AV technology for learning at The Karolinska Institute
Thorough research into how technology can be best used to support a range of teaching and learning styles resulted in a bespoke installation at one of the world’s top medical schools.
The Karolinska Institute (KI) is one of the world’s leading medical universities and Sweden’s largest centre of medical academic research. When the university started planning a new research building called KI-NEO at its Stockholm campus, it approached Danish AV consultant and integrator Stouenborg to help it deliver two major auditoriums within the new building.
KI wanted to equip the spaces with the most advanced teaching technology it could and embarked on a wide-ranging study into how learning environments should be created. The research took in different learning methods and defined a set of principles that suited the learning environment of university students in Sweden.
Part of this research looked at how Stouenborg had applied Meyer Sound Constellation systems in other teaching spaces with powerful results. Stouenborg was subsequently appointed as the audio contractor for the entire building which encompassed Constellation installations and audio for videoconferencing. Swedish integrator JML Group handled the rest of the AV installation in the auditoriums.
The research was thorough. A group of professors, selected by KI, embarked on a round-the-world trip to explore the newest technological advancements in AV within educational establishments. The professors explored facilities and companies in the US including Stanford University, and finished the trip at the ISE show in Amsterdam.
Every piece of technology chosen and the facilities provided were based on the resulting methodology and are designed to perfectly suit the needs of lecturers and students.
In many cases a product’s potential could be seen but development was required to make it suitable for the learning environment. This groundbreaking and painstaking approach to technology deployment saw KI, Stouenborg and JML Group work with key vendors including Crestron, Epson, Meyer Sound and SiliconCore to develop and adapt technologies for their unique place in KI-NEO.
Meyer Sound Constellation is fitted in both auditoriums that are used for lectures and conferences. The system allows natural speech from the presenter to be heard at any point throughout the auditorium. An easy switch to Q&A mode will allow any student to be heard by the entire room. The system requires no microphones and makes presenting and listening easy and natural.
The rooms have been designed with specific teaching approaches in mind and cover a range of options. Some spaces offer breakout areas for smaller group discussion and work. Constellation comes into its own here as well by acoustically isolating the groups so one discussion is not disturbed by the next.
Signal routing and control is handled by Crestron DigitalMedia and at the heart of the system is an Extron matrix switcher. A 12m wide, curved SiliconCore screen was fitted in the main auditorium at KI-NEO that holds 400 people and is called the Round Room.
Lecturers use Crestron control panels to manage the system. They can write and draw on the panels and this will be shown on the SiliconCore LED display. PCs and Macs can also be easily connected and a number of HDMI connections were provided which allows for connection of a range of devices including microscopes.
Stouenborg worked for 30 months, at times in close cooperation with the general contractor for the project Veidekke Scerige, to deliver the Constellation systems. First it worked with the Meyer Sound Constellation team on system design, pre-wiring equipment racks in Denmark and final installation of more than 400 loudspeakers, 250 microphones and 25km of cabling.
The Constellation System in the Round Room comprises 130 MM-4XP self-powered miniature loudspeakers and 12 MM-10XP miniature subwoofers. A distributed array of 53 miniature cardioid and eight shotgun microphones pick up sounds in the space for processing by a 22-module D-Mitri digital audio platform, with four modules hosting the patented VRAS variable room acoustic system algorithm.
A pair of HMS-12 Meyer Sound loudspeakers were also installed for direct sound reinforcement for recorded and external sources.
Constellation was harder to implement and calibrate in the second space, the MPR room, according to Anders Jørgensen, manager and consultant at Stouenborg and the Inavation Awards 2019 Consultant of the Year.
The space can be subdivided into two, three or four separate spaces, each with its own acoustical characteristics. Just over 200 MM-4XP loudspeakers are augmented by 12 MM-10XP subwoofers. Sixty-eight miniature cardioid microphones feed the D-Mitri digital processing modules. Six Meyer Sound UPJ-1P loudspeakers are employed in the MPR Room for direct sound reinforcement. Visuals here are provided by four Epson projectors.
Videoconferencing was a key requirement for the spaces and is fed by installed Panasonic cameras. But the Constellation system proved tricky when it came to the audio for conferencing. Jørgensen turned to the broadcast world for a solution. A chance conversation with a broadcast engineer, while working on the Eurovision Song Contest helped him discover Cedar Cambridge, a processing platform that manages speech enhancement and audio restoration.
“We took the audio coming out of the Constellation system and ran it through the Cedar system to clean up the sound,” he explains. “When you have more than 40 microphones in a room, and they pick up sound you get a lot of noise with it that we have to get rid of.”
Peter Allstram, the project leader from KI, said a key objective had been to promote dialogue in learning. He believed that removing microphones from the speaker and audience but still allowing everyone to be clearly heard was a key driver in achieving that aim.
Cedar Cambridge processing platform
Meyer Sound Constellation systems and loudspeakers
Crestron control and DM system
Extron matrix switcher
SiliconCore LED display