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US Ignite Smart Gigabit Communities Adelaide, Australia and Lafayette, Louisiana Announce Partnership to Bring Advanced Virtual Reality Application to Australia

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by Joe Kochan   December 14, 2017

December 14, 2017 - Washington, D.C. - Today, US Ignite and the cities of Adelaide, Australia and Lafayette, Louisiana announced the successful completion of a demonstration connecting Adelaide, Australia to a virtual reality (VR) application in Lafayette, Louisiana. Community leaders from Lafayette and Adelaide convened in Adelaide last month to introduce and demo the application to other technologists and innovators. The advanced networked VR tool, “Kvasir-VR”, developed by a research team lead by Dr. Christoph Borst at the University of Louisiana, Lafayette (UL Lafayette), provides a new way for K-12 students to experience field trips, virtually. Kvasir-VR has been used to create a VR environment to teach students in Lafayette about alternative energy production by allowing live experts to guide students through a 3D scene of the university’s solar energy plant, without the students ever leaving the classroom. Following this successful demo, Dr. Borst and US Ignite hope to expand the availability of the application to additional schools throughout the country, including schools in Texas and Tennessee.

A recent U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) report on jobs and the economy from January 2017 found that 6.4 million Americans work in the energy sector, with 300,000 jobs added last year. A huge percentage of these new jobs are in renewable energy and efficiency, with the solar workforce increasing by 25 percent in 2016. Kvasir-VR, which relies on ultra-fast, low-latency networks, removes the barriers of budgets, schedules or geography to help students obtain a more robust, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) interactive education.

“We are thrilled to bring this application to Southern Australia, after it has enhanced the education of so many children in Louisiana,” said Dr. Christoph Borst, Associate Professor of Computer Science and Lead Researcher. “We hope to connect additional cities in the Smart Gigabit Communities network in the months and years ahead.”

Kvasir-VR started as a networked virtual reality system for remotely-guided geosciences exploration, connecting a geologist, Dr. Gary Kinsland, in Dr. Borst’s lab to a live audience in a 3D theater at LITE, Louisiana’s large-scale 3D visualization facility. With support from US Ignite and the National Science Foundation (NSF) to extend this work, the concepts were applied to solar energy plant field trips, in collaboration with Dr. Terrence Chambers and his students who developed the first 3D model of the plant. Dr. Borst and his students are currently studying the educational effects of having a live teacher in the virtual environment, and they are working on technology to better enable teachers to guide students in such environments.

Dr. Borst was recently supported through a US Ignite Application Development Award for this effort. The prize includes a $10,000 grant from US Ignite to promote the development of gigabit applications and services. Earlier this year, Dr. Borst’s team also shared the virtual reality application with more than a thousand people at the US Ignite Application Summit in Austin, Texas.

The opportunity for a collaborative demonstration emerged from the strong partnership forged by partners in the US Ignite Smart Gigabit Communities program. The initiative extends US Ignite’s mission to spur the creation of next-generation applications and services that leverage advanced networks by promoting development that demonstrates the value of gigabit applications and services. Members form a collaboration with network carriers, community anchor institutions like hospitals and universities, municipalities, and nonprofit organizations to build transformative applications and services that spur new cycles of economic investments. Together, they are committed to solving some of the most vexing local challenges in  education, workforce development, public safety, community health, smart energy and transportation. Each member of Smart Gigabit Communities has committed to develop two gigabit applications or  services per year. They also agree to share those applications with the others in the Smart Gigabit Communities program to leverage the successes across US Ignites strong cohort of cities.

“Connecting a virtual reality application in Louisiana to Australia was not easy,” said William Wallace, Executive Director of US Ignite. “But it is a testament to the idea that anything is possible on an advanced gigabit network. This virtual reality application developed by Dr. Borst’s team has the potential to benefit children around the world. We look forward to seeing future innovations resulting from this collaboration.”

“As the first international city to join US Ignite’s network of Smart Gigabit Communities, we are especially thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Lafayette,” said Jasmine Vreugdenburg, Community Leader of Ignite SA based in Adelaide, Australia. “The demonstration of this application between Lafayette and Adelaide required the coordination and cooperation of a number of partners. We are so grateful to US Ignite for facilitating this connection, and we are excited to see what the future holds for our partnership with Lafayette.”

The cross continental demonstration required coordination of a team of talented professionals from at least five organizations including Scott Turnbull of US Ignite, Jasmine Vreugdenburg, Community Leader of Ignite SA from Adelaide, Karl Sellman, Technology Leader of Ignite SA from Adelaide, and Dr. Borst and Nicholas Lipari from UL Lafayette. Partners at Internet2 and aarnet also played a pivotal role in this successful demonstration. Enabling the demonstration was the creation of a low latency connection crossing the nine thousand mile distance in less than 100-milliseconds. The networking capabilities were achieved through a partnership with US and Australian Research and Education network providers Internet2 and aarnet, partners of the Smart Gigabit Communities effort.

If you’re interested in working with US Ignite to connect your school to this virtual reality application, please email

About US Ignite, inc.

US Ignite, Inc. spurs the creation of next-generation applications and services that leverage advanced networking technologies to build the foundation for smart communities. The nonprofit organization helps to accelerate new wired and wireless networking advances from research to prototype to full-scale smart community and interconnected national deployments. US Ignite, Inc.’s Smart Gigabit Communities program accelerates the adoption of ultra-fast, programmable fiber and wireless networks as the bedrock of smart communities by identifying new economic and social opportunities created by those networks. US Ignite, Inc., together with Northeastern University, also now operates the National Science Foundation-funded Platforms for Advanced Wireless Research (PAWR) Project Office (PPO), coordinating a $100 million public-private partnership of federal agencies and over 30 leading companies and technology associations supporting the deployment of wireless research platforms in multiple communities across the United States. Together, these collaborative efforts among research universities, local communities and industry will yield breakthroughs in new wired and wireless networking technology. The applications and services that result from this work will help enrich residents’ lives while generating improved, potentially transformative, community services, investment in high-growth startups, and high-skilled jobs.

About University of Louisiana at Lafayette (UL Lafayette)

UL Lafayette is a public university in Lafayette, Louisiana and world-renowned research institution. It has the largest enrollment within the nine-campus University of Louisiana System and the second largest enrollment in Louisiana. It specializes in applied research that solves real-world problems and received the Carnegie R2 designation "Doctoral University: Higher Research Activity." The university has achieved several milestones in computer science, engineering and architecture. In short: UL Lafayette makes research relevant. With the wealth of expertise and top-notch resources, the university offers everything it takes to awaken the change agent in anyone.

About Ignite SA in Adelaide, South Australia

As the first city outside the United States to join US Ignite’s Smart Gigabit Communities program, Adelaide has become part of the global gigabit community, facilitating a new era of collaboration and information sharing. Through Ignite SA Adelaide will support and promote the development of ground-breaking gigabit applications and services, delivering new advances in priority areas, including water technology, healthy ageing, cybersecurity, festivals and smart tourism.

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