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MAST Laboratory
2525 4th St SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455

612-626-9561 main
612-624-5964 fax

Dept. of Civil Engineering
500 Pillsbury Drive SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455

612-625-5522 main
612-626-7750 fax

Facilities › Telepresence

MAST Control Room The MAST Laboratory telepresence system encompasses tools that streamline telecontrol, teleobservation, teleconferencing, and data and video archiving, as well as assist researchers in visualization and analysis of the experimental results. State-of-the-art telepresence capabilities also enable remote use of the MAST Laboratory resources. Together, software systems developed in-house and NEES standard telepresence software allow both on-site researchers and remote observers to participate on an equal footing, each having complete control of the information flow.

System Capabilities

With the MAST Laboratory telepresence tools, researchers can:

  • Remotely control and monitor the MAST crosshead 6-DOF position through a juried control process. Track the specimen with eight remotely controllable, positionable, robotic video cameras and eight digital still cameras.
  • Monitor sound from the specimen with eight highly sensitive directional microphones.
  • Watch and listen to the activities happening on the laboratory floor through two tele-robotic lab-sweep cameras and two omni-directional microphones.
  • Receive live streams of an active experiment with up to 500 sensor data channels and 10 video and audio channels via Internet2.
  • View and analyze data synchronously in the MAST Laboratory control room using in-house software and the 12-screen video wall.
  • Use the NEES Real Time Dataviewer (RDV) for live and archived data viewing on any Java-enabled computer from anywhere in the world.
  • Archive videos from up to eight lab video cameras onto the local terabyte RAID array with 35 hours storage per camera (depending on video frame rate).
  • Communicate and discuss experimental results live with colleagues at remote locations through video teleconferencing.

Telepresence Towers

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Telepresence Tower
Camera Tower: one of four portable telepresence towers
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Telepresence Tower
Camera equipment shelf.

Four robotic towers are used to position cameras along the full height of the specimen. Towers may be adjusted to heights of 12, 18, or 24 feet.

Each tower houses two shelves that may be positioned vertically independent of one another. A sophisticated control system is installed on each tower in order to control and monitor shelf movements and vital statistics remotely.

On each of the tower shelf are:

  • 1 x Sony EVI-HD1 (in SD mode) video camera with remotely controllable pan, tilt, optical zoom (10x), and focus.
  • 1 x Canon SX110IS 9-megapixel still image camera with pan/tilt head. Remotely controlled pan, tilt, zoom, focus, and shutter click.
  • 1 x high-sensitivity directional microphone.
  • 1 x high intensity 300W lamp that is operable remotely.

In addition to the tower cameras, two lab-sweep cameras and omnidirectional microphones are installed to provide an overview of the laboratory floor and to detect ambient sound in the environment.

The Central Control and Configuration (CCC) workstation in the control room provides a comprehensive control interface for all the towers and camera devices. Robotic camera functions - such as pan, tilt, zoom, focus and shutter click - may be controlled through the CCC. The CCC also provides an easy-to-use interface for positioning the tower shelves to the desired height.

Telepresence Software

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Telepresence Tower
MAST's all-in-one control software for cameras and robotic towers.
Central Control & Configuration Software (CCC)

The Central Control and Configuration program (CCC), running locally in the control room, is the control system for the MAST Laboratory's four 24-foot camera towers and other telepresence system components. This in-house developed program consists of a device control panel for controlling cameras and tower shelves, and a video and system monitoring panel for monitoring the tower cameras, labsweep cameras, and DVD recorders.

CCC software gives users the ability to control:

  • the telepresence and archiving systems.
  • pan, tilt, zoom, focus, and picture/video control for eight video cameras and eight still image cameras.
  • the vertical motion and lights of all telepresence tower shelves.
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Remote Hydraulic Control Software
Remote Hydraulic Control Software
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Real Time Dataviewer
Real Time Dataviewer (RDV)
Remote Hydraulic Control Client

Remote HCC is a NTCP-enabled Java application that can interface with the MAST Hydraulic Control Computer (HCC) from an offsite location.

The remote HCC's interface recreates what the operator sees on the screen of the Hydraulic Control Computer in the MAST control room. Any changes to the targets' values or system status will simultaneously be shown on both HCC and remote HCC screens.

Issuing a move command from the remote HCC does not move the MAST system. Rather, the hydraulics operator at the MAST control room will be notified that remote user intends to move the system. It is then possible to review the new targets and determine whether or not to execute the move.

Real-Time Data Viewer (RDV)
NEES Real-Time Data Viewer (a demo is available,Java required) is a software package for viewing time synchronized live or archived experimental data and video over the Internet from a Data Turbine server.

RDV is capable of displaying multiple time series data plots, videos, and images side-by-side. There are buttons for changing the playback mode to normal, forward, backward, or real-time. The "Time" slider can be used to go forward or backward in time to view the desirable data. There are also sliders for changing the playback time scale and the rate at which video is displayed.

The Flexible TelePresence System is a MJPEG video streaming and robotic camera control system (access flexTPS portal).

MAST flexTPS portal is fully integrated with GridAuth. Only authorized personnel may access all the cameras in the lab. Members of the general public may access two lab sweep cameras without login. Pan, tilt, zoom, and focus of the video camera can be controlled remotely through flexTPS.

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MAST IT Infrastructure

Network & IT Infrastructure

Both gigabit and 10/100 ethernet connections are available throughout the Laboratory. There is also a secured 802.11n wireless network. External traffic is routed through the high speed Abilene Internet2 network.

A 12 terabyte onsite repository provides storage for archiving data and video. The repository can store hundreds of hours of video for each of eight cameras at 640x480 resolution and 25 frames per second. Data on the repository and other computers in the laboratory is backed up to a tape library daily.

Standalone and mobile video teleconferencing units are available for use in the laboratory. The standalone unit can interface with the wireless intercom to provide teleconferencing capability to the project personnel working on the test floor.

Mobile Computing
Two ruggedized Panasonic ToughBook laptops are available for use in the laboratory. They may be used to connect to the internal secured wireless network and to access the hydraulic control software and the DAQ software through remote desktop software.


Detailed specifications:

General Specifications:

Video, Audio, & Lighting Equipment
Camera Tower (x4)
  • For positioning cameras along the full height of the specimen.
  • Reconfigurable Height: 12ft, 18ft, or 24ft.
  • Two independent vertical-moving shelves for attaching camera devices.
  • Remotely controllable shelf movement.
  • Each shelf is installed with: one video camera, one still camera, one microphone, and one lamp.
Video Camera (x10)
  • Sony EVI-HD1 (in SD mode)
  • NTSC Composite Video Output, 768(H)x494(V) Resolution
  • 10x Optical Zoom
  • Remote controllable pan, tilt, zoom, and focus
  • Eight cameras are installed on the camera towers. Two cameras are used as lab-sweeps.
Digital Still Image Camera (x8)
  • Canon SX110IS
  • 9-Megapixel Digital Camera
  • 10x Optical Zoom
  • Remotely controllable shutter click
  • Remotely controllable pan-tilt (using a pan-tilt head), zoom, focus, exposure, and white balance.
  • All eight cameras are installed on the camera towers.
Microphone (x10)
  • Shure MX418SE/C (Directional) & Shure MX418SE/N (Omni)
  • Eight directional mics are installed with the tower cameras to capture sound on the specimen surface.
  • Two omni-directional mics are tied together with the lab-sweep cameras to detect ambient sound in the Laboratory.
Video & Data Streaming
MJPEG Video Streaming
  • MAST flexTPS server provides live MJPEG video streams from eight tower cameras.
  • Videos can be accessed at MAST flexTPS portal
  • Suitable for less powerful viewing client computer.
Data Turbine Data & Video Streaming
  • MAST Data Turbine service provides streaming for live and archived video and sensory data.
  • Video and data streams can be viewed synchronously in NEES Real Time Data Viewer.
  • A powerful client machine is required to view the streams smoothly.
Video & Data Archiving
On-Site Terabyte Repository
  • 12 Terabyte RAID Storage Disk Array.
  • Can store several hundreds of hours of video per camera in JPEGs for eight cameras at 640x480 at 25 frames per second.
National Repository (NEEShub)
  • NEES Hub repository for all NEESR projects.
  • Data can be uploaded to NEEShub through its web interface and using the Project Explorer for NEES (PEN) tool.
  • Data and video is uploaded to the hub repository upon experiment completion.
Data Format
  • Sensory data: ASCII text files.
  • Video: series of JPEG files, mpeg4 files.
  • We also record video on DVRs in mpeg2 format for backup purpose.
Telepresence Software
  • Central Control and Configuration Computer (CCC): a comprehensive interface for viewing and controlling the lab cameras and towers from the control room
  • Hydraulic Control (HCC) Remote Client: The client interface is similar to HCC (the main control system), but the function set is reduced. The commands sent by the remote client are juried by the operator who is physically present in the lab. Operator can choose to either accept or reject the move commands set by the remote client.
  • flexTPS: NEES teleobservation tool with built-in camera control interface. Click here to access the MAST Lab's flexTPS portal. For more information, please see NEESit software overview.
  • RDV: A viewer, based on Data Turbine and Java technology, enables synchronous live and recorded data and video playback. For more information, please see NEESit software overview.
Network & IT Infrastructure
Gigabit Ethernet
  • Gigabit connectivity is available in the control room and at other locations in the office area
Internet2 Connection
  • External traffic is routed through the the University of Minnesota's campus gigabit ethernet immediately to Abilene Internet2 network.
Wireless Network
  • Secured 802.11n WiFi wireless network is available in the MAST Laboratory
Teleconferencing & Remote Desktop
Video Teleconferencing Unit
  • Polycom ViewStation EX (standalone):
    • Video conferencing with TV video and audio quality
    • Integrated robotic pan, tilt, and zoom functions for the camera
    • Internal MCU, capable hosting a multi-party conference (up to 4 including self)
  • The Viewstation EX can interface with the wireless intercom to provide voice conferencing anywhere in the lab, not only in control room or conference room.
Wireless Intercom
  • Telex BTR-800 Wireless Intercom System
  • Audio In/Out port to interface with Video Conferencing Unit
  • 2 independent intercom channels
  • Support up to 4 beltpacks (with only 1 base station)
Wireless Headset (Beltpack)
  • Telex TR-800 Beltpack with earclip style headset
  • Quantity: 3
WiFi Laptop (x2) / Remote Desktop
  • Panasonic ToughBook CF-30
  • Ruggedized housing
  • Connects to the secured MAST Lab wireless network
  • Access DAQ software through VNC remote desktop program

Software and Equipment Documents

Overview Literature:

  • Control Room / Telepresence
  • Telepresence Towers
  • Equipment Models:

    Equipment TypeModel/Document
    Control/Data Processing Processing Dell Precision T3400
    Dell PowerEdge R710
    Dell Power Edge 2650
    Experiment Laptop Panasonic Toughbook 30
    Strain-Guage Bridge National Instrument SCXI-1520-8
    National Instrument SCXI-1314
    Network Management:
      Network Security
      Network Switches

    SonicWall NSA 2400
    Cisco Catalyst 3750 Series Switches
    Cisco Catalyst 3750G Integrated Wireless LAN
    Storage hp Storageworks P3400
    Disaster Recovery Drobo B800fs
    Video Encoding Servers Dell Poweredge 2950
    Kramer VM-1045
    Video Processing Axis 241S (factory specs)
    Axis 241s (MAST specs)
    DAQ Rack Temperature Sensors SeversCheck SC-TS01
    Power Management Powerware 9170
    Image Processing/Lab Monitoring Fit-PC2i
    Intense PC
      Video Camera
      Still Image Camera
      Camera Pan-Tilt Unit

    Sony EVI-HD1
    Canon SX110IS
    Shure MX400SE