Imagine for a moment sending an entire DVD on the Internet in one second. The thought is no more than a fantasy on the commercial Internet as it is far too slow. Meet Internet2.
Unlike the sequel to “Jaws,” the sequel to the Internet is actually well-recognized. Internet2 is a consortium that connects over 200 universities through a network that currently sends up to 10 gigabytes in one second, geek talk for “A lot of stuff really quickly.”
But much like the sequel to “Jaws,” not many people know about it.
Members of the Internet2 consortium have found several ways to use the network since its creation in 1996.
Saint Francis University in Loretto, Pa., uses Internet2 for medical simulations with other medical schools.
During the simulations, SFU students sit in a classroom with four plasma monitors that display high quality video of an emergency room simulator hosted at another school. Through a constant videoconference, the other school plays doctor as the SFU students come up with a game plan of procedures for them to perform on the virtual patient.
Some schools have even broadcasted live debates streamed over Internet2. The University of Vermont and Marist College held a video debate on the International Criminal Court, or the first permanent international court ever created.
Others, such as the University of Southern California, are even applying Internet2 to the arts.
In 2002, USC hosted “Cultivating Communities: Dance in the Digital Age,” a dance show unlike any other. A live dancer at USC danced alongside an animated dancer projected on a screen behind her. The animated dancer was controlled through motion tracking by another dancer at the University of Illinois.
USC has also taken great strides in combining music with Internet2 thanks to the help of the now internationally-recognized professor Brian Shepard of the Flora L. Thornton School of Music.
Shepard pioneered the use of Internet2 for guest lessons and master classes via videoconferences in 1999.
Shepard came up with the idea while teaching at the University of Oklahoma School of Music when he wanted to give students access to artists and teachers on the East and West coasts.
“Many people consider the Midwest states to be ‘flyover country’ and rarely stop there to teach and perform,” Shepard said in an e-mail interview.
He initially considered using satellites, but the cost and latency were prohibitive.
“Once I began talking to people in Internet2, it became obvious that I could adapt various technologies and protocols to create a very high quality videoconference that allowed for full musical interaction,” Shepard said.
USC later hired Shepard in 2005 to bring the technology to the Thornton School of Music. Although one might expect there to be many problems in setting up such technology at a college, Shepard hasn’t experienced great problems.
“The only real issue is more of helping people understand how amazing this technology is and how many different ways it can be applied to the teaching and performing of music,” Shepard said.
Other professors have applied Internet2 to use music as well.
A program called MusicPath, developed at Acadia University in Nova Scotia allows piano students on one campus to interact with a teacher from another campus through interactive pianos. As the student plays, it reflects on the teacher’s piano hundreds of miles away. Think of it like a ghost playing a piano as the teacher observes and then offers advice.
Others have even had live performances with musicians in different locations.
Renowned violinist Carolyn Plummer from the University of Notre Dame performed an Internet2 duet with her twin sister Kathryn from Vanderbilt University where each sister played from different locations and streamed their performances by video.
Theater schools have also taken Internet2 to the stage. The University of Waterloo, the University of Central Florida and Bradley University came together to perform Elmer Rice’s “The Adding Machine” in an entirely new way.
By using large background screens that displayed streamed video of actors at other schools as well as streamed video scenery, Bradley University was able to present the first Internet2-streamed theatrical play.
Cal Poly English professor David Gillette, who wants to use Internet2 for one of his projects, questioned whether the new technology is good for the arts.
“What happens if we take a play, except only one person is physically here and everyone else is somewhere else,” he said. “Does that change the nature of the play and what you’re trying to say to people?”
When musicians in a band are all in different locations, the musicians miss out on the fun of interacting with other band members, Gillette said.
“But it’s a band that would never exist because these people can’t be together for various reasons,” he said.
It also allows people to participate who couldn’t originally, such as someone who is disabled, Gillette said.
“This kind of system allows for that communication, as there are probably people who want to be part of a band or a dance performance, but can’t do it right now,” Gillette said.
The idea of a high-speed network that connects universities and researchers together isn’t only found in the U.S., but around the world. Internet2 partners with over 50 international networks from Chile to Egypt.
Gillette witnessed the Australian version of Internet2, or Australia’s Academic and Research Network (AARNET), when he saw a videoconference with 20 people all appearing on screens on the walls at one time.
“It’s interesting that they have a super high tech solution to get a lot of people together to talk where normally it would take many days to get everyone to fly in and do it,” he said.
Researchers at the University of Tokyo have come the closest to breaking the speed record of Internet2, which remains the fastest network in the world.
Cal Poly joined the Internet2 consortium in 2002. What are they doing with the fastest network in the world?
Find out tomorrow in the second part of the series focusing on Cal Poly and Internet2.