Filling the WAP Gap - Wireless Communication Project

Tom Worthington

"Scholarly Communications System Prototype" Three Proposed Project Topics for Honours, Department of Computer Science, the Australian National University

What's New: Addendum: Pocket C3I: A hand held terminal for a robot surveillance aircraft as an alternative application of the technology


The aim of these projects is to demonstrate standards and software to allow a multimedia document to be created once and then rendered in different formats. The prototype application is an academic "paper" and accompanying audio-visual presentation. Authoring software would provide the functions of a word processor, web tool, presentation package and AV package. Provision would be made for alternative format for the same information, to allow accessibility features for the disabled to be implemented. The web server and browsers could then negotiate content formats to suit the user's requirements and bandwidth available, converting formats where required. Artificial intelligence algorithms would then allow the document to be automatically structured for the display device. The aim would be to demonstrate streaming a multi-media presentation with audio and "talking head" video in real time to a hand held device over a medium speed wireless Internet connection, as well as to display the same content on a TV set-top box web browser and conventional desktop computer.

Multi-format Document Standards

Contact: Tom Worthington , Ian Barnes, Roger Clarke, Ramesh Sankaranarayana

Investigate open standards to allow an academic "paper" and accompanying audio-visual presentation to be prepared as one electronic document. Implement an open source software prototype demonstrating similar features to a word processor, web tool, presentation package and AV package. All functions should work on the one document, rendered as a typeset printed document, as a web page, a live "slide show" and pre-recorded audio-visual presentation with audio, video and synchronised slides. The software should generate documents incorporating accessibility features for the disabled in conformance with the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Document text, images and other content would be shared by all tools (for example the text of the WP document would be the default notes for the slide show and note the default captions for the deaf on the video).

Part of the Scholarly Communications System Prototype. See:

Server/Browser Protocols for Available Bandwidth

Contact: Tom Worthington , Ian Barnes, Roger Clarke, Ramesh Sankaranarayana

Investigate open standards for web servers and browsers to negotiate content formats to suit the user's requirements and bandwidth available. Implement an open source demonstration. Implement content translation tools, where servers and browsers do not support suitable formats. As an example the resolution of images would be reduced to suit small screens and low bandwidth links, video would be converted to low resolution still key frames and synchronised audio. The system would be capable of displaying a multi-media presentation with audio and "talking head" video in real time on a hand held device with a medium speed wireless Internet connection and on a set-top box web browser, as well as more conventional desktop computers. Accessibility features, as described in W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, would be integrated with bandwidth and multimedia features (for example the notes of a live presentation would be the default closed caption for the video presentation and also replace the audio where bandwidth was limited).

Part of the Scholarly Communications System Prototype. See:

Automatic Web Page Layout

Contact: Tom Worthington , Ian Barnes, Roger Clarke, Ramesh Sankaranarayana

Investigate artificial intelligence algorithms for automatically laying out web pages and produce an open source prototype software. Document layout "hints" for different renderings of the document (print, web, slideshow and AV) would be explicitly encoded in the document (using XML or similar format) or would be inferred from an existing screen layout. Documents would be rendered to suit the user's requirements and the capabilities of their display device and communications link, through features in the display device and/or in a server (for low capability display devices). As an example multiple frames would be used on large screens and one frame with links on small screens. The software would generate documents incorporating accessibility features for the disabled as described in W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Multiple renderings of information objects (for example multiple language versions for text, text captions for images) would be available.

Part of the Scholarly Communications System Prototype. See:

Resources and Information:

Document Standards

Server/Browser Protocols for Available Bandwidth

Automatic Web Page Layout

"If the tool automatically generates markup, many authors will be unaware of the accessibility status of the final content unless they expend extra effort to review it and make appropriate corrections by hand. Since many authors are unfamiliar
with accessibility, authoring tools are responsible for automatically generating accessible markup, and where appropriate, for guiding the author in producing accessible content.

Many applications feature the ability to convert documents from other formats (e.g., Rich Text Format) into a markup format specifically intended for the Web such as HTML. Markup changes may also be made to facilitate efficient editing
and manipulation. It is essential that these processes do not introduce inaccessible markup or remove accessibility content, particularly when a tool hides the markup changes from the author's view.
" Techniques for Authoring Tool Accessibility, W3C Note 4 May 2000

"The SVG Slide Toolkit transforms an XML file that uses a specific DTD into an SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) slide presentation. This allows you to separate the content of a presentation from its look and feel. This separation allows you to modify independently the content, the presentation style, or both. One advantage of this is that you can then use the same content for different audiences or events. Similarly, you can use the same look and feel for different content. Also, the SVG Slidetool software allows you to transform your XML slide presentation files into PDF. This is useful for submitting presentations where PDF is required or for printing your presentation." SVG Slide Toolkit, October 2000, Vincent Hardy, Paul Sandoz, Ana Lindstrom-Tamer:



This document was designed to accompany "Olympic Failure: A Case for Making the Web Accessible", presented at the International Web Accessibility Summit in Melbourne 15 November 2000. When first presented at the Oxford University Computing Laboratory (20 October 2000) project clear that some concrete examples of how accessibility features could be of use beyond the disabled community were required. This is intended to give one example of how accessibility features could be used and provide ideas for research collaboration to solve a real-world problem. This was first envisaged as an extensive project requiring collaboration for several researchers over years. However, resources subsequently identified should allow a prototype to be produced as three one year IT student projects. As with much Internet technology, if successfully demonstrated for academic purposes it may then be used more widely in industry and by the community.

Web accessibility guidelines have been developed to assist designers to make web sites which are accessible to the greatest range of users of the Internet. In the accompanying paper it is argued that this is a technology within the state of the art and IT professionals have a legal and ethical obligation to implement accessibility. However, not all are convinced by ethical or legal arguments. If IT researchers can find interesting intellectual challenges and industry can find profitable spinoff in accessibility work, then those are useful motivations. This proposed project is intended to provide such motivations, by demonstrating accessibility features can make authoring tools and hand-held wireless web devices more practical.

Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) as currently conceived is unlikely to become the mainstream technology for wireless Internet applications. The limitations of current WAP devices require content to be specially designed.While more capable, i-mode devices have similar limitations. More capable hand held web terminals with larger screens, more processing capacity and continuous Internet access are becoming available. These can be pocket size devices, similar to today's PDAs, and no much bigger than a mobile telephone allow for reasonable access to the same content as today's web. Accessibility features designed for the disabled can also be used to optimize content for handheld devices.

The features of the proposed system are:


A hypothetical scenario has been prepared to describe how the system might be used. It should be noted that the people mentioned are fictional, but the places and organizations mentioned are real and drawn from an IT Industry Attraction Project undertaken by the author for the Great Southern Region of Western Australia:

Sue works for Geo Task (Australia) supporting their digital mapping system and is studying part time at the University of WA Albany centre. Sue sees a call for papers for a digital mapping conference in the Conferences in Research and Practice in Information Technology series. She decides to put in a paper about natural resource mapping which she has been doing at Geo Task.

Sue downloads the XML template for papers from the conference web site and opens it in word processing mode. By default her contact information is already filled in by the software. She pastes in some material she has written for internal company reports. These were from a word processor, but the authoring software translates this to XML structure reasonably well. Sue then send a copy in RTF to her boss, who is using an old fashioned word processor.

With the bosses support Sue submits the paper to the conference web site in XML format. A few days later it comes back with comments from the reviewers. These are in the form of notes on the XML document. Sue can look at a summary of the comments sorted by the section of the document they refer to or listed by reviewer. She works through the document incorporating as much of the comments as possible and resolving contradictory suggestions, then resubmits the document.

The paper is accepted for the conference, but work is busy and she forgets to prepare until a reminder e-mail arrives saying that presentation material is due. Sue opens the document and switches from WP to presentation mode and selected the slide template for the company. A second later the display shows 13 draft slides. The software has taken the title and author details for the first slide and then made a slide for each section of the document. Subsection headings have become bullet points on the slides and the text is displayed as speaking notes. Diagrams have been shrunk to fit on the slides.

Sue spends about an hour trimming down the text on the slides, abbreviating some of the wording and making the diagrams bigger. In the process she finds a few errors in the original paper. Normally in slide mode changes are recorded as alternate versions of the document, so the original paper is still available. Sue instructs the software to make corrections in all renderings of the document.

Sue is too busy to attend the conference in person and so books the audio visual suite at the University of WA Albany centre to make her presentation. Her image and voice are transmitted over the Internet to the main conference center, along with the digital slides.

The presentation is well received and Sue decided to clean up the recording for downloading. Switching to audio visual mode, a time line is displayed with key frames from the video,the slide shown at the time and and audio line. Sue decides to make a short version of the presentation and marked some slides to be omitted. These are still stored, but will be skipped on playback. A few sentences have to be corrected, and Sue just re-records the audio.

One of the Geo Task (Australia) staff is deaf and so Sue switches on the captioning to check it works. As the conference didn't provide a text transcription, the captions consist of the text from the slide notes. This doesn't exactly match what Sue actually said, but is okay.

Sue switches to web mode and the software presents a default web page layout for the paper. This shows a table of contents for the paper report as well as offering the slides, audio and video. Sections of the document appear as linked web pages. Sue adds the company logo and saves the document to the corporate web server.

Andy notices the paper while browsing in the, Katanning Regional Telecentre. He opens the paper on the web site in text mode as he is blind and uses a text-to-speech program. Sue didn't realize it but the software has linked the audio from her talk to the relevant sections in the original paper. Andy can have the browser turn the text of the document into synthetic speech or listen to Sue talking about it, from the conference recording. This is particularly useful for the diagrams in the talk which Sue explained at length during the conference but only very cryptically in the paper.

Jim, the program manager for ABC Radio South Coast has called Barry, Multimedia Reporter on his mobile phone and suggested the conference talk might make a good story. Barry is recording a segment for a documentary at Design Correlations about their NC Plasma Cutter. Barry has a SAGEM WA3050 mobile phone incorporating General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) and a touch screen computer, so he types in the web address to bring up Sue's presentation. The Geo Task (Australia) web server identifies that this is a hand held device with a small screen and reformats the web pages to suit. When Barry plays the multimedia presentation he gets a low bandwidth version with only key frames presented. Back in the studio Barry will be able to download a high resolution version of the video on his multimedia workstation.

More on the Scholarly Communications System

Academics use what has been called the Scholarly Communications System, involving the preparation, review and publication of papers. Proposals have been put and work has been undertaken on converting this process to electronic format.

One aspect of scholarly communication of which is often overlooked in electronic systems is presentations. Academic conferences, seminars and lectures are an important part of the communication process. These formats are not suited to recording on paper and have been needlessly neglected in e-publishing.

In preparing a presentation for a conference, the academic will typically need to use a presentation authoring tool (such as Microsoft Power Point) separate from that used to write the paper (typically a word processor). If the paper is to be placed on the web, as separate version, typically in HTML and perhaps using a web authoring tool is required. Once the separate versions (paper, slide show and web page) have been created they need to be manually maintained in sync with updates. In addition these formats do not easily translate into multimedia formats, such as audio augmented slides or video.

As an example the Australian Digital Theses Program aims to establish a distributed database of digital versions of theses produced by the postgraduate research students at Australian Universities. It uses PDF for document storage. PDF has severe limitations as an Electronic document format, with difficulties for on screen readers, particularly for the disabled.

While English is the predominant language of academic communication, there is a need to allow for other languages, particularly where important results are to be communicated beyond the academic community. HTML's simple text tags allow for the automated translation of web pages into other languages, using services such as the AltaVista Babel Fish Translation Service. However, these tools assume that the translated language produces text of roughly the same size and reading orientation (as for example translating between English and German). Languages with very different scripts and read with a different orientation will require the document to be laid out anew. This requires either automatic layout or alternative layouts.

Conferences in Research and Practice in Information Technology

The Australian Computer Society (ACS) has the problem of deciding an electronic format in which to publish the Journal of Research and Practice in Information Technology. This is an international quality, peer reviewed journal (formerly the Australian Computer Journal), published by ACS since 1967. Some papers have been published in PDF, but this is not suitable for reasons stated above. The conventional approach would be to use XML, but which implementation of XML is to be used?

The newly announced Conferences in Research and Practice in Information Technology series, in parallel to the Journal of Research and Practice in Information Technology, aims to facilitate the dissemination of proceedings from peer-reviewed conferences in all areas of IT. Volumes in the series will comprise all or selected papers from conferences accepted by the Journal's editorial board. As these papers are for conference presentation, the opportunity arises to experiment with integrating the conference presentation and the paper itself. This might be further augmented with audio or video.
Collecting papers for conferences has become considerably easier for conference organizers with the use of the Internet and the web. However, the use of the web for the actual conference presentations has not been exploited, except for a few events. If papers and presentations can be integrated, this should make it much easier for conference organizers. It also provides the potential for online delivery of material to a wider audience.

Use of audio and video from conferences is limited by the need to edit the material and prepare accompanying text and graphics. In theory this material is available from the conference paper and slides, but needs to be reformatted for the video or web screen. This normally requires a prohibitive amount of additional work by conference organizers, as material must be re-cast in new formats. Products such as RealSlideshow, provide a way to make simple audio with slide presentations, but require a separate authoring tool and create a maintainability problem.


Pocket C3I: A hand held terminal for a robot surveillance aircraft as an alternative application of the technology

A seminar on this project was presented Wed, Feb. 21, 2001, 4:00 at Department of Computer Science, the Australian National University. At the seminar an alternative use for the technology was presented, demonstrating how a more active control could be developed, rather than a passive model of viewing documents.

The example is a hypothetical Pocket C3I device, providing a wireless hand held terminal for controlling a robot aircraft and displaying surveillance information transmitted from the aircraft.

An example of a conventional unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is the Northrop Grumman Global Hawk which is to be deployed for Exercise Tandem Thrust 01 in Australia in early 2001. Global Hawk is equivalent in wing size to a Boeing 737. It requires a portable shelter for flight, communications, sensor processing and aircraft and mission payload control. Set-up for commencement of operations takes 24 to 48 hours after arrival at the operating site.

An alternative is smaller, lower cost and more rapidly deployable UAVs, such as the Australian made Aerosonde. While these have been proposed for surveillance and might provide more flexibility for small scale use, its designer still envisages a portable shelter would be needed for control and at least a lap-top computer for sensor processing.

In place of the one or two truck transported shelters needed for a UAV, it is suggested that a wireless PDA could be used to control the aircraft and display sensor information, via ordinary web pages using the technology discussed above. Multi-format Document Standards would allow the same interface to be used for displaying training and maintenance information for the UAV, as well as to control and display imagery from the aircraft. Server/Browser Protocols for Available Bandwidth would allow a low bandwidth link to transmit sensor information from the aircraft to the hand-held device. Automatic Web Page Layout would allow the interface to be adjusted to suit the available display device, with more information displayed on a larger screen, but still have usable on a smaller hand-held device.

As well as control of a UAV, the same hand held device could be used for video conferences and multimedia presentations. These are commonly used for military and civilian command and control, but are limited by bandwidth and cost considerations from portable pocket size equipment

Resources and Information:

Examples of simple multimedia presentations

At the seminar examples of multimedia presentations prepared from web pages were requested:

Further Information

This document is Version 2.0 - 21 October 2000:

Copyright © Tom Worthington 2000.