With technical assistance from the University of Michigan, the APS has posted eight of the nine plenary lectures from the April meeting on the web. They can be accessed at the APS Meetings Webpage.
The audio from each lecture is synchronized with the slides that the speaker used. A video image of the speaker completes the presentation.
"This is the current state of the art in web lecture capture," said Alan Chodos, APS associate executive officer.
He noted that the audio and slides for most of the talks were captured automatically using software developed at the University of Michigan. Only when the speaker used transparencies instead of Powerpoint did the synchronization have to be done by hand.
Plans are underway to develop more sophisticated techniques for web lecture capture that will automate the process still further and will allow even lectures with transparencies to be automatically synchronized.
Chodos also noted that capturing lectures at an APS meeting presents some special challenges. "We are working at a remote location," he said, "so it's not possible to set up much before the lectures begin. We can't fine-tune the electronics and the lighting ahead of time."
At the April meeting, a team of three people, two from APS and one from Michigan, was on hand to capture the lectures. The new techniques that are currently being developed should help to reduce this number.
With the 2003 April meeting, APS is ending its experimental phase of web lecture capture, which began with a special session at the 2001 March meeting, and included, as well, lectures from the 2001 April meeting and the "Opportunities for Physicists in Biology" meeting that took place in Boston last September.
But this does not mean APS is abandoning the idea. On the contrary, Chodos says, "we hope to enter a new phase in which we can provide web lectures, either from our general meetings or from divisional meetings, to our various units. We hope they will look at the lectures that are up and that they will like what they see. We'll be happy to offer our services if they want to have some of their lectures posted on the web."
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Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette