ONTARIO TELEPRESENCE PROJECT
ORGANIZATION AND STRUCTURE
Spawned from an Information Technology Association meeting in early 1990
between Bill Buxton and then Executive Director of ITRC, Dr. Michael Jenkins,
the Project was conceived as a unique opportunity to work on human-centered
issues associated with the rapid convergence of computing and
telecommunications technologies. Early on, Peter Leach, President of TRIO was
approached to partner in the initiative to provide the telecommunications
expertise necessary to realize the applications envisaged. Peter Leach brought
in Dr. Morris Goldberg, a senior TRIO researcher from the University of Ottawa
as a Co-Principal Investigator. Together, the two
researchers developed the details of the proposed project. Concurrently,
Ontario's Premier, Mr. David Peterson, was preparing to host the heads of four
regions in Europe in a conference called "Interregion `90". This conference
was called to explore cooperation between Ontario and these four regions (known
as the "Four Motors" of Europe) in the areas of culture, trade and science.
With the support of Dr. Martin Walmsley of Technology Ontario, the project was
proposed to the Ontario cabinet as a opportunity for international
collaboration between Ontario and the Four Motors of Europe. After proposing
this project to the four European leaders, a series of multi-level meetings
between researchers, government officials and the heads of the regions resulted
in an accord launching five local Telepresence projects under the umbrella of
the International Telepresence Project. It is in this context that the Ontario
Telepresence Project operates today.
The Ontario Telepresence Project is a collaboration between government,
academia and industry together with equivalent organizations in Europe. Major
funding is provided by the Province of Ontario through two Provincial Centres
of Excellence, the Information Technology Research Centre (ITRC) and the
Telecommunications Research Institute of Ontario (TRIO). As Figure 6 below
shows, it is through ITRC and TRIO that the project interacts with it's key
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Figure 6: Key Stakeholders
PROJECT MANAGEMENT AND EXECUTIVE
As the prime signatory on the main contract with the Province, overall
responsibility for the strategic direction and execution of the Ontario
Telepresence Project lies with John Chattoe, President of the
Information Technology Research Centre. He, in close consultation with
Peter Leach, President of the Telecommunications Research Institute of
Ontario, makes policy decisions regarding the overall objectives and goals of
Detailed management and coordination of the Project is the responsibility of
Ron Riesenbach. Seconded from ITRC in February of 1992, Mr. Riesenbach
is effectively committed full-time in directing all aspects of the Project's
activities and priorities including financial, human resource, partner
relations (industrial, government and European), administration and
communications issues. He is assisted by Tabatha Holtz who works on
administrative and outreach activities associated with the Project. Both
occupy offices at the Computer Systems Research Institute at the University of
Toronto which provides infrastructure for the local research activities of the
Scientific direction and research management is the responsibility of the
Project's Principal Investigator, Bill Buxton . Bill Buxton, Associate
Professor of the Department of Computer Science at the University of Toronto,
is half-time with the Project and half-time with Alias Research, Inc.
John Chattoe, Peter Leach, Ron Riesenbach, Bill Buxton constitute the Project's
Executive Committee which meets regularly to address various issues and to set
strategies. This committee is often augmented with Gerald Karam and
Gale Moore who are the Director of Engineering and Chief Social
The Project is structured through a series of linked contracts as depicted in
Figure 7 below. While the project was, from it's inception, a collaborative
ITRC/TRIO initiative, ITRC assumes overall responsibility for the coordination
of the main contract with the Province. This contract outlines the central
goals and objectives of the project and outlines the Project's milestones.
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Figure 7: Contractual Structure
ITRC and TRIO negotiated a linked contract whereby about half the research
outlined in the main contract would be done through TRIO researchers. Both
ITRC and TRIO have hired staff and have sub-contracted with three universities
to do the actual research work. Industrial Partners participate in the project
through agreements coordinated by ITRC.
TRIO has hired limited-term full-time professional staff to carry out a portion
of the research sub-contracted. These staff, the Ottawa Engineering Group
(OEG), each have separate employment contracts through TRIO. Professional
staff at the University of Toronto have their individual contracts covered
under the blanket contract between ITRC and the university.
Technology Ontario is the Provincial Government arm responsible for the
Telepresence Project. As part of it's agenda to promote cooperative ventures
between post-secondary educational institutions and industry and to establish
linkage with key European regions, it has committed $2.85 million to the
project over three years.
Technology Ontario monitors the progress of the project through various means
including an independent advisory committee (the Scientific Advisory Board)
that conducts periodic visits to the project sites.
A large proportion of the research is conducted on university campuses by
university faculty and dedicated professional staff hired specifically to work
on the Project. Most full and part-time staff report directly to the Project's
two Principal Co-Investigators and reside at two main locations: the University
of Toronto and a suite of commercial offices in Ottawa[*]
(the Ottawa Engineering Group, OEG).
The Managing Director of the project the Scientific Directors have their
offices located on the campus of the University of Toronto.
Two committees coordinate the activities of the International Telepresence
Project; the International Steering Committee (ISC) and the Research and
Technical Committee (RTC). The first consists of the regional research managers
and regional government representatives who meet twice yearly to review
progress and discuss other non-technical issues. The second consists of senior
researchers from each region who communicate regularly to coordinate research
efforts between the regions.
Ron Riesenbach, John Chattoe and Peter Leach share a position on the Steering
Committee along with Dr. Martin Walmsley, Director of Technology
Ontario, who leads the delegation. Morris Goldberg and Bill Buxton are the
Project's representatives on the International Telepresence Project Scientific
and Technical Committee.
Application Labs (Karlsruhe) leads Baden-Württemberg's reseach program.
While the research program was not yet underway in 1992, it's intent is to work
on "Teleworking" applications investigating generic user and organisation
needs. The research program proposed by Applications lab is strongly market
oriented. The application developed will be tested in several field trials in
the areas of "Publishing and Printing" as well as in "Organisation Management".
Baden-Württemberg will also investigate and define market and usage
relevant definitions of generic applications and user needs common to the
The Telepresence program in Catalunya is centred at UDIAT. It is a project in
medical image processing and transmissions in a shared work environment. The
main goal is the intercommunications between the medical senior office teams in
the same hospital centre or at different remote centres to facilitate the
exchange of opinions and knowledge. The intercommunication will be supported on
multimedia information (images, voices, graphics, documents and text).
The project, which has to include the complete installation of all the
necessary elements in order to carry out the multimedia consultation. It will
have to foresee the different technical configurations which can give
possibilities for the implementation of the project among centres with
different needs, as technical as economical and human resources possibilities.
Lombardy will perform experiments, based on Telepresence technology, to
demonstrate the possibility of improving diagnostic and medical activities in a
hospital environment. The focus of the investigation will be on the
communication process occurring between health care professionals and having as
subject a set of patient's medical images. The Intensive Care Unit, the
Radiology Department and the Surgery Center of the Cardiology Department of a
major regional hospital, employ medical images often and extensively.
Thus these centres constitute the most appropriate sites for the experiments.
Tele-consultation between radiologists working within the same hospital or
different hospitals will also be addressed.
Rhône-Alpes will conduct research and trials to introduce Telepresence
technology and related social environment to support development of courseware
and corporate and community learning. Results will support elaboration of the
multimedia teaching materials required to support Telepresence supported open
learning. This will also lead to advances in the effective, productive and
extensive use in the development of multimedia courseware and the delivery of
knowledge "just-in-time" at any levels within the regional community.
INDUSTRY PARTNERSHIP PROGRAM
The Ontario Telepresence Project partners with a small number of companies to
share knowledge and technologies gained through the course of the research.
There is be a commitment by the Project and the companies to support each
other's interests in the research. Firms joining the Project are be called
"Industrial Partners" according to the definition in the "International
Strategic Framework" document.
Final authority in all matters pertaining to partnership in the Ontario
Telepresence Project reside with the President of the Information Technology
Research Centre. He/she will, in consultation in the President of the
Telecommunications Research Institute and the Managing Director of the project,
have contractual responsibility and overall control of the OTP.
Industrial Partners are Active Participants
A precondition to industrial participation in OTP is that all Industry Partners
commit people to the Project in addition to cash and other in-kind
support. Our experience has shown that it is difficult and rare for
precompetitive research projects to transfer know-how to sponsoring companies
through technical reports or occasional meetings. Technology transfer between
academic researchers and industry professionals happens best through an ongoing
process of bi-directional interchange and learning. It is through the active
participation of individuals from partner firms that company-specific benefits
can be identified and extracted from the on-going work. Benefits of
partnership are shown in the table below.
Benefits of Becoming an Industrial Partner
1. Education, Information and Expertise* Build business alliances with other
Partners having complementary skills
Some Industry Partners have chosen to have their researchers reside on campus
with the university researchers; offices have been arranged in these cases.
Others have chosen to equip company resident researchers with advanced
telecommunications systems to enable collaboration to take place using
Telepresence systems under development.
Industrial Partners recognize that open sharing of Intellectual Property among
research groups is fundamental to the success of both the Ontario and the
International Telepresence projects. They further recognize that due to the
precompetitive nature of the project, the OTP or it's European partners will
currently have or will be able to accept new firms as Industrial Partners that
may be competitors of existing Industrial Partners. Thus, Industrial Partners
agree that it is incumbent on them to empower their collaborator such that
he/she can interact freely with these other participants sharing insights and
Eligibility and Cost
Eligible organizations include private or public research organizations and
firms incorporated in Canada which have significant related R&D activities
in Ontario. These organizations must be willing and able to contribute
personnel (scientific, marketing or other as appropriate) to the project as
well as other resources (facilities, equipment, cash).
These organizations are committed to observing the terms of this agreement and
the "International Strategic Framework" which defines the international
The general guideline for determining the contribution level necessary to
become an Industrial partner is as follows:
Organization size * Bi-directional exchange of
know how through active
attend, participate and report
on all key conferences
world-wide* Project attracts
visits by world's leading
experts* Regular seminar series
and working group meetings*
Early access to scientific
publications, journals and
technical report series* Annual
report, annual general meeting*
Relationship with European
Partners provides intelligence
about world-wide activities*
Video, computer & paper library
of key internal and external
research work and results2.
Demonstrations of and
Experimentation with Advanced
Systems * Dedicated
demonstration facilities at
UofT and OEG for prototyping of
new systems * Field trials
provide hands-on experience
with advanced products &
Property* Intellectual property
policy enabling and encouraging
tech nology transfer to
Partners* Prototype builds and
deployment in Industry Partner
sites4. Access to Experts*
Recruitment of graduating
Masters and PhD students in
Industry partner sites*
Opportunity to involve leading
academics in industry lead
projects5. Alliance with
European and Industrial
More than 100 employees or having $100k cash or in-kind
revenues in excess of $15M annually
Fewer than 100 employees or having $50k cash or in-kind
revenues less than $15M annually
In exceptional cases, special contribution levels can be negotiated with the
Managing Director. Several companies collaborate with the Project in lesser
ways and, although they are not eligible for all the benefits of Partnership,
derive certain benefits from their collaboration.
 As of April 1, 1993 Dr. Goldberg resigned as Principal
Investigator. He remains active in the project as a Special Consultant. Dr.
Gerald Karam , Carleton University, has assumed responsibilities for the Ottawa
Engineering Group activites.
[*] The OEG occupies office space contributed rent-free by
Hewlett Packard Canada as part of their contribution to the Project.