Mozilla Ignite Challenge Winners Announced

A year ago this month, OSTP and the National Science Foundation (NSF) launched the US Ignite initiative to jumpstart the development of software applications able to take advantage of the Nation’s growing but underutilized network of very-high-speed, gigabyte/second Internet connections. On Tuesday, at the US Ignite Partnership’s Application Summit in Chicago, IL, NSF and Mozilla announced the winners of the $500,000 Mozilla Ignite Challenge, designed to engage a broad range of developers, startups, students, and communities in creating the next-generation of gigabit applications. We asked the top four winners to tell us a little about their projects.

Engage 3D: Immersive 3D Educational Tools

US Ignite: Engage 3D

Engage 3D tested its video conferencing application at the Tennessee Aquarium. At left, debugging behind the scenes at the Aquarium. At right, touring the Aquarium to find content for the engage 3D platform. (Photo by Engage 3D)

Engage 3D is a non-profit organization in Chattanooga, TN, and our 3D video conferencing application brings the Microsoft Kinect’s three-dimensional capabilities to the Web, streaming in-browser content in three dimensions.  

We showcased an early version of our application at a Chattanooga Downtown Public Library event, where a crowd of more than 1,200 children and teens were mesmerized.  Though we had initially targeted healthcare and business for our technology, the fascination we saw at this event made us realize that 3D video conferencing could become a powerful educational tool.

Our in-browser 3D video conferencing platform brings educational content - live, interactive, and in 3D - into classrooms at no additional cost to schools. Unlike a simple video, our application provides students with an opportunity to interact with content in a way that has not been seen before.

Our organization was born entirely out of the Mozilla Ignite App Challenge. Through three rounds of pitches and development, our team has learned much about the exciting possibilities and challenges of gigabit application development.  We’ve also gained new expertise in Web tools and we’ve had a tremendous time participating in this program and can’t wait to see what the future holds. For more information visit www.engage3D.org or watch a video demonstration.

McGill: Real-Time Emergency Response

US Ignite: Real-Time Emergency Response

The real-time emergency response (rtER) visualization environment integrates live video overlay with an augmented immersive street view, and can animate smoothly as the user navigates to specified location. (Photo by Severin “Sparky” Smith)

Real-Time Emergency Response (rtER) addresses the need for better situational awareness when dealing with a crisis situation. With extremely fast networks being brought to life by Ignite, real-time video will be streamed from an enormous number of mobile devices already in the hands of not only emergency personnel but also the general public. Harnessing this torrent of video to make better decisions requires collaboration among responders who might be scattered around the state, country, or world. rtER provides two key components:

  • a mobile client application for not only streaming live video, but also allowing response coordinators to direct the smartphone user to re-orient the camera in real-time
  • a Web-based tool for multiple users to collaboratively analyze, prioritize, and distribute live and stored video.

The Mozilla Ignite app challenge provided not only the funding, but also the spark to create rtER from scratch over the past nine months. Even more critical was the US Ignite team's assistance with connecting to public safety and emergency response personnel in cities such as Red Wing (Minnesota), Quebec City (Canada) and Chicago. A key moment of the project was visiting an emergency operations center, where we demonstrated rtER and then heard the excitement of their development team about potentially integrating parts of rtER into their own custom toolset. For more information visit http://srl.mcgill.ca/rter.

Purdue University, Kettering University & San Leandro: Ensuring Network Reliability for Next-gen Applications

The Internet lacks facilities for reliable, real-time communication, which is essential for applications such as remote medical procedures, robotic clean-up after disasters, and advanced manufacturing processes.  Our work will provide ultra-high reliability for these critical applications.  Rather than incorporating reliability into a single application, we are building a fundamentally new communication technology that can be used by any application.

The Mozilla Ignite challenge was the catalyst to form our team and engage with students to help develop the underlying technology. . We were able to control a 3D printer remotely and monitor its behavior in detail with HD video.  More important, the challenge connected universities, a gigabit city, and industrial partners to build an effective demonstration that spans the country. For more information visit https://mozillaignite.org/apps/418/ and here for pitch video.

BigBlueButton: High Quality Open Source Web Conferencing

US Ignite: Big Blue Button

Sharing four high-definition webcams, presentation, and chat in BigBlueButton. Pictured in the screen shot are Raymond Lai (above) and Fred Dixon (below). (Photo by BigBlueButton, taken by Fred Dixon)

An on-line education has the potential to provide students with access to the best teachers, the best course materials, and the best learning environment, but there are barriers.  While availability of high-speed networks has increased, for many educational institutions the technology costs associated with delivering on-line courses have also increased at a time when their funding has not.

Mozilla Ignite has supported the development of an open-source project designed to help educational institutions provide remote students with a high-quality on-line learning experience.  Our open-source project, called BigBlueButton, enables real-time sharing of audio, video, slides, desktops, and chat.  It is designed to deliver one-on-one sessions (such as virtual office hours), small group collaboration, and on-line courses of up to 50 students.

The funding supported trials at Dearborn Michigan Public Schools.  In testing the improvements to audio (using WebRTC), Chris Kennenberg, Webmaster for Dearborn Michigan Public Schools, stated that BigBlueButton could provide audio conferencing “as good as any commercial conference bridge I have tested.” As an open source project, BigBlueButton is freely available to all educational institutions.  For more information visit http://bigbluebutton.org/.

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