Cambridge builds web-controlled campus TV

April 10, 1998

Students at Cambridge University are testing a networked multimedia project that eventually should deliver user-controllable live and recorded TV from around the world to PCs across city.

The university's language centre has completed the first stage, using technology from local company Telemedia Systems Ltd (TSL). Four international TV channels picked up by rooftop satellite dishes are being digitised and distributed live to networked PCs in the centre.

The next stage of the project, funded by the Olivetti and Oracle Research Laboratory (ORL) based in the city, will use the 30-kilometre fibre optic Granta Network that links colleges and university departments across Cambridge. The plan is to distribute up to 16 foreign TV channels along with other language learning material.

A TSL video-on-demand server will automatically record daily foreign news programmes, allowing students to stay in touch with events abroad by selecting and replaying bulletins from a PC. Later the service could be extended to students' residential rooms.

Andy King, deputy director at the language centre said that the technology could be used for a variety of teaching and information distribution applications.

Alan Chaney, managing director at TSL said that besides making internationally broadcast information more readily available to a much wider audience, networked multimedia presented exciting opportunities for innovative learning applications.

Four TSL N-Point encoding systems are digitising and compressing analogue TV signals from France, Germany, Spain and Poland, which are then distributed live over the language centre network.

In the next stage, TSL C-Stream Windows NT software will be used to convert a standard PC into a powerful video-on-demand server. Researchers at ORL are providing software to turn the C-Stream server into a programmable, multi-channel video recorder, with one Web interface for setting recording times and another for selecting playback. The software will control a video switch to select which four of the 16 satellite TV channels received at the language centre are recorded at any one time.

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