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Ultra-high resolution video link wows researchers, politicians

Andrew Collins

Leading Australian scientists and politicians gathered at Melbourne University today to launch the ultra-high-resolution OptiPortal scientific videoconferencing link.

The system consists of two parts: a massive wall of twenty-four 30" LCD monitors and a 1 gigabit/s link to the US. OptiPortal will allow local scientists to share information with overseas researchers in greater detail than ever before.

"This technology is a powerful communication tool which will push new boundaries for higher education and research in Australia," said University of Melbourne's vice-chancellor Glyn Davis.

Along with leading local scientists and business leaders, Deputy PM Julia Gillard and Victorian Premier John Brumby were linked in real time to members of the American scientific community.

Attendees witnessed an interaction between neuroscientist Prof Graeme Jackson and his American counterpart, as they discussed a 3D image of an epileptic boy's brain displayed on the massive screen.

The system uses the high-capacity 10 Gbps backbone of AARNet, Australia's academic and research network.

The OptiPortal's 1 Gbps fibre-optic connection is around 250 times faster than standard metropolitan broadband in Australia, according to AARNet CEO, Chris Hancock.

This connection — a low latency Layer 2 lightpath connection — is what allows for the real-time nature of the video feed, Hancock said. He calls it 'direct and uninterrupted'.

"It's going

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to change the way we do research," he said.

Professor Iven Mareels, Dean of Engineering, said, "A surgeon in Australia could direct an emergency surgical intervention by operating a robot in Antarctica; scientists in Australia and Japan could share research tools such as the Synchrotron, or operate an underwater robot exploring the Great Barrier Reef — all from the comfort of an OptIPortal room."

Hancock said while Melbourne's was the first, there may be more OptiPortals in Australia's future.

"A number of universities will follow suit, because for a relatively minor investment it brings a new light to research."