one day your mobile phone may show you movies and TV news, or help you find your way in an unfamiliar city centre.
Researchers at Strathclyde University are taking a lead in developing video compression technology which could transform mobile phones into a gateway to information of every kind. The technology is designed to squeeze moving images through very low capacity channels.
Starting with techniques which are well known to engineers - vector quantisation, motion compensation and wavelets - the researchers added some unique touches of their own. Instead of breaking the image into standard-sized blocks, the software varies the size and positioning of the blocks to suit the characteristics of each image. The researchers used neural network software to create an exceptionally efficient "codebook" for vector quantisation.
Following several years of university-funded research, the mobile phone operator Orange and computer manufacturer Acorn have provided Pounds 165,000 for a 15-month study. The funding has allowed Strathclyde to appoint three new research assistants to join its existing team of four academics and five researchers.
Douglas McGregor, professor of computer science, said: ``We were aiming to demonstrate that we could do video at 10 frames per second in both directions simultaneously using Pentium or StrongARM workstations across a mobile link. We hope that the technology will become widely used by licence to other parties.'' He said that Strathclyde retained the intellectual property rights, and had taken out six patents.
The researchers have demonstrated the technology to the International Telecommunication Union, the Swiss-based organisation which coordinates global telecom systems, and hopes it will be a contender for new international standards.
In July the Department of Trade and Industry allocated part of the radio spectrum for next-generation Universal Mobile Telephone Services. But with sufficiently powerful video compression, mobile videophones might operate over existing GSM networks.