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Columbia ADVENT Advances Internet and Web Information Exchange

As digital multimedia becomes part of most workplaces, schools, and homes, there is an unprecedented need to develop greater capabilities for creating, storing, manipulating, and distributing digital images and video. Advancing these capabilities is the focus of ADVENT, a research project at Columbia that is investigating all areas of digital image and video technology.

  ADVENT is based at the Image and Advanced Television Laboratory in the School of Engineering and Applied Science and is led by three members of the Electrical Engineering faculty. Professors Dimitris Anastassiou, Shih-Fu Chang, and Alexandros Eleftheriadis work with over 40 other student and staff members in exploring and testing video compression techniques, image search and retrieval mechanisms, video server storage architectures, and many other issues that arise with the promise of digital multimedia services.

  The ADVENT project has partnerships extending to other schools on campus, nearly 40 companies as sponsoring partners, and to international standardization efforts. ADVENT has taken a leading role in the work of one such standardization effort, the Digital Audio-Visual Council (DAVIC). The primary aim of DAVIC is to ensure compatibility and interoperability of video on demand (VOD) on a worldwide basis. This will be advantageous to all parties--equipment manufacturers, network operators, content producers, service providers and most importantly consumers.

  In June ADVENT hosted and organized DAVIC's 13th Meeting which drew more than 300 VOD experts from over 200 companies to Columbia's campus. The highpoint of the meeting was the first DAVIC global interoperability event, which connected video servers, set-top boxes, and applications from DAVIC-compliant VOD from Europe, Asia and North America. In addition to Columbia University, the companies that participated in the event were CSELT (Italy), DeTeBerkom (Germany), GCL (Japan), GTE Laboratories (USA), Hewlett Packard IDACOM (Canada), NIST (USA), and NTT (Japan). According to DAVIC President Jules Bellisio, "the event at Columbia demonstrated that the DAVIC specifications can successfully provide assured, immediate access to broadcast quality video and other multimedia services around the globe. Such capabilities have been a dream of many Internet users.... DAVIC is now working on the convergence of the DAVIC specifications with the Internet to turn this dream into a reality."

  All participants in the global interoperability event interconnected with the VOD testbed at Columbia, a state-of-the-art server to end user equipment that includes digital set-top boxes, mobile clients with real-time MPEG-2 hardware and AIRLAN PCMCIA adapters, wired-to-wireless gateways to support mobile clients, and MPEG2 real-time encoder for content generation, and additional ATM switches to support additional clients. The event also tested ADVENT's MPEG real-time video pump, which supports an architecture that can deliver different data types over a variety of networks, including ATM/AAL5, IP, and wireless.

  ADVENT has also played an active role in the development of the MPEG-2 international standard for digital video compression, and Columbia has become the only university--accompanied by several corporations--to be included in the MPEG-2 patent pool.

  Editing image and video content in the compressed domain has been another area addressed by ADVENT. In conjunction with research, ADVENT has developed a system for real-time content analysis and manipulation of compressed video. Scene changes, and special effects such as fade-in, fade-out, and dissolve can be detected. MPEG compressed bitstreams can be cut and pasted, and tools for blend, film, key and motion effects are being implemented. This compressed-domain approach is about 100 times faster than the brute-force decode/re-encode approach, and it improves the video quality.

  Searching, browsing, and retrieving images in an image database system has been another area of investigation, which led to the development of VisualSeek, a content-based visual query system that allows users to query for images with visual properties (color, shape, texture) and their spatial layout. Currently, these content-based search functions are being extended to a powerful image search engine for the World Wide Web. The prototype system, WebSEEk, is among the first image/video search engines to provide advanced search and catalogue capabilities.

  Other research topics currently under investigation by ADVENT include image authentication and watermarking, automatic face detection, and video traffic models.

  Many of the issues under investigation come together in the "Mobile Journalist's Terminal," a project undertaken in collaboration with the Center for New Media in the Graduate School of Journalism. The Mobile Journalist's Terminal combines a range of digital multimedia services, including image search and retrieval through content-based query, multi-view capability, video editing, video conferencing, morphing, and copyright source authentication. In this cooperative endeavor, journalism students are working with engineering researchers to explore the ways new media technology best accommodates the needs of its users. ADVENT also enjoys steady interaction with the Institute for Learning Technologies at Teachers College and the Center for Tele-Information at the Graduate School of Business.

  The faculty and staff of ADVENT will be happy hear from anyone who would like to be kept informed of the project's activities and receive announcements about upcoming seminars and workshops. Please send mail to sara@itnm.columbia.edu.