OSC Demonstrates Shared Virtual Environments at Spring I2 Member Meeting

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Apr 10, 1998) — 

Why does a second Internet need to be created? Ask 10 researchers and policymakers across the nation and you may receive 10 different answers. One important answer lies in the health and well-being of Americans.

Many advances in medicine depend on advances in technology, including virtual reality, computer simulations, and a faster Internet. Researchers at the Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC) in Columbus will demonstrate their recent work at the Spring Internet 2 (I2) Member meeting in Washington, DC, April 14-18.

OSC researchers will show how two surgeons at different locations, perhaps hundreds of miles apart, can collaborate using a computer simulation of an actual medical case. In the future, this type of work could help doctors improve patient care or possibly save a life.

Researchers in Columbus will use a three-dimensional computer simulation of a tumor created from data of an actual patient. The computer simulation is a graphic representation created with data from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT), which are two standard ways to "take pictures" of patients to help a physician diagnose a problem. As one individual removes tissue in the computer simulation, the other individual -- more than 400 miles away -- will be immediately able to "see" the removal of the tissue. The computer-generated environment simulates a real-life situation and can include the senses of sight, touch, and sound to give both parties the same experience.

"This type of application might be used in the future for remote consulting between a physician in a community hospital, who is seeking consultation on removing a tumor, and a surgeon in a metropolitan area," said Charlie Bender, OSC director. "This shows how faster, broader connections can foster significant progress in daily life."

The individuals in Washington will be able to adjust their view of the "patient" and see different parts of the brain than what the researchers in Columbus are seeing. Both researchers can see and hear each other during the process and share notes by writing on a "virtual" whiteboard using video desktop conferencing software.

This example of a collaborative work environment will demonstrate the potential of a new, faster Internet using the National Science Foundation's very High Speed Backbone Network Service (vBNS). Demonstrations throughout the week at the I2 meeting will illustrate many different ways high speed and high bandwidth networks can enhance research, teaching, and learning.

OSC's networking program, will provide the vBNS ATM connectivity for the I2 demonstration. I2 is a partnership of universities, government, and industry creating the next stage of Internet development to meet the increasing needs of network-based applications in research, teaching, and learning. Six Ohio universities already are a part of the I2 project, and OSC Networking serves as the Ohio GigaPOP manager, connecting regional schools to the national I2 network. OSC Networking provides Internet access to the majority of Ohio's colleges and universities and state government agencies. OSC Networking's advisory group, OSTEER, also has an Internet 2 committee that meets to discuss Ohio's role in the initiative.

OSC is a state-supported resource serving Ohio's higher education community. The Center offers computing resources on a peer-review basis to faculty and students who are doing research in several disciplines including medicine, business, economics, engineering, chemistry, mathematics, and physics. OSC encourages collaboration between Ohio universities and industries to develop network applications such as visualization and virtual environments.