenoble (France), Renault (France), Ratp (France), Politecnico di Torino (Italy), Soda Technologies Ltd (UK), The Interactive Institute , Kognition+Design

Joint European Commission/National Science Foundation Grant of $100K to fund an International Research Workshop on Human Computer Interaction and Virtual Environments, Toulouse, France, June 1999.

The objective of the Workshop was to concentrate on the research frontiers of human computer interaction and virtual environments.  Of particular relevance were the issues of making interaction more centred around human needs and capabilities, and around the human environment, in virtual environments, and in various social and contextual information processing activities.  The overall goal was to make the interaction more effective and human congenial for the particular information task being undertaken.  Research areas to be addressed included –

–  high level content descriptions and their access (metadata, MPEG7)

–  how to reduce cognitive load and provide more scope for creativity

–  cross-disciplinary interaction and how to make it work

–  ways of handling interaction in specific social contexts and differences of culture

–  dealing with universality and the problems of the differently-abled

–  interaction styles and their implications

–  consistency of cognition models across information appliances

–  what are the paradigms for emerging new kinds of interaction

–  beyond WIMP interfaces: multimodal and perceptual user interfaces

–  current challenges for virtual environment technology and interfaces

–  usability issues and measuring the effectiveness of symbiosis

Karine Iannelli (Secretariat)

Ute Fahrholz (Secretariat)

Emilie Monferran (Secretariat)

Prof Richard Guedj (INT, France) Co-Chair

Margaret Denison (Secretariat)

Judy Brown (University of Iowa, USA), now Brown Cunningham Associates

Prof Rae Earnshaw (University of Bradford, UK) Co-Chair

Mrs. Simone (host)

Lisa Manekofsky (Brown University, USA)

Prof Bertram Herzog (Fraunhofer CRCG, USA)

Junji Yamaguchi (Independent researcher, Japan)

Dr Larry Rosenblum (Naval Research Laboratory, USA), now at the National Science Foundation

Prof Ben Shneiderman (University of Maryland College Park, USA)

Prof Jenny Preece (University of Maryland Baltimore County, USA)

Dr Wendy Kellogg (IBM T. J. Watson Research Center, USA)

Dr John Thomas (IBM Research Hawthorne, USA)

Prof Tosiyasu Kunii (Hosei University, Japan), now Chief Technology Advisor, Morpho Inc

Prof Andy van Dam (Brown University, USA) Co-Chair

Debbie van Dam

Jo Herzog

Dr Matthew Turk (Microsoft Research, USA)

Dr Charles Koelbel (National Science Foundation, USA)

Dr Jürgen Schönhut (Fraunhofer IGD, Germany)

Prof Mikael Jern (AVS and Linkoping University, Sweden)

David Leevers (VERS, UK)

Christoph Busch (Fraunhofer IGD, Germany)

Prof Tom DeFanti (University of Illinois at Chicago, USA)

Hartmut Chodura (Fraunhofer IGD, Germany)

Dr Sudhir Mudur (National Centre for Software Technology, India) now at Concordia University

Dr Thomas Kirste (Fraunhofer Institute, Germany)

Dr Deb Roy (MIT Media Laboratory, USA)

Dr Turner Whitted (Microsoft Research, USA)

Prof Tom Furness (HIT Laboratory, University of Washington, USA)

Prof Bill Buxton (Alias Wavefront/Silicon Graphics, University of Toronto, Canada) now at Microsoft Research

Prof John Vince (University of Bournemouth, UK)

Victor Abrash (SRI International, USA)

Prof Daniel Andler (University of Paris X, France)

Jehan Bing (SRI International, USA)

Prof Ole Bernsen (Odense University, Denmark)

Prof José Encarnação (Fraunhofer IGD, Germany)

Dr William Newman (Xerox Research Centre Europe, UK)

Publications from the Workshop

Brown J.R., van Dam A., Earnshaw R.A., Encarnacao J.L. and Guedj J.L. (1999): “Human-Centered Computing, Online Communities and Virtual Environments” IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications, IEEE Computer Society, 19 (6): 70-74.

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Brown J.R., van Dam A., Earnshaw R.A., Encarnacao J.L. and Guedj J.L. (1999): “Human-Centered Computing, Online Communities and Virtual Environments” ACM SIGCHI Interactions, ACM, 6 (5): 6.

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Brown J.R., van Dam A., Earnshaw R.A., Encarnacao J.L. and Guedj J.L. (1999): “Special Report on Human-Centered Computing, Online Communities and Virtual Environments” ACM SIGGRAPH Computer Graphics, ACM, 33 (3): 42-62.

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Earnshaw R.A. et al (2001): “Frontiers of Human-Centered Computing, Online Communities and Virtual Environments”, Springer-Verlag, pp 482, ISBN: 1-85233-238-7.
For more information see:


Silicon Graphics Supercomputer, £350K, 1996 (HEFCE/OST)

VISINET: 3D Visualization over Networks, 2 million ECU, 1994-98 (EU)

MAID: Multimedia Assets for Industrial Design, 4.8 million ECU, 1996-98 (EC)

VISTA: Virtual Interactive Television Studio Applications using Graphical Supercomputers, 3.6 million ECU, 1996-99 (EC)

Virtual Theatre Rehearsal, £440K, 1998-99 (DTI Virtual Centre of Excellence in Digital Broadcasting and Multimedia Technology) (Bradford and UCL)

VPARK: A Virtual Amusement Park, 1 million ECU, 1998-2000 (EC)

VIP: Virtual Interactive Presenter, £750K, 1999-2000 (DTI/EPSRC)

MEDIA-TECH – Multimedia Technopole, £359K, 1999-2001 (ERDF)

SIMULA – Advanced Modelling and Simulation, £1.03 million, 1999-2001 (ERDF)

SIMULA 2 – Advanced Modelling and Simulation, £1.1 million (£350K UoB), 2001/2003 (ERDF)

CHIPS – Consumer Hybrid Information Products and Services, Euro 1 Million (Euro 127K UoB), 2001/2003 (EC)