Internet2 is a collaboration among more than 100 U.S. universities to develop networking and advanced applications for learning and research. Since much teaching, learning, and collaborative research may require real-time multimedia and high-bandwidth interconnection, a major aspect of Internet2 is adding sufficient network infrastructure to support such applications. But Internet2 also intends to investigate and develop new ways to use the Internet and the Internet2 infrastructure for its educational purposes. Although Internet2 is not envisioned as a future replacement for the Internet, its organizers hope to share their developments with other networks, including the Internet. Internet2 will include and further develop the National Science Foundation's very high-speed Backbone Network Service (vBNS) that currently interconnects research supercomputer centers in the U.S. The involved institutions plan to continue using the existing Internet for "ordinary" services such as e-mail, personal Web access, and newsgroups.
Internet2 collaborators plan to use Quality-of-Service (QoS) tools so that participants can reserve and use bandwidth for special events or in certain time periods. Here are some possibilities envisioned by Internet2:
Distributed learning modules: Conceptually, teachers and students can be share materials in cyberspace with students learning in a self-directed manner under the supervision of an educational system or teacher. Internet2 foresees tools that would make it easy to create what they call LearningWare, using existing methodologies. Internet2 may also help realize the Instructional Management System (IMS), a standard process for using the Internet in developing and delivering learning packages and tracking outcomes. One can think of the IMS as a more structured way to exploit the potential learning materials on the World Wide Web.
New ways to envision and retrieve information: In the future, today's text-oriented models of information structure could be replaced by interactive pictures of information structure (compare a textual taxonomy or table of contents with illustrations of interlinked and explodable animal forms, for example). With Internet2's high-bandwidth connections, experiments in such information visualization will be possible; new ideas can be tried out. In environments where up-to-date information is valuable, information can be pushed to users at their request.
Virtual environment sharing: Sometimes called tele-immersion, participants in teleconferences could share the perception that everyone was in the same physical place, possibly with virtual (but somewhat real) models of shared work objects such as architectural models or multimedia storyboards. You would be able to see yourself with others in a far-away conference room, talking and perhaps manipulating objects in the room.
Virtual laboratory: A virtual laboratory would allow scientists in a number of different physical locations, each with unique expertise, computing resources, and/or data to collaborate efficiently not simply at a meeting but in an ongoing way. Effectively, such a project would extend and pool resources while engendering orderly communication and progress toward shared goals. For example, a group of astronomers and computer scientists at the supercomputing centers in the U.S. are attempting to share experiments and knowledge about the origin of the universe. Shared visualizations of alternative possibilities could conceivably suggest additional or refined alternatives. Virtual laboratories are also envisioned for the design and manufacturing of complex systems such as airplanes and for studying and forecasting weather patterns.