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University of Central Missouri transforms teaching with Sony

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University of Central Missouri transforms teaching with Sony
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The Challenge

Global pandemic raised requirements for remote teaching and learning solutions.

University needed to enhance the quality of lecture capture.

The Solution

Over 30 Sony REA-C1000 Edge Analytics Appliances with Presenter Tracking and Handwriting Extraction licenses enabled.

Sony SRG-X120 PTZ remotely controlled cameras.

The Outcome

More engaging teaching and learning.

Enables hybrid education, combining asynchronous live and recorded lecture presentation.

University transforms educational environment for students.

The University of Central Missouri (UCM) is a cost-conscious public institution focused on high-quality education. Reflecting its commitment to student success, the university has transformed its educational environment with Sony’s AI-enabled REA-C1000 Edge Analytics Appliance together with SRG-X120 pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) cameras.

As the COVID pandemic changed the educational model, UCM identified the need for more dynamic, flexible presentation solutions using the latest technology to embrace new methods of instruction. The university thus engaged digital enablement solutions provider AVI-SPL to install more than 30 Edge Analytics Appliances in teaching rooms, connected with Sony PTZs as UCM’s new classroom standard across campus.

The award-winning REA-C1000 harnesses AI and augmented reality (AR) technology to enhance the quality of communication and collaboration, empowering teachers to deliver more engaging presentations. Connected to Sony’s versatile PTZ cameras, the REA-C1000 serves as a ‘virtual camera operator’. The unit’s optional Presenter Tracking license controls the camera’s movements, ensuring lecturers are captured with crisp, accurately framed footage as they move around while presenting to their audience.

Optional licenses add extra capabilities

UCM is also making use of the appliance’s optional Handwriting Extraction license. Leveraging AR, this ensures that hand-drawn notes, sketches and diagrams on a white or blackboard remain in full view of the audience, regardless of the presenter’s location.

“When I saw the handwriting extraction demonstration in action, it honestly made me clap,” states Walters. “And I quickly realized how this device would bring value to my classrooms and enhance the quality of our lecture capture.”

Additional licenses add further features, including close-up by gesture, and focus area cropping. UCM is currently exploring the optional chroma key-less CG overlay license in selected classrooms. This uses Sony’s advanced motion detection technology to extract and overlay the presenter onto any background image, animation or video, creating an instant backdrop without the need for dedicated equipment or resources.

Enabling a hybrid teaching experience

“Prior to the pandemic, UCM was seeing a shift in how it delivered classroom content,” recounts Walters. “At the same time, I was receiving numerous requests from academic deans and educators to enable hybrid classrooms where lectures could be recorded and presented in an asynchronous format.”

During the pandemic, the Sony solution was demonstrated to UCM by AVI-SPL account executive David Gantz and colleagues, who helped consult, specify and support the installation that has helped transform the university’s predominantly in-person learning experience.

“It’s very rare that I am surprised or impressed by a product release,” states UCM’s Walters. “When I was introduced to Sony’s forward-thinking Edge Analytics Appliance, it was a breath of fresh air.  It solves several different needs for my classrooms as we pursue a hybrid teaching experience.  The reasonable price and simple operation reduce the friction on users in the room. Sony has nailed everything I needed in one small package.”

Easy to use, attractive to students

The UCM team quickly recognized the benefits of the easy-to-use technology. “Instructors love the presenter tracking feature for whiteboarding and presenting,” affirms David Gantz. “The tracking is very smooth and accurate and easy to teach someone to use. Adoption has gone really well because we’ve taken extra care not to make the room complex, because complexity deters instructors from wanting to use technology.”

As Gantz notes, the technology also gives schools like University of Central Missouri a competitive advantage that can help with recruitment. “In order to attract students, you need to offer collaboration and interactivity. Technology is something students were born with and use every day. With new capabilities and a digital mindset, students can overcome some of the traditional classroom concerns, ensuring they have a good view of the instructor and their notes – no matter where they’re sitting.”

Enriching education in a changing world

Gantz also sees AI and AR as avenues for enrichment, enhancement and engagement: “In addition to being cool, technology serves a real purpose in education,” he notes. “It makes an experience more interesting, which means students tend to pay more attention and retain information that’s being relayed.”

“Remote learning became a requirement throughout the global pandemic,” concludes Walters. “I can honestly say that with Sony’s Edge Analytics Appliance as our standard, we were ready for the unique way education adapted.”