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Looking Ahead


A brief survey of activities on the Rensselaer campus makes it clear that an expanded capacity for network communications is improving and, in some cases, fundamentally changing almost every aspect of research and education.

Rensselaer is now part of Internet-2, with researchers able to use an OC-3 (optical carrier) line that carries 155 megabits per second, more than three times the capacity of the T3 line previously used by the entire campus. A second OC-3 line is replacing the T3 line this fall.

Many of the requests to use the Internet-2 line involve quantitative changes, according to Michael Kupferschmid '68, scientific programming consultant. Some researchers, for example, want to do long-distance visualization of scientific calculations performed elsewhere on massive parallel computers such as those at the Department of Energy or NASA. The major effect of the increased bandwidth will be dramatically faster service.

But for some, increased bandwidth is creating a qualitative change, making it possible to do things that have never been done before. Neil Rolnick, chairman of the arts department and director of iEAR (integrated Electronic Arts at Rensselaer), has received a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts for a new type of musical that will be produced jointly with New York University (NYU).

The project, which is redefining performance arts, will eliminate the two-hour musical format and the linear story line. The "performance" will take place between September and February on Internet-2, with full-stream video at 30 frames a second and CD-quality sound.

Staging it on the Internet allows the audience to interact in ways not possible in a traditional performance setting. Hundreds or even thousands of viewers will be able to select and follow various parts of the story, causing it to develop in different ways. In February, there will be a public performance, taking place simultaneously at Rensselaer and NYU, with Internet-2 carrying the action in real time.


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