University of Toronto Magazine University of Toronto Magazine

Never Miss a Meeting Again

Researchers have developed a system that broadcasts audio, video and slides over the Web

Next time you have to miss an important event, you may appreciate the importance of the ePresence Webcasting System being developed at U of T’s Knowledge Media Design Institute.

The project was launched in 2000 to find an effective way of communicating with KMDI’s widespread membership, says computer science professor Ron Baecker, KMDI’s founder and chief scientist. Researchers have developed a system that broadcasts audio, video and slides over the Web. It not only lets you watch an event live, but provides a searchable archive for locating specific topics within past events.

Unlike other Webcast systems, the ePresence Lab includes a real-time chat function that allows viewers to send messages, ask questions and share information with the presenter and each other. “Most of what’s out there doesn’t provide an opportunity for dialogue and interaction,” notes Baecker. While the system is now used only for special events, it could one day be used anywhere you’d want to enhance the experience of being “present,” from press briefings and annual meetings to schoolrooms or medical consultations.

With additional funding, KMDI could add such features as mobile-device capability and audience polls. Researchers are also studying how to search audio tracks for key words and phrases. “We want to keep pushing the edge on the technology,” says Baecker.

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