March 17, 2010

SDSC shows real-time 3-D video during AAAS event

By Jeff Sale, SDSC Education Group

With the recent resurgence in 3D stereo entertainment - led by the blockbuster 'Avatar' - has come relatively low-cost 3D stereo display technology. Accessible 3D display technology encourages development of educational applications. Specifically, it offers students ways interact with and better understand complex three-dimensional objects. It can also connect a researcher in the field with students in a classroom in a real-time, interactive 3D immersive experience. HPWREN and the SDSC Education group tested this idea with attendees at the 2010 AAAS Conference Family Science Days Feb. 20-21, 2010.

Attendees of all ages donned 3-D glasses and "met" a researcher out in the field, learning about techniques for collecting field data, asking questions and viewing their environment in full 3-D immersive splendor. Their excitement was evident, despite the minor technical challenges of this pilot event.

Mountain Empire School Science Teacher Roger Wynn is talking via LIVE-3D to National Park Service Intern and CSUCI student Nick de Roulhac at the NPS Cabrillo National Monument. Roger participated from the exhibit of this year's annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, using special glasses to view the images from two projectors via polarizing filters. The Cabrillo National Monument setup included two cameras. Two separate simultaneous skype streams provided the video data transport.

The experience was made possible by the high-speed wireless network built by HPWREN that reached remote locations at the National Park Service's (NPS) Cabrillo National Monument Lighthouse, the Point Loma tide pools, and San Diego State University's Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve (SMER).

On Saturday February 20, Jim Hale transported his newly-constructed 3D stereo camera equipment and transmission system to SMER. Located 60 miles north of San Diego just east of Temecula, California, SMER was one of the first remote research stations connected by HPWREN with high-speed wireless. With a pair of video cameras pointed at him and the ecological reserve in the background, research ecologist Pablo Bryant kindly demonstrated sophisticated sensor technology in 3D to a large group of onlookers at the conference. Attendees were able to ask Pablo questions in real-time about things like work he does, what the weather is like there, and what research is conducted within the reserve. The younger children were entertained by asking him to jump, repeatedly thrilled that he could hear them and respond.

There is something special about making 3-D, real-time contact with someone in a far-away location. Perhaps the most frequently heard phrase during the live broadcast was "Now THAT'S cool!" as 3D glasses made Pablo's image appear to hover in space above the booth. The 3D stereo projection system uses two projectors with low-cost linear polarized lenses to filter light into two orthogonal polarized images. Linear polarized glasses then create the 3D stereo effect for the viewer.

On Sunday, Jim hauled his 3D stereo rig to the NPS Cabrillo National Monument's visitor center, where he broadcasted a live reenactment of 16th century life during the time of Juan Cabrillo's voyage to the new world. Later that day, Jim and the 3-D camera system went down to the Point Loma tide pools. From there, he and NPS intern and CSU Channel Islands student Nick de Roulhac introduced AAAS Family Days attendees in the San Diego Convention Center to a 3-D view and naturalist talk about the intertidal zone. Susan Teel from the National Park Service kindly assisted attendees at the conference with questions about the reenactment and the tide pools.

Taking another approach to exploring the HPWREN's portable wireless technology's capabilities, undergraduate students Drew Mason, Patrick Murphy, and Max Wilt roamed the conference floor wearing a backpack with built-in speakers and a video camera and broadcasted images and sound back to the SDSC booth live.

We would like to thank everyone who helped make this event possible, including Hans-Werner Braun, Monika Braun, Jim Hale, Jeff Sale, Diane Baxter, Ange Mason, Pablo Bryant, Susan Teel, Nick de Roulhac, Drew Mason, Patrick Murphy, and Max Wilt.

Link to Jeff Sale's Saturday AAAS photos.

Main HPWREN web site (includes information for acknowledgments/disclaimers and feedback/contact)