THE Japanese electronics giant Sony and the University of Teesside have signed a three-year research and development contract worth more than Pounds 750,000, writes Tony Durham.
The Middlesbrough campus will be a testbed for broadband networking and multimedia technology. Researchers will gain access to advanced technologies developed in Sony's own laboratories and receive confidential information about the company's future products.
Sony was attracted by a mix of computing and media activities at the university. "In a sense we are unique because we have all the components in the university to be able to link together content creation, delivery, services and technology," said Reza Sotudeh, head of the university's computer architecture group.
The campus boasts a new learning resource centre and a TV studio which is being upgraded to digital. The virtual reality centre, headed by Janice Webster, moves into larger premises next year. Teesside offers masters courses in virtual reality and multimedia applications.
Professor Sotudeh is cheered by Sony's vote of confidence after the latest research assessment exercise when his department's rating fell from a "2" to a "1". But with some of the Sony funding he will be able to hire six additional research staff.
Sony hopes to cut the cost of video-on-demand servers - central computers that allow people on a network to watch films or videos as and when they choose. Professor Sotudeh believes that some companies have run into high costs because they based their server designs on conventional microprocessors. His group has revived a neglected processor architecture known as a stack machine.
Instead of the registers used by conventional and RISC processors for temporary data storage, it uses devices called stacks, each of which can store a large number of data items on a last-in, first-out basis.