Banff, mathematics, networks, and live streaming

The Banff International Research Station for Mathematical Innovation and Discovery (BIRS) is opening its virtual doors to the scientific community. I think Nassif Ghoussoub in his April 3, 2012 posting on his Piece of Mind blog says it better,

The Banff International Research Station (BIRS) has announced that its new physical meeting space at the beautiful TransCanada Pipelines Pavilion in Banff Canada,  is now accessible to the scientific community in virtual space, via live video streaming and high quality video recordings, produced by a state-of-the-art automated video production system. This is a first step in our collaborative effort with the Mprime network and the other mathematical sciences institutes, towards building and coordinating a national Internet infrastructure supporting mathematical research and education, including a unified video capture, video streaming, video archiving, and video storage service for the world’s mathematical science community.

I last mentioned  BIRS in my Jan. 9, 2012 posting (scroll down about 1/2 way) in the context of a mathematics workshop held there for poets.

Here’s more from Nassif about the virtual network,

Further into the future, we would like to add some interactive features that allow remote parties to participate in workshops. Sophisticated video conferencing integration has been part of the plan from the beginning, and remains a priority.…

BIRS alone will be broadcasting 25-30 lectures per week for 49 weeks of every year. Each lecture has the potential to open up new threads for research. Future authors working with these ideas will be empowered to provide precise citations to video archives of lectures inspiring their research. The citations to video lectures that appear in subsequent publications will contribute to a biblio-metric metadata stream demonstrating research impact. BIRS will be collaborating with the other institutes to define a unified video capture, video streaming, video archiving, and video storage service for all interested mathematical institutions.

In the meantime, you can find the latest lectures and notices about upcoming events here. Not all of these lectures will be livestreamed and/or recorded as the speaker must make the choice of pressing the ‘webcast’ button.

From the About BIRS Live Stream webpage (note: some links have been removed),

In January of 2012, BIRS installed a system of cameras, microphones, and automation technology in it’s main lecture room in order to fully automate the production, recording, broadcasting, and distribution of high-quality lecture videos. An overview of how it works is posted here. Since then, we have been busy writing software, adding features, and tweaking the behaviour of the system. As a work in progress, you should expect the occasional hiccup. We would love to hear your feedback or suggestions, since we are building this for the benefit of the community and consider it a collaborative effort.

I would like to extend a huge thank-you to all of the participants at BIRS who, in choosing to record — and now broadcast — their lectures online, provide a valuable resource, contributing to educational and scientific progress.

Brent Kearney
Technology Manager for BIRS

System Requirements

The live stream should work on any modern computer or mobile device that supports Flash or HTML5 streaming video. It has been casually tested and works with Microsoft Windows IE 8 and 9, Chrome, Firefox, Safari, iPhones, iPads, Playbooks, and some Android phones. Please let us know if it does not work on your device.

The live video uses dynamic streaming to automatically scale the video quality up or down based on your connection speed. Switching to fullscreen mode, or attempting to advance the play position, will force a re-evaluation of your bandwidth constraints. In it’s highest mode, the stream displays 1920×720 resolution HD video at 1800kbps and 30fps. In its lowest mode, it plays in most mobile devices at 320×180 resolution at 400kbps and 24fps. There are two modes in between.

Very exciting stuff. I think it would be wonderful if those plans to include interactivity happened to coincide with the next Canadian Science Policy Conference. BTW, despite what I wrote in my Feb. 20, 2012 posting (scroll down 2/3 of the way) about an imminent announcement, the location for the 2012 conference has not yet been divulged.

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