PowerPoint Flips Turn-key solution for creating on-line lectures


Project objectives:  Build a complete turn-key solution for producing  audio/video (Real streaming files) with synchronized slides.   In addition, scrape text from the PowerPoint, and push this information to a database, so the user can search  for content in the lecture.
    • No setup delay at the start of the presentation. This is for "live lectures"  cannot be sacrificed.
    • Assume an AV technician may forget to hit start, or there may be no AV technician... keep as much data as possible to recover should the equipment freeze 
    • Allow edit afterwards, via the web, to cut start and end times of the video 
    • Realize all this data may need to be repurposed. Perhaps into something like BrainSquash (an educational delivery system), so allow for xml output of the data.
    • Track usage of the material.
    • Allow for searching text searching of content.  The second stage may be to weight the text by how long the lecture takes on a particular slide.
Phase II: The COM object in PowerPoint supports 2 way communication, with a robust server component running on Linux. This COM object ComSocketConnect can work in Excel, Outlook, VB, or almost any Microsoft product.  Why not expand on the possibilities?
  • PowerPoint: Utilize 2 way communication and create a ARS (Audience Response System) that could be used with PDA, such as the Tungsten C  that supports wireless, or any wireless connected user. This allows, during a live presentation a higher degree on interactivity.  Since the COM object can be added to Excel, why not leverage the features of Excel to enhance the interactivity...note, this can be done live.
  •  Go beyond PowerPoint...create your own VB, Excel, Outlook, or combine all products to support group interaction.  The Linux server component, server, supports multiple connections.   
  • Computer A for showing the PowerPoint document.  First version is for Microsoft PowerPoint, on a PC based computer.  Second version could be targeted for OpenOffice and or Mac PowerPoint.
  • Computer B for encoding the audio and video.    ViewCast, Osprey Video card.
  • Linux for the communication server (the customized TCP server built here)  also  Apache/PHP for web services.  Webstock will allow for greater customization, or build your own. 
  • MySQL database and or Microsoft SQL 2000 database ( FreeTDS for connecting from Linux ).
  • Custom usage reports done with GnuPlot with a few C/C++ cgi mixed with PHP.
How it really works:
There are really two key components:
  • COM object: ComSocketConnect will support two way communication and can be installed in any Microsoft product that supports COM objects
  • Communication server: A custom build light weight server, know just as server that runs on Linux.  This light weight server can be customized, and directs all the interaction between the different applications that utilize the ComSocketConnect. 
Initially  setup.exe will install a PowerPoint addin (*.ppa) file for capturing the times of the slide transitions.  After the initial install, the transitions are captured automatically, within PowerPoint.  There is no external shell, or exe, that the presenter my inadvertently "forget" to run or turn on; PowerPoint "just" runs.  The transition events (see the source for the ppa) also includes a COM object for making calls to the computer B (the encoding computer), since the video times need to be synced.  Although the PowerPoint captures the correct timing of each flip, the start of the video/or audio encoding must be linked, and the COM object does this by communicating through designated sockets to the encoding computer.  Or, it's possible to run the encoding and PowerPoint on one computer; but, the "live lecture" is sacred...if the encoding fails, or needs to use resources for copying and building the Web Pages, then, the next presentation may be delayed.
Computer "B" (encoding), since it's in communication with computer A, will save the slides as (png, or jpeg), and also extract the text into a database, and save the complete PowerPoint as html.  In addition, all of these parts (jpegs, html version of the PowerPoint, and the PowerPoint itself) will be copied to the web server.  Some people like to download the PowerPoint without converting it. Mac user's can't convert a html version of PowerPoint back to it's original form.  Others, just like to view the html version.  In addition, the feature is the Audio/Video, with thumbnails, that will stream for the user along with the extracted text.  The thumbnails are built at the webserver. 
The main presentation, in addition,  has the capability for  xml feeds for your tool, BrainSquash, or the H20 Project
  • Linux computer: needed to run server the communication server
  • Microsoft PowerPoint
  • Real streaming server: It's possible to utilize the Linux computer running server
  • ViewCast Osprey Video card
  • MySQL

  • Prototype 05.04.03+ But updates my be delayed
  • 05.09.03 to 06.20.03 heavy beta testing
  • 08.05.03 Live launch at major university
  • 08.01.03 to 01.01.04 research on developing learning objects [BrainSquash
Current Status [4.14.03]
  1. Refining Socket communication
  2. Lookup helix info
  3. Post PowerPoint addin
  4. Refine Specs
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