Imagine watching your favorite TV show and talking about it with one friend on the phone, while at the same time trading messages with others on Twitter and e-mail. Sound like an impossible juggling act? A team of faculty from the Georgia Institute of Technology has formed a historic partnership with the Korean government, industry, and universities to develop a single platform where these and even more multimedia functions can take place, even anticipating what show you might like to watch or what music you might want to listen to.
Awarded a $9 million contract through the 2008 KORUS Tech Program, an initiative of the Korean Industrial Technology Foundation, Georgia Tech was chosen out of 109 universities to lead the development and design of the next generation of digital convergence devices that will let users establish and participate in digitally connected communities. This award marks the first time that the Korean government has chosen a U.S. university to lead one of its research and development programs, Georgia Tech said.
Project investigators will develop immersive technologies on a hybrid graphics processing unit (GPU)-central processing unit platform, which will be created at the newly established KORUS Research Center for Informersive Systems (CIS). The center will be headed by Jongman Kim, an assistant professor in the Georgia Tech School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) and the lead investigator for this project and consortium.
An enabling technology for personalized, interactive media convergence, the platform will consist of a custom-designed massively parallel architecture with a hybrid GPU accelerated many-core and heterogeneous multicore fusion system for new machine learning and multimedia algorithms and techniques. To balance resources and computationally demanding applications for high performance, Kim and his team are developing new mechanisms — dynamically decomposed computing and hardware-based load balancing techniques. He will introduce a new holistic design analysis model — the Performance, Energy, and Fault-Tolerance Metric.
"The interdependence among speed/throughput, energy, and fault-tolerance shows the importance of having this new metric that can identify the best tradeoffs among these three competing traits and desired design goals," said Kim, who leads the computer architecture part of this project.
Plans call for the system to be a smart, updated engine that understands user behavior; it will feature a tailored software interface that is based on intelligence and immersion with advanced three-dimensional graphics support. Ghassan AlRegib, a Georgia Tech ECE associate professor and editor-in-chief of the ICST Journal on Immersive Telecommunications, leads the multimedia processing and immersive communications portion of project, where data about home environments, modes of entertainment, and viewing and listening preferences are captured, processed, and interpreted by using motion, temperature, and light sensors; microphones; and multiple cameras that are placed in a user's home.
"Our challenge is to intelligently process this data and digitally understand the user," said AlRegib, who serves as area editor for IEEE Signal Processing Magazine. "We are trying to create smart agents within media centers that understand users and adapt media accordingly."
As the hub for home-networked entertainment, this platform will have wireless connectivity to other devices and will be operated with hand gestures, body movements, and facial expressions. AlRegib also noted that the platform would further advance the use of social networks by the broadcast industry to broaden its viewer base.
"This system will allow users to have a personalized media experience; content providers and Internet-based or TV broadcasters will be able to adjust their delivered media according to individuals’ needs and interests rather than regional needs," AlRegib said. "We have witnessed the impact of social networking media on our daily lives, so merging them with TV seems to be a natural next step toward complete digital convergence."
Helping Kim and AlRegib — both faculty members at the Georgia Tech Savannah campus — tackle these technical challenges are ECE faculty members specializing in digital signal processing, telecommunications, computer architecture, and human-computer interaction: Monson H. Hayes, III, professor and associate director at Georgia Tech Savannah; Biing-Hwang "Fred" Juang, Motorola Foundation Chair Professor and Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar; and Associate Professor Sung Kyu Lim. Kim and AlRegib will create undergraduate and graduate courses related to this project, while students at the Atlanta and Savannah campuses will assist with developing technologies and testing prototypes.
Four Korea-based partners will work with Georgia Tech to make this platform into a reality. Celrun, an Internet protocol television company, will handle graphic engine, media processing, and display layout issues. C&S Microwave, a wireless communications company, has conducted a feasibility study on Femtocell (a small cellular base station for residential or small business environments) and mobility between handheld devices and the proposed system. Sungkyunkwan University will work on embedded software, semiconductor technology, operating system, virtual ware, migration, and load balancing. The Korean Electronics Technology Institute will focus on personalized service solutions for various multimedia, data fusion, and digital communities, especially in social network modeling.
Kim said that interested parties from Georgia Tech and other organizations are welcome to join CIS in creating technologies for this platform. The center will also continue working with Georgia Tech's Enterprise Innovation Institute, which has provided crucial marketing research and commercialization plan assistance. "Growth in this area and industry interest is only expected to increase," said Kim, who has held R&D positions at both LG Electronics and Neopoint. "We believe that digital convergence will happen and that our work will be pivotal in its realization."
Institute officials enthusiastically support this new international partnership. "Georgia Tech and ECE have long been world leaders in digital media and its supporting technologies," said Gary S. May, Steve W. Chaddick School Chair for ECE. "The Korean government's decision to ask Georgia Tech to lead this effort further solidifies our international reputation in this arena."
The establishment of CIS and its future success could also lead to collaborations in areas like the automotive industry, according to Georgia Tech Vice Provost for International Initiatives Steven W. McLaughlin. "Georgia Tech has many longstanding collaborations in Korea and a very healthy representation here in Atlanta. The KORUS Tech program is emblematic of the partnerships we have, the kind of impact we continue to develop in the region, and the benefits those relationships have in Georgia," McLaughlin said. "Korea is a gateway to Asia for Georgia Tech, and we expect to have increasing interactions with Korean companies, institutes, universities, and ministries in the coming years."
According to the Georgia Tech study conducted for this project, Korea ranks among the world's top seven countries with the most households subscribing to broadband and is projected to move into the top five in the near future. Per capita, Korea ranks among the top four broadband subscribers, according to a June 2007 study conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and had more total subscribers than the other top eight countries combined. The United States ranked 15th per capita, but had the largest number of total subscribers.
Korean officials cited Georgia Tech's stellar reputation in research, education, and translation of technology into useful products and successful companies as the primary reasons for choosing the institute for this project. "The Georgia Tech team's innovative ideas were backed by technological rigor and complemented by detailed analysis of state-of-the-art technologies and competing initiatives," said Sungjin (Bryan) Baik, senior researcher and project manager of the KORUS Tech Program from the Korea Institute of Advancement of Technology. "Atlanta's stature in the telecommunications and information media industries was also key in deciding that Georgia Tech was the proper home for this center." The majority of CIS operations will be based at the Atlanta campus of Georgia Tech and will receive additional support from facilities and personnel at Georgia Tech Savannah.
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