Far North Living Lab launched with crazy world-first stunt
The Far North Living Lab was launched 22th of June 2009 in the city of Tromsø, Norway. To stand up to the slogan "Far North, Far out", researchers from the Northern Research Institute did a properly crazy stunt; they streamed a full 2K movie directly onto the big screen - using BitTorrent!
The Far North Living Lab is a research lab started by the Northern Research Institute (Norut) and a selection of partners. The goal is to provide a research lab for digital creativity - both for professional and amateur artists. The partners include Bredbåndsfylket, which provides gigabit fiber-optic networks between partners in the whole region of Troms, as well as cinemas, concert scenes, pubs, theaters, festivals, professional film makers, professional sound studios, schools and youth houses. "By using research technology from EU projects combined with local expertise, end users, scenes and content producers, we can experiment quite freely with digital content" says Ellen Brox, senior researcher at Norut. "We want to experiment, learn and share our knowledge to get a proper grasp of the digital future." Reaching to over 70 degrees north between mountains and fjords, under the Aurora borealis and the midnight sun, the Far North Living Lab should provide all the elements needed for excellent creativity.
The lab launch was held at the Aurora Kino, which plays a significant role in the digitizing of Norwegian cinema.
As the first country in the world, Norway will have all its cinemas digitized within 2010. This includes a vast number of tiny theatres and will even exploit mobile projectors and audio equipment to also provide the most rural and remote areas with a digital cinema experience.
The main stunt of the lab launch was the live streaming of the movie "Carved" by Jonas Rejman. "The film, featuring extreme showboarding, shot on a RED ONE in full 2k, was very suitable for this lab" says Dr. Njål Borch, also a senior researcher at Norut, "as we're no novices to neither snow nor mountains up here. Jonas Rejman also very kindly allowed us to show his film - we're very happy to see film makers that are not afraid of technology, but rather want to experiment and part-take in the digital revolution". The film was streamed using highly experimental technology created within the EU financed P2P-Next project, allowing a modified BitTorrent client to stream a torrent file from ordinary BitTorrent clients. While this Video-On-Demand technology is experimental in it's own, the so-called "demo effect" is at its most extreme on a big screen. To make matters more interesting, the film was streamed as a full 2k, 19mbit/s h264.
"This is not a sensible thing to do" continues Dr. Borch, "but we wish to see how far we can push it. We also want to show that narrow content from wherever can now enter the big screen, even though we presume downloading it first might be a good choice." The streaming itself, performed by the Tribler BitTorrent client using P2P-Next technology, started up impressively fast, stuttered lightly a couple of times and stabilized. Unfortunately the sound fell out at the end, most likely due to A/V sync trouble in the video player, but all in all it was quite a show.
No reason to stop here
The streaming experiment is only the beginning of the plans for the arctic living lab, the next stunt will be a live transmission of an electronica concert to the city of Bejing, China as well as a few selected rural areas. "We want to participate in the world even though we are physically placed way beyond what most people find inhabitable. Linking rural areas and massive cities with our local creativity seems like a very nice next step." says Dr. Borch. "We're not afraid of the future, the Internet will not kill creativity. Quite on the contrary - we are very exited!"
Northern Research Institute Tromsø (Norut Tromsø) is a national multi-disciplinary research institute comprising four research groups, one of them the ICT department that is hosting the Far North Living Lab.
The core competence of the ICT department is within net-centric computing, and the research approach is experimental. The department has knowledge within the broad field of net-centric research and system development, distributed multimedia, internet and web technology, databases, distributed GIS, wireless sensors, mobile computing and middleware.
Norut advocates free open source software, and makes the software available as such if possible.
The ICT department conducts research and development projects for industry, government, research councils, and international customers. They cooperate with partners from most European countries in international projects funded by various research and development programs of the European Union. In 2009 more than a third of the turnover will be from international sources.