APR Inc. wins funding for second round Moveable Feast project Edmonton-based Acoustic Provisioning Research (APR) Inc. has confirmed that it has won an undisclosed amount of funding from the CANARIE Inc./Canadian Heritage Applied Research in Interactive Media (ARIM) Program to continue its Moveable Feast experiment. The funds will be follow-on funding to Advanced Network Applications, Services and Technologies Program funding, also from CANARIE, for the project's first phase, the final report for which was submitted last August. The Moveable Feast is an experiment in creating networked virtual environments in which participants can interact with physically controlled audio and video, both in their own physical space and with another user at a remote location. While the initial project was hailed as a success by APR in its final reporting to CANARIE, president Will Bauer says the latest funding will allow the company to make several improvements that he hopes will help accelerate commercialization of the technology. The first $940,000 phase of the project used infrared tags to track users in an open room. As they moved around, they would trigger different media objects such as sound or video to play, both in their room, and in a remote location. In the initial round, labs were located at the University of Victoria and the University of Alberta - both partners in this latest funding round as well. As one example, APR created a Virtual DJ application where users could mix, cut and loop their own music by gesturing and moving in their physical space, triggering changes in soundtrack and lighting. Participants could also dance with avatars of users in the other city and speak with each other via Internet protocol phones. In this second round of funding, several technological improvements will be made to help APR create the virtual environments more quickly and to more flexibly track participants in physical space. Bauer says one key change will be a shift from tracking by using infrared tags to a new two-camera system that won't rely on infrared's wireless tethers. "(Infrared) is fine for a lot of applications. But when you're using this type of technology and deploying it to the public, that can be really problematic because, of course, you have to monitor the tags very carefully and make sure people don't walk off with them or break them," he says. "One of the elements of the ARIM improvements is what we call tagless tracking, which is a way of following people's bodies around the space and not uniquely identifying them…It allows people to come and go without any kind of monitoring or gatekeeping or anything like that. They can just walk into the space and start interacting and then leave whenever they feel like it. For some things that are public domain access, this is going to be a big deal - a significant new direction for us." Should the technology ever be used for public nightclubs, for instance, or fairs such as Expo, such walk-in/walk-out ability will be crucial, Bauer notes. Other changes in the underlying technology will be less visible but no less important to the long-term viability of the project. For example, the software used to "map" the physical location and associated some spots with multimedia objects will be a new proprietary system instead of the off-the-shelf technologies APR used in the previous round. Keenly aware that authoring its own software is a daunting proposition, Bauer says it will give the company the flexibility to experiment more quickly than with off-the-shelf tools. "In terms of trying to create these environments, it should make it easier for people to do that. We're doing that with the idea that hopefully we'll be able to get not just ourselves, but other people using it a few years down the road." Bauer says APR is a small company - about half a dozen people - but the CANARIE funding is allowing it to do cutting-edge research not otherwise possible. "I know people who are doing related research in the States are incredibly jealous of this because they have nothing like that going on down there."