Cyberport launched

By Stephen Broadbent

The Next Generation Internet, a network that transfers data via fibre optic cable, was unveiled as the Cyberport was launched at the University of Calgary Learning Commons Tues., May 18.

The opening also launched Netera Alliance (formerly Wurcnet), one of the organizations responsible for creating the Cyberport.

"Alberta has one of the world’s most advanced high-speed networks," said Netera Alliance Executive Director and Learning Commons Director Ken Hewitt. "This kind of facility puts a versatile and engaging face on it so that people can make use of its capabilities."

The Cyberport is a gateway to the Internet, enabling high quality virtual reality and connection to powerful computer resources across Canada.

"We can connect to up to 40 computer terminals at once and everyone can be viewing a different point in a presentation," said Netera Alliance Director of Projects Douglas Macleod.

Macleod said the technology uses a broadband network infrastructure with low-maintenance optical fibre cables.
Theoretically, the data transfer capacity is almost limitless.

"As a result we can collaborate anywhere research is being done on a network, [and] in real time if we wish," said Macleod. "The thing that makes this innovation really special is that we did it with a budget of $50,000. It is high quality technology at low cost."

A simulation of U of C scientist Dr. Patrick Lee’s reovirus, which destroys cancer cells in mice, was shown. A large wall-sized screen with surround sound illustrated the reovirus entering a cancer cell and destroying it.

The Cyberport, in conjunction with the network, uses technology like large scale projectors, a radio-frequency keyboard, and a touch-sensitive screen allowing for efficient navigation in the virtual reality environment.

There are a number of practical applications for this innovation.
"This is the same technology that will prove to be the future of distance education, allowing classrooms to share knowledge and experience over the web," explained Macleod.

Other possibilities include an increase in patient care by connecting doctors to patients in remote areas and video conferences for collaboration across the globe. It may even stem into the entertainment industry with virtual libraries, interactive movies, digital music, and multi-player games.

Much of the funding for the project comes from the Alberta Science and Research Authority.

"There is a good basis of seed money in Alberta and this is why we are going to continue to be a leader," said Alberta Minister Responsible for Science, Research and Technology Lorne Taylor. "Every time I look at a map I want to see Alberta at the centre."

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