The Australian Technology Park in inner Sydney this week opened its doors to the public and media, showcasing Australian innovations.
ZDNet UK sister site ZDNet Australia picked out some of the most interesting offerings from more than 70 exhibitors at the open day on Thursday.
NICTA's rescue robot
National ICT Australia (NICTA) plans for the first time to join the global Robot Rescue competition, to be held in Japan next year. NICTA researcher Tom Vogel said the organisation's own Robot Rescue project entailed creating an autonomous rescue robot that can map out and enter disaster areas and locate victims.
Vogel said NICTA was at the early stages of creating a robot that could operate independent of human intervention.
"Most of the rescue robots are completely controlled by humans. We plan to be the first team to send out a fully autonomous robot, totally on its own, that can go into disaster areas dangerous to humans and come back out with the needed information," Vogel said.
The NICTA researchers are working on resolving three of the key issues for a robot: locomotion, mapping and vision. The device needs to be able to traverse through any terrain, map walls and take in visual cues to detect where the humans are.
"If we get something up and running, we have a great chance of getting higher points since you get bonus points for being autonomous. The more human operators the robot has, the more the points get divided," Vogel said.
Vogel added that NICTA aimed to have its robot's vision on par with human vision to allow the device to adjust to different lighting conditions. NICTA started planning in July this year and is assessing the hardware and software requirements for its entry into the competition.
NICTA will be competing with more than 20 universities and research institutions from around the world.
DICE up your gaming experience
Smart Internet is working on delivering an audio system designed to allow game players to hear and talk to other players in virtual spaces online. The effort is known as the Dense Immersive Communications Environment (DICE) project.
Smart Internet's Technology Cooperative Research Centre, an incorporated joint venture between industry, academia and the government, is planning to start a network-based system for processing and delivery of complex audio scenes.
DICE is an audio communication system that enables players in crowded virtual spaces, such as the multiplayer game Wolfenstein Enemy Territory, to experience group conversation as close to reality as possible.
The enhanced audio capability will be available to game players by downloading an applet and using a DICE enabled game server. The software will enable players to hear a spatially accurate rendering of the voice of others in their virtual vicinity as they happen. The voices are adjusted based on orientation and distance from the listener, as well as their loudness (whispering versus shouting).
"While rapid increases in computational power has led to highly detailed and realistic graphics, communication between participants in these environments has so far been lagging behind, often limited to a text-based 'chat window' or a single audio channel for everyone to share," said Farzad Safaei, Smart Networks program manager.
With DICE, the voices in one's virtual vicinity are heard in harmony with their visual representation (location, distance and spatial placement with respect to the listener). Each participant can hear a realistic and personalised mix of voices in their "hearing range" and this mix is dynamically changed as people move within the virtual environment (and consequently in and out of each other's hearing range).
Preliminary research into immersive audio communication over a network started over two years ago when Safaei and his team looked into ways to improve teleconferencing. As the idea evolved, the team researched ways to add natural voice communication to network games in a bid to enhance the players' experience and to make playing the game a lot more fun.
Darrell Williamson, the chief executive officer of Smart Internet, claims immersive audio communication delivers enhancements not only to network game players but possibly to other applications where a large number of users in a distributed environment are involved.
The infrastructure can support hundreds of players and is expected to be used in other mainstream games in the future such as The Sims. As of the moment, Smart Internet is having a few discussions with game developers.
"At the moment DICE is just a research type of technology, but if game developers knew of the capabilities that would be a different story. We can easily have lip synch added to the game and you can equally make environments suitable for meetings. The team also have the option of breaking into small teams and going into different parts of the virtual environment," Williamson said.
"We are looking at how to create games or virtual environments which allow personal interaction to make things more personal. We want to add a lot more real time interaction and give it a much more realistic use. We want the avatars to have more actions and facial expressions to be more socially usable," he added.
Live trials of Project DICE are expected to start later in the year at the Telstra Launceston Broadband e-Lab, involving local game players who are members of the Launceston Broadband Project.