Virtual Space Interaction Testbed (VISIT)

The Virtual Space Interaction Testbed (VISIT) was a UMSI initiative that applied advanced cyberinfrastructure capabilities to the challenges of effective collaboration between geographically distributed sites. With facilities on the UM Central and North Campuses, the School of Information was a natural testbed for conducting this kind of experimentation into how distributed organizations can be better supported using a combination of advanced networking and computing.

This initiative examined how to increase workplace productivity through ultra-resolution multi-function, high-density display walls that could help to enhance the collaborative process. This project sought to reduce dependence on physical facilities to collocate people by designing, developing, deploying, using, and evaluating highly realistic virtual spaces for collaboration. By combining high-definition video with large-scale, multi-megapixel displays and stereo audio people who are distant from each other can be connected in as realistic a setting as possible.

Start date: 7/1/2007
End date: 6/30/2009

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The use of high-resolution displays for collaboration in workplaces, education, and other settings could prove to have a sizeable impact on the ease in which collaborators can communicate and share ideas and knowledge while minimizing environmental impacts accrued through energy use and travel.

VISIT systems focused on the interaction techniques and social practices that help collocated users informally collaborate over shared artifacts. The system added telepresence capabilities by linking multiple displays together through combined high-quality audio, video and content conferencing.

The project exploited tremendous growth in network capacity to prototype and deploy highly immersive collaborative environments across the University of Michigan campus and partner institutions. High performance network links supported real-time and low-latency transmission of high definition video streams and allowed these streams to be rendered on extremely high-resolution tiled displays called OptIPortals. These OptIPortals served as termination devices for a distributed computing facility called the OptIPuter. Connecting to other OptIPuter sites allowed researchers to assemble a variety of collaboration and visualization resources.

VISIT leveraged similar advances in computing to build novel interaction environments. High performance cluster computing served as a critical building block for ultra-resolution collaboration systems, providing highly scalable computing power the project’s demanding applications. 

To learn more about the project, please listen to co-principal investigator Erik Hofer discuss it in a YouTube video.


Connection Project—The Virtual Space Interaction Testbed (VISIT): Bringing distant people together virtually to improve teaching and research, University of Michigan: $700,000


This grant was dispersed through the University of Michigan’s Office of the Provost, which has responsibility for the University's academic and budgetary affairs. The Provost collaborates with the President in setting overall academic priorities for the University and allocates funds to carry these priorities forward.