Contact:	Bob Nelson						For immediate release
		(212) 854-5573					June 5, 1997

Columbia Engineers Develop New Ways To Access Multimedia Information

Scientists and engineers at Columbia University are thinking about how we will communicate in the 21st century. Working under the aegis of Columbia's New Media Technology Center (CNMTC), computer scientists are asking hard questions about the existing communications infrastructure and what will replace it. Will we need the telephone system? How widespread will wireless communications become? How can new technologies be integrated into existing infrastructures? One thing is certain, Columbia engineers have concluded: there will be an enormous demand for many different kinds of multimedia, from business, journalism and education. The challenge is to anticipate how multimedia can solve communications problems and then to develop cost-effective applications. Engineers have begun to create tools that allow computers to represent multimedia content, so that users can present one frame of a video, for example, to search for similar material. Columbia is the only university in the consortium that developed MPEG- 2, the video compression standard driving high-definition television and direct- from-satellite broadcasting. Engineers at CNMTC are already at work on new standards, including MPEG-4, a standard for multimedia applications, and MPEG-7, a content representation standard for information searches. Columbia engineers are developing augmented reality, in which a see- through head-worn display overlays graphics and sound on a person's naturally- occurring sight and hearing. Such an approach can be tremendously useful in building construction, electrical wiring and repair, computer circuit assembly and other complex tasks in which operators traditionally must consult a plan or blueprint and then return to the problem at hand. With augmented reality, workers can see instructions superimposed on the work area. Networks have traditionally been thought of as inert infrastructure, but Columbia engineers have developed an operating system that will allow them to program broadband networks, much as a computer's operating system lets users program the computer. The network operating system, called xbind, will permit operators to maximize network efficiency by sending packets over less congested routes, and also provides a platform for the creation of new multimedia services, such as video on demand. As part of its outreach to commercial enterprises, the CNMTC has established a satellite operation at the New York Information Technology Center, also known by its address, 55 Broad Street. The object of the satellite center is to provide technical and educational support to the new media industry and to serve as an "ear to the ground" or conduit for business to tell academe what kinds of innovation are needed. The CNMTC is also working with the Institute for Learning Technologies (ILT) at Columbia Teachers College to bring multimedia technologies to nearly 70 New York public schools over five years. The initiative, known as the Eiffel Project, has received more than $7 million in support from the U.S. Department of Education to build infrastructure, curriculum applications and teacher training activities. The Eiffel Project schools will form an ideal testbed for implementation and formative evaluation of multimedia engineering research. In collaboration with the Center for New Media at Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism, CNMTC is working to develop new acquisition technologies, such as the Omnicamera, a videocamera with a 360-degree field of view; a mobile reporter's terminal; and computer-generated natural language news summaries, among other projects. This document is available at Working press may receive science and technology press releases via e-mail by sending a message to 6.5.97 19,146