Ottawa and Australian Research Institutes join forces to extend touch over global networks and industrialise the Internet

Montréal 19 November 2002The National Capital Institute of Telecommunications (NCIT) and the Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organisation (CSIR0) in partnership with several Canadian technology companies are industrialising the Internet by capitalising on the ability to "touch" over a network. In a recent demonstration, a surgeon in Australia guided a trainee in Canada 16.000 km away to perform a simulated cholecystectomy, an operation to remove the gall bladder. The demonstration was developed by CSIRO Australia to show how two surgeons in separate locations could plan and rehearse surgical procedures within a shared virtual environment. Applications range from everyday consulting to responding to crisis situations.


The event was viewable live on-line, using Toronto-based Pangaea NewMedia's synchronised collaboration technology. "We already have sight and sound on the Internet. It is not a big jump to realise that the next sensory frontier will be that of touch. At the National Capital Institute of Telecommunications, we believe services with a touch sensory component will have a high value both to the industries which use them and to the service providers who supply them", explained Dr. Robert Crawhall, NCIT President. "By marrying our local industry/research strengths with those in Australia, we now have a world-class capability in tele-haptic application development."

"That we can take what humans do with their hands, and extend that reach to anywhere in the world is powerful, very powerful", stated CSIRO spokesman Mr. Gunn. "Enabling touch or haptics over the Internet through tele-haptic applications provides a new era of industrial productivity to areas in health, training, and all industries relating to hazardous environments such as mining, and the oil industry. Tele-haptics, the transmission of touch over networks, essentially industrialises the Internet with wealth generating and useful applications by extending the reach of human touch."

As part of their memorandum of understanding to catalyse tele-haptic research and development on an international scale, the NCIT and CSIRO Australia are working with Canadian business partners MPB Technologies from Montréal and academic partners Algonquin College and the University of Ottawa.

At the same NCIT event, Handshake Interactive Technologies Inc. demonstrated their proprietary time delay compensation capability from their Waterloo Region offices. "Our technology effectively removes distance barriers on broadband data travel in applications involving human users, allowing these users from around the world to collaborate in highly developed environments", stated David Wang, President of Handshake Interactive Technologies Inc.

"The direction of research focuses that will work to bring wealth generating applications to a broadband network is an integral piece of our national innovation success story", added Bill St. Arnaud, Senior Director, Advanced Networks, Canarie.

MBP Technologies Inc., a high technology Montréal based firm and leader in the development of haptic devices, is pleased to see the advent of practical uses for haptic technologies over the Internet. "The interaction and sharing of information through touch sense technology will accelerate the deployment of technology such as telehealth, telemedicine, and remote training to name a few. Being a part of such an endeavour is both exhilarating and exciting. We are watching the dawn of a new generation of technologies which will improve our quality of living and our ability to communicate worldwide", stated Claudette Linton, Sr. Business Development Co-ordinator, MPB Technologies Inc.

The demonstrations by NCIT and CSIRO Australia were held at the CANARIE's 8th Annual Advanced Networks Workshop, at the Hotel Wyndham Montréal. Haptics Expert and NCIT Researcher, Mr. Francis Bogsanyi, of Algonquin College was on-site providing technical expertise. Mr. Bogsanyi worked previously with the CSIRO in Australia and is now leading NCIT haptics research at Algonquin College.

"Thanks to organisations like the NCIT, the University of Ottawa has been able to capitalise on its telecommunications and Virtual Environments research expertise to zero in on the huge potential of tele-haptic applications for industrial training, telemedicine, and e-commerce", stated Dr. Nicolas D. Georganas, Canada Research Chair in Information Technology, Discover co-Director and lead NCIT Researcher of the Harmonie project. Harmonie stands for Haptic Augmented Reality Multimedia for Networked Interactive Environments.

"At Algonquin College, we are partnering with NCIT and CSIRO Australia to explore the use of collaborative multi-sensory virtual environments to enhance existing training environments by developing training simulations for dexterous tasks", stated Dr. Jack Treuhaft, Director of Applied Research and Development at Algonquin College. "The ability to create, distribute, and manage these multi-sensory environments using broadband telecommunications networks is an essential element of our success."

"The development of these advanced Internet capabilities through collaborative efforts between government, academia, and industry are providing Canadian companies with the tools for long-term global competitiveness", remarked Dr. Howard Alper, Chair of the NCIT Board and President of the Royal Society of Canada. The NCIT is a world-class broadband engineering research institute levering the unique capabilities of Ottawa's technology clusters. The NCIT is funded through the Ontario Research Development Challenge Fund, the Ontario Innovation Trust, and the Canadian Foundation for Innovation.

The development of collaborative virtual environments by CSIRO Australia is part of the telehealth initiative in the Centre for Networking Technologies for the Information Economy (CeNTIE). The CeNTIE Project is supported by the Australian Government through the Building on IT Strengths (BITS) Advanced Networks Programme (ANP) of the Department of Communications, Information Technology, and the Arts.

Leslie Versweyveld

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