Immersive telecommunication technologies are typically used for capturing, processing, analyzing, transmitting, and enabling the remote fruition of objects, environments, and bioentities. Applications of immersive telecommunication technologies may span over a very wide range from industrial automation, health care, education to entertainment.

Over the past two decades, the joint work of networking and the multimedia has led to a wide range of tools and supports, enabling the commercial world-wide deployment of multimedia-based services and products. All the related research and standardization activities enabled multimedia data to be adapted to different networking technologies, wired and wireless, established and emerging, with different and time-varying channel conditions. Also, the restrictions due to the terminal processing power of handheld devices are on the way to be successfully overcome.

On the other hand, computer graphics, computer vision, and virtual/augmented reality communities have often developed conceptual models and tools working separately, mainly for fulfilling local and specific needs of predefined contexts. For instance, computer vision has often aimed at performing specific tasks (e.g., tracking, object recognition) in some specific scenarios (e.g., providing localization and visualization for robotic application or video surveillance). Computer graphics has developed a set of tools, such as rendering and texturing, which have been mainly applied to animation and games and, more in general, in the entertainment industry, mainly aiming to a local use, though forms of remote collaborative environment (such as 3D gaming) are starting to take off the ground. Similar approaches have been followed so far by virtual/augmented reality research community.

In this special issue, we present several papers to bridge the traditional gap existing between immersive technologies and networking, focusing on how traditional and emerging fields (e.g., pervasive computing) can be brought together under the networking umbrella.

The first paper “Enabling cognitive load-aware AR with rateless coding on wearable network,” by Razavi et al., proposes a block-based form of rateless channel coding for wearable network, which minimizes energy consumption by reducing the overhead from FEC. Compared with the packet-based rateless coding, data loss is reduced and energy consumption is improved with this form of block-based coding.

The second paper “Providing QoS for networked peers in distributed haptic virtual environments” deals with haptic information, where the quality of service (QoS) required to support haptic traffic is significantly different from that used to support conventional real-time traffic such as voice or video. In this paper, Marshall et al. present a peer-to-peer distributed haptic virtual environment (DHVE) architecture of positions. The paper aims to enable force interactions between two users whereby force data is sent to the remote peer in addition to positional information. The work presented involves both simulation and practical experimentation where multimodal data is transmitted over a QoS-enabled IP network.

In the third paper “A reliable and efficient remote instrumentation collaboration environment,” Calyam et al. address an important problem in remote access of scientific instruments over best effort networks. They provide an analytical model that characterizes the user's quality of experience (QoE) given the limitations imposed by the network. The model is tested via objective and subjective measurements using a remote microscopy testbed. The authors package the model into a Remote Instrumentation Colaboration Environment (RICE) software with detailed explanation of potential functionalities that include VoIP and health monitoring.

The fourth paper “Sensor network-based localization for continuous tracking applications: implementation and performance evaluation,” by Denegri et al., presents a localization platform that exploits a single-hop wireless sensor network (WSN), based on a Microchip MCU and a Cypress RF device, for tracking of its moving nodes. The authors divided the nodes into three sets: the anchor nodes that generate ultrasonic pulses, the moving nodes which estimate the pulse trip-time, and finally the nodes that collect data from the surrounding field. The computed positions of the moving nodes and transferred information are sent to external users on the Internet.

In the fifth paper “Remote laboratory experiments in a virtual immersive learning environment,” Berruti et al. introduce the Virtual Immersive Learning (VIL) test bench that focuses on remote lecturing as an application. The importance of this work is the ability of the proposed system to function as the base for various innovations and algorithms that can be easily implemented and tested on the proposed and developed framework. Besides its flexibility, the system is portable and has a low price tag. The authors in this paper address the major features of the framework supported with performance measurements.

Mohammed Ghanbari
Feng Wu
Cha Zhang
Ghassan Alregib
Athanasios Vasilakos