Installation and setup were very easy. We now have a modern system for hybrid learning in our large lecture theatres and in the auditorium.
Christoph Seeger, Media Technician
University of Bamberg
Originally founded in 1647, the University of Bamberg (Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg) attracts almost 13,000 students from all over the world.
Like many academic institutions, one of Germany’s oldest universities has faced major challenges in the form of digital transformation and the uncertainties of a pandemic-driven era. In response its team of media and IT specialists has worked with Bavaria-based IT solutions specialist MR Datentechnik to optimise the university’s operations for hybrid learning. The resulting solution allows students to benefit from flexible teaching, delivered either remotely or face-to-face.
A key element in the solution is Sony’s REA-C1000 Edge Analytics Appliance – a compact cube-shaped device containing innovative AI-based video technology from Sony that acts as a ‘virtual camera operator’.
“That’s where the intelligence behind our system sits”, explains Michael Fries, Account Manager in the Professional Displays & Solutions Business Group at Sony. “The REA-C1000 detects the presenter and enables a connected PTZ camera to follow the lecture. It also detects gestures from participants and captures and saves notes on the whiteboard or blackboard, even if the lecturer covers part of the board.”
The REA-C1000 is easily configured via a web-based user interface and can be controlled via commonly available external control processors. “The Edge Analytics Appliance automatically and effortlessly generates attractive video content in real time, something that was previously an expensive process requiring a lot of time and tying up personnel” states Fries. “It can transmit video images from the camera directly to a display, a storage medium, via IP to any location in the world or – as at the University of Bamberg – to a video streaming server.”
The university’s auditorium and five large lecture theatres are equipped with Sony SRG-X120 4K PTZ (Pan/Tilt/Zoom) cameras under remote control by the REA-C1000 in each teaching space.
These permanently installed systems are complemented by two further mobile units, each consisting of a PTZ camera plus Edge Analytics Appliance in an easily transportable flight case that can be moved from room to room as needed. It’s easy for teachers to connect up the system themselves, and configure it for either live streaming or recording lectures for subsequent download and viewing on demand.
The Edge Analytics Appliance offers further features that can be activated via an optional licence as needed. With PTZ Auto Tracking enabled, the camera automatically follows a lecturer, capturing sharply-focused footage as they move around. Handwriting Extraction uses AR (Augmented Reality) to ensure that words and diagrams written on a whiteboard or blackboard always remain in full view for the students. The REA-C1000 achieves this by automatically detecting handwritten text, sketches and diagrams, extracting them as a real-time overlay that’s displayed in front of the speaker. Even if a presenter is standing directly in front of the board, their ideas are always visible to the students.
The Gesture feature can detect movements in the room. If someone in the auditorium stands up, the camera automatically zooms in on that person and focuses on them while they are speaking – beneficial for capturing questions and student feedback.
Screen Cropping displays selected portions of the main camera image on additional screens, allowing several views can be achieved with just one camera. Meanwhile the Overlay feature can display additional content such as a presentation window, a fixed university logo or a different background.
“Six of the seven Edge Analytics systems are equipped with the PTZ auto tracking licence, while one of our systems has all the licences” confirms Media Technician Christoph Seeger at the University of Bamberg. “This is being used as our trial system at the moment, and we’re putting the individual features through their paces.”