Lab's connection to the MBone wins '95 R&D 100 Award

By Bruce Davies,

Van Jacobson and Steven McCanne of the Information and Computing Science Division have won R&D Magazine's 1995 R&D 100 Award for development of a software toolpack that enables multiparty audio and visual conferencing via the MBone (Multicast Backbone).

The MBone is a subset of the Internet that is capable of multicasting. That is, instead of "unicasting" one packet to one destination, the network copies each packet of information from the source for delivery to each destination that has requested it.
Unlike traditional broadcast methods, the MBone is totally interactive. The software toolpack created by Jacobson and McCanne, which includes a "white board," session directory, video conferencing, and video-audio tool software, enables real-time audio-video conferencing over the Internet. It lets participants share text, images and sketches.

MBone's audio-visual conferencing capabilities were developed to provide scientists with an easy way of sharing information over long distances in a manner similar to their normal interactions--and in their normal workplace. It was also developed to prove the potential of this kind of interaction on a scale provided by the Internet and to help set the standards that would guide its development.

Multicasting gained international attention and made rock-and-roll history when it was used to carry 20 minutes of the Rolling Stones' "Voodoo Lounge" concert tour. The concert was carried to some 200 workstations around the world that were connected to the Internet.

Another example of its potential was seen at a surgeons' conference at the University College in London. Approximately 100 doctors in London and Sweden watched as a surgeon in San Francisco performed a complex liver operation. As he worked, viewers asked questions about the procedure.

No other communications tool can reach as many people for interactive communication. Relatively short-term advances in hardware and software design will bring MBone communications to millions.

Considered a major indicator of successful technology transfer by Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary, the R&D 100 Awards program is the only competition in the world that recognizes the 100 most technologically significant new products in the past year. The international competition has a twofold purpose: to recognize innovators and organizations for outstanding practical technical developments, and to identify significant technological advances. R&D Magazine has honored inventors and scientists around the world with the awards since 1963.

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