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Home > Future World > Data at dizzying speeds—welcome to Internet2

Data at dizzying speeds—welcome to Internet2

Get ready for the second coming of the Internet that’ll not only let you connect faster but also bring streaming audio and video

Monday, December 03, 2001


Recently, we had a meeting with our CMD—he was in Delhi while he addressed a group of 60 of us in Bangalore. It was via a speaker phone. Not very high-tech, considering that many companies already make use of video conferencing facilities. Now imagine this: a speaker addresses a group that’s on the other side of the globe, and the audience sees his image in 3D right in front of them. Remember Star Wars, or Star Trek? No eerie music or sirens to go with this one, though. Here’s the deal—this isn’t sci-fi anymore, nor is it far in the future. It’s already happened. In October this year, Governor Rick Perry addressed the University of Texas at Dallas, sitting far away in his Austin office, with this technique called teleportation. This was done by creating the illusion of a 3D hologram. This made use of the Internet2—a lightning fast network connecting universities and corporations. Sure, this is possible even on ISDN as of now. But what’s significant here is that this new connection of high-speed networks opens up a range of revolutionary Internet applications such as digital libraries, virtual laboratories, distance-independent learning and tele-immersion.

Manipulating at nano-level—virtually

Scanning-probe microscopes (SPMs) are used for investigation and manipulation of surfaces right down to the atomic scale. The nanoManipulator (nM) system developed by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, gives a natural interface to work with remote SPMs. The nM ties up the microscope to a virtual-reality interface that gives the scientist virtual telepresence on the surface being examined. This surface is scaled by a factor of about a million to one. This tool has led to new results in the study of biology, materials science, carbon nanotubes, and electrical engineering. The nM is also being used by Garrett Matthews, a graduate student in physics, to examine and manipulate Adeno virus particles. Adeno virus particles are used as vectors in gene therapy. They travel into cells and then release the genetic material contained in their hollow core.
(Courtesy: http://www.cs.unc.edu/)

Virtual Harlem

This is a learning network that lets students learn about the Harlem Renaissance through the construction and use of scenarios developed in virtual reality. This was originally developed by University of Missouri and Columbia to supplement African American literature courses at Central Missouri State University. Students can step through a virtual ‘portal’ to the 1925–1935 period to navigate city streets, interact with key figures, and listen to the music of the bygone era.

What is Internet2?

Internet2 is a not-for-profit consortium of over 180 US universities. They are jointly developing and deploying advanced network applications that will then be quickly ported to the current Internet. Over 60 leading companies are also involved in this work. As of now, universities are using the applications they have developed in many ways—see box.

Highlights of Internet2

High-speed network backbones: The high-performance networks provide the environment in which new applications and capabilities can be deployed and tested. Among them is Abilene that has connections as fast as 2.5 gigabits per second—a data rate 45,000 times faster than a 56 kbps modem.

Collaborations with companies and government: Internet2 isn’t just limited to interactions between universities, but also companies like Microsoft, IBM, AT&T, Apple, Cisco and many others. The US government has its own initiative called the Next Generation Internet Initiative. Internet2 is also collaborating with this.

Testing of new technologies: There’re many working groups dedicated to developing and testing technologies for tomorrow’s commercial Internet. These include groups working on quality of service for networks, new protocols like IPv6, and more.

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