Research and development at Hosei University IT Research Center

The aim of research and development projects at Hosei University IT Research Center (HITEC) is to design and realize a borderless education and research collaboration environment using Internet technologies. In collaboration with Hosei University Research Institute, California (HURIC), the center also run various educational programs and support research collaboration on the system developed.

The following is the outline of our R&D and practice conducted 2000-2006.

Designing and constructing a borderless education and research environment

As a system development to realize a borderless education and research environment, we have constructed a real-time distance lecture system which connects our three campuses (Ichigaya, Tama, Koganei) and Hosei University Research Institute, California (HURIC) which was set up in the suburbs of San Francisco, Ca., U.S.A. (Address: 800 Airport Blvd. Burlingame, Ca.), and used it as a base for developing distance education programs which are tied up with overseas universities. HURIC was established in 2001 as a local NPO corporation to serve as our university's overseas base, and since 2002 it has been actively serving as an overseas cooperative research facility for this open research study project. Picture below shows the structural drawing of the distance lecture system using distance lecture rooms of Hosei University's Kudan campus IT Research Center and HURIC as examples.

Distance lecture system

Distance lecture system (Left: Hosei University Research Institute, California, Right: IT Research Center Distance Lecture Room )

In addition, we have developed and installed a web-based educational support system in order to support real-time lectures. Originally we used a commercial dot campus system (by Interlect Co., Ltd.) for lesson support but since the fiscal year 2005, we have introduced the open-source Sakai collaboration management system, which has become very popular recently and has been promoted by Michigan University, MIT, Harvard University etc. This open-research study project has participated in the Sakai project as a developer of the international collaboration research project and contributed in developing multi-lingual programs. In fact, this project has handled the Japanese translation of the Help text etc, which was done by creating our own Japanese translation system. Furthermore, taking advantage of open-source, senior researchers of HURIC who were also members of this project, have added some functions to the system, i.e., presenting subjects for electronic reports, submitting them, presenting teaching materials, discussion forum or chat etc. Separate from the web-based educational support system, a traditional mailing list was prepared to promote communication between instructors and students.

Contents which have sound search function using audio keyword

The purpose of this research project is the actual practice of international education programs, and especially to develop a support system for students whose native language is not English so they can understand English lecturers. As a part of this project, together with Hitachi, Ltd. (Hitachi Seisakusho) we have developed an automatic digital-content producing system which has its own search function using sound keywords. By using this developed system, archiving real-time picture images and sound in WMV format, archiving Power Point documents or hand-written text etc. as well as producing automatically the mixed contents of both have become available at the same time as distance lectures. The contents produced can be distributed to students as CD-ROM format, or be up-loaded on the web server for them to review the lessons. As it is almost impossible for most Japanese students to understand English lectures after listening only once, these archived contents are very useful for them to understand lectures. However, the average length of distance lectures, which are the main object of this project, is between 2 to 3 hours and the information recorded every week adds up to an enormous amount of content. So if students have to find the parts they want to review by going through all the pictures, even these useful archived contents become a burden which forces students to spend lots of unnecessary time and effort for their lesson reviews. In order to carry out this kind of picture search more precisely, the search using lecture sound as keyword is effective in addition to traditional picture search using slide title index. Therefore in this research project, we have used sound search function in our system after applying API which was developed by the Fast Communication company from the U.S.A. Picture below shows the enlarged image of the sound search part of the contents which were automatically produced by this system.

Lectures are automatically shown as captions through Re-talker and then changed into text format.

Simultaneous interpretation system for distance lectures

Automatic digital content production system in regular classroom

As a system to help understanding English lectures, we have developed a system which automatically displays Japanese captions of lectures and changes them into text format, in addition to a system which automatically produces the contents with a sound keyword search function. As shown below, a Re-talker will simply relate the sound of the lectures at a certain audio level which is suitable for sound recognition software, and the sound will then be changed into text format with high accuracy. We have so far achieved 97.6% accuracy in changing sound into text using an appropriate Re-talker. This text will be sent to the server, and the students taking lectures can see the text just like movie captions with the display of the lecturer. Also the text file obtained will be up-loaded on the server for students to refer to as lecture records after mistakes in the text are amended and edited. The real-time captions are delayed a few seconds because they have to be displayed after the Re-talker and the sound recognition software converts the sound into text. Also students tend to lose their concentration in listening because they have to follow the text captions. So we have confirmed that for students to understand the lectures, the text obtained after the lectures is more beneficial than the real-time captions. The details of this system were reported at the 2005 International Conference on Cyberworlds, an IEEE international conference held in Singapore.

Furthermore, the simultaneous interpretation system for distance lectures is introduced in IT Research Center Distance Lecture Room 2 (Kudan campus 3F) in order to use it for the distance lectures targeted for students who lack English abilities including undergraduate students. The picture above shows a picture of a welfare engineering lecture targeted for undergraduate students in the fiscal year 2004. The students whose English abilities are low can rely on the voice sound of the simultaneous interpreter using the headphones to understand English lectures. This system is also used for the extension distance lectures which are open to the general public. In the picture, the simultaneous interpreter's booth is set up in the distance lecture room, but this July we have experimented with a distance simultaneous interpretation system which connects a simultaneous interpreter and a lecturer using the Internet distance conference system. The result was good enough to prove that the distance lecture and seminar with simultaneous interpretation can be held even if interpreters are in a far away location.

This project has achieved successful results in the research development for practical realization for the future. One example is the development of digital contents automatic production system in a regular classroom. In the automatic digital-content production system which is presently used for student review, lecturer video, voice sound, Power Point document, hand written letters or mathematical formulas will automatically be archived on the table PC. But as the lecturer has to operate the PC at the same time he is giving the lecture, it is quite a burden for him. Also as the hand-written letters on his tablet PC are restricted by picture image resolutions, he cannot write a large volume of small letters or formulas. Aiming for a more natural lecture delivery and content production, we have developed a system where the letters written on a classroom's blackboard are presented in time-oriented vector data through image processing, and the lecturers given in a regular classroom are changed into digital content and can be delivered smoothly and comfortably even within the present Internet environment. First, high-resolution image is produced by panoramic composition of picture image of blackboard taken by multiple cameras. Then written letters are abstracted as vector data by line detection. By using consumer-use high-vision cameras, high-resolution picture images of lecture scenes can be taken without troublesome advanced preparation such as setting camera locations etc. From the high-resolution image obtained, through differential processing of picture images, a small frame of the picture image of the lecturer is cut out by following his movements on the podium. Next the vector data abstracted is reproduced as time-oriented written letters on the virtual blackboard on a Web browser, while synchronizing with the image of the lecturer. In this way, the data volume is dramatically minimized and can be delivered smoothly and without any problems within the present Internet environment. In this research, we have successfully tried out the system which automatically produces digital contents of the lectures given in regular classrooms with blackboards. Using this system, not only universities but also all educational facilities such as elementary schools, junior and senior high schools can easily keep their classroom lessons as digital content, and this system is expected to become widespread as one of the e-learning systems. We have reported about this system development in the 2005 Institute of Electronics, Information and Communication Engineers (IEICE), Educational Engineering Workshop.

We have also developed Web-based distance lecture system using low-latency video communications by Flash technology (the development report is published in the 2005 International Journal of Wireless and Mobile Computing), remote robotic control experimental system using teleoperation technologies which remotely control a robot manipulator through the Internet (a detailed paper was reported at Frontiers in Education 2005, an International conference), Web-based multi-lingual discussion forum realization system using Japanese-English translation API etc.

The above is the outline of our research results about designing and constructing borderless education and research environment, which was our first objective of this project. Although we had to make slight changes in our plans as the system study proceeded, we got satisfying positive results on our original theme as written in our planning document. (The theme: In tie up with HURIC which was set up in California, U.S.A., was to make a comprehensive study of how to effectively carry out international distance education and research collaboration on the Internet, and then proceed to system construction.) We originally planned to apply multicast or IPV6 technologies in distance conferences and research collaborations (international conference and symposium) which involve many locations, but we changed to IPV4 multi-location connecting devices as well as made network inside the university high-speed gigabit network. Regarding the construction of this system, we have referred to the experimental results of international distance lectures and seminars, which will be reported in the following section, and make necessary improvements to the system.

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