The Intelligent Systems Research Group at the University of York is at the cutting edge of scientific research, investigating the interrelationship between biological and electronic systems. And a new immersive audiovisual hub - deployed by a three-way partnership of Bradford VAR Universal AV, York consultancy BMA Audio Visual and a York University project team across the group's five advanced laboratories - is set to assist.
Chris Gardner, project manager at Universal AV, was responsible for the integration project delivery. "The solution was a four-screen projection across the surface area of four walls, creating a ‘projection box', using short-throw optics and custom screen frames," he said in a statement.
"The projection system is complemented by a 28-speaker, 32-channel ambisonic audio system, plus four sub-bass speakers controlled from a MAC pro using MOTU converters."
Ambisonic refers to multi-channel mixing for replay and recording live or in a studio. The hub demonstration space is a "black box" offering 360-degree projection and sound amplification. The space is designed to provide total immersion in sounds and images, creating an unusual sensory experience.
Richard McCauley, senior partner at BMA Audio Visual, said the partnership worked well. The consultancy offered its planning, evaluation and strategising services for sophisticated audiovisual projects.
"Universal AV delivered an extremely good solution, especially in the timescales given. I would recommend its services - it was great to work with," McCauley said.
BMA Audio Visual has worked on a number of advanced audiovisual projects, including several that touch on healthcare, which often use sophisticated imaging technologies, such as the provision of a £250,000 integrated environment to train medical students in endoscopy, using cadavers, at the West Midlands Surgical Training Centre teaching hospitals in Coventry and Warwickshire.
Realistic simulations of the operating theatre environment were created by the project team - which again involved the co-operation of a number of third-party providers - including surgical camera systems that capture and display images, integrated two-way video and audio over IP for teaching students remotely, and integrated touch-screen control system and high-definition (HD) displays, surgical-grade HD LED lighting and video cameras.
"Each of the pendant monitors or the main room screens can view any of the source material from 18 possible sources," according to a document from BMA.
The University of York's Ron Cooke Hub is now open to students and staff working with all five group labs, which research bio-inspired architectures; artificial immune systems, evolvable and developmental hardware; genetic programming and biological systems; bio-inspired control engineering, instrumentation, multi-agent systems and visual systems; biomedical engineering, computational neuroscience and control systems; and face image processing, image and video coding, motion-picture parsing and video-augmented technology.
The immersive hub allows researchers to investigate audiovisual representations of various scenarios and solutions in a large-as-life format for multiple users. Examples might include virtual reality projects or multi-dimensional mapping.
Dave Roberts, project manager for the University of York team, said he was pleased with the results. "This project has been a real success - the university will be proud of this project for years to come."
The four screens were custom-built and provided by Powell Cinema Engineers. Four Panasonic PT-DZ6700EL DLP projectors were used, backed up by the Panasonic ET-DLE080 0.8-1.1:1 short zoom lens.
The hub enjoys an aural assault provided by 28 Genelec 8050A-powered speakers and four Genelec 7071A-powered sub-bass speakers, working with a Spectra Dynamics Deflex Sheet to help soundproofing and acoustics.
There are 32 video termination panels, an XLR audio termination panel and an outlet plate with assorted rack cabinets, shelves, cables, mounts and columns.
Paul O'Reilly, managing director of the technical distribution division at screens specialist PSCo, said the number of verticals using hub-type implementations are multiplying.
"PSCo has worked on a number of large-scale and interactive display deployments that are immersive; 360-degree videowalls will be the next step," he said. "Simulation is an area that has a real need for creating a completely immersive experience. Our reseller partners are also finding that this is driven by the end users, whose expectations are becoming increasingly sophisticated."
O'Reilly noted that such projects require specialist knowledge and high-end technologies, which by their nature offer the largest profit margins.
"Channel partners [can] up-sell their services, which can actually mean increased profit margins. But the advantages of this collaborative approach include not only profit margin, they also allow partners to work with larger, project-based clients," he said.
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