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VOSAIC and It’s Creators Make New Waves on the Internet

See-Mong Tan and Zhigang Chen are the two brilliant computer scientists who are primarily credited for the creation of “VOSAIC,” along with Professor Roy Campbell and others from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. VOSAIC is predicted to revolutionize the way computers communicate via the Internet and the World Wide Web (WWW). Many agree that VOSAIC will have immeasurable impact on economy, business and education of the United States and the rest of the world. The original WWW browser, MOSAIC, has already helped erase borders and change the world’s communication by making it possible for users to browse for information through the Internet. MOSAIC is another brainchild of the University of Illinois’ Department of Computer Science, one of the most comprehensive research universities in the nation.

The Web is rich in graphics, text, and even animation, but the ability to watch “live” video was missing. VOSAIC, short for “Video Mosaic,” introduced a technology for sending video and audio via the WWW and the Internet. The browser’s software allows users to retrieve “real time” video and audio information. “Vosaic can make a web page come alive with real pictures and video. It’s the first of its kind,” says See-Mong Tan.

See-Mong Tan (Stan) moved to the United States in 1986 from Singapore. After a scholarship at the University of California, Berkeley, he received his Bachelor Degree in Computer Science.

In 1989, he moved to Illinois, to attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he received his Master of Science degree in Computer Science.

Zhigang Chen arrived in the US in 1991 to study at the University of Southwestern Louisiana, where he received his Masters Degree in Computer Science and Multimedia Network Subsystem Architechture. Later, Chen moved to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he worked closely with Professor Roy Campbell in the Computer Science Department. This is where Stan and Zhigang met and started their collaboration.

“I think America is the most advanced country in terms of technology. I learned a lot in my home country, but I really wanted to see this country and learn about technology,” says Zhigang.

Stan continues, “America is the best place in the world for computer science. The United States stands head and shoulders above the rest of the world. Silicon Valley is the birthplace of all innovation in computer science. My original plan was to go to school and then return to Singapore. As it turned out, I learned to appreciate the freedom, and freedom of speech.”

Ironically, back in Singapore Stan failed an aptitude test for a computer course. “When I came to the University of Illinois I found that Computer Science was fun and that I was really very good at it,” he said.

It was different for Zhigang who was attracted to computer science from the start. “I thought it was the most exciting field of technology… and I liked to play with computers, so I decided to study and get a degree.”

Stan adds, “VOSAIC originally started as a class project, a research on the design of information systems of the web with its graphics and video functions. We were playing with a lot of video equipment, and I thought ‘hey, why don’t we combine the two and bring video to the web?’ Then Zhigang came on board the project and took the implementation even further. We wrote and published a paper at the 1995 World Wide Web Fall Conference in Boston, and won an award for the best paper. This brought us Chuck Colby and Stuart Johnstone, who are the principals of the VOSAIC corporation.”

Zhigang continues: “I am responsible for the implementation of the first version of the VOSAIC browser, the server and some utilities.

The idea of VOSAIC started about two to three years ago. Stan was already working on real time video and audio technology… this was his class project. I joined the team which created the VOSAIC browser. And as Stan said, we were a big hit in Boston!”

“Yes, we have been able to raise millions in venture capital. That’s very good for a class project, don’t you think?” Stan jokes, “And the company is growing. We’ll lead the research and continue to develop new technology for the world. A lot of VOSAIC’s technology can be developed further. Video will be important. Interactive video is almost a reality. NBC and CNN may be able to present news on-line. Music videos will also be seen on-line. Video will basically become another of the web’s features.”

Zhigang explains how they came up with the idea: “Previously, there had been a lot of research in the two fields of Internet Network protocol and multimedia/audio. I think my main contribution was to combine the two and come up with a new scheme, and then how it could be used on the Internet. As it turned out, it was quite a viable approach.”

“I think that the technology that we have created will provide the basic mechanisms for applications such as Web TV. Our goal is to solve some of the technical problems in this area, and come up with a product that will improve the use of Web TV, which will have an impact on on-line entertainment, education, and technology.”

Stan and Zhigang agreed that there were advantages having such a multi-cultural research team involved in the project.

“I think that’s why America is becoming so powerful because there is new immigrant blood constantly being added to this ‘melting pot’. I got a chance to work with the smartest people and in the best facilities in the world!” says Zhigang.

It is a pleasure to have worked closely with gentlemen such as See-Mong Tan (Stan) and Zhigang Chen. They are examples of immigrants that devote their talents to make the United States a dominant force. We should be proud of them, and thank them for choosing America to find their niche in the world.

The US Department of Commerce, National Technical Information Service has designated certain technologies that are critical to the national economic prosperity and national security. These are deemed “Critical Technologies” for “US National Security and Economic Interests” in which the US has stood in competitive disadvantage to Japan and Europe. The areas that Mr. Tan and Mr. Chen have developed involve high definition imaging and display, video and audio advanced technology, protocols, real time technology and intelligent software, all which are clearly among the critical technologies to the national economic prosperity and national security.

– Christina E. Perez