Long Title: The ShanghAI Lectures
Universität Zürich
Universität St. Gallen
Hochschule Luzern
Domain: VO
Status: finished
Start Date: 01.07.2008
End Date: 31.12.2009
Project Leader: T. Bücheler

The ShanghAI Lectures project has built up an integrated system and a set of processes for technically enhanced global teaching to a large group of listeners from different disciplines, including multipoint videoconferencing, 3d collaborative virtual environments, and website groupware. With a global lecture series on Natural and Artificial Intelligence, innovative technologies for teaching, cross-cultural and interdisciplinary collaboration, and community building were explored and put through their paces.


  1. An integrated system and a set of processes for technically enhanced global teaching to a large group of listeners from different disciplines, including multipoint videoconferencing, 3d collaborative virtual environments, and website groupware were developed and tested under real conditions.
  2. A vast set of experiences in the project team's and participants' heads has been collected, that will be codified during the next years.
  3. Several collaborations between AI researchers sparked during the preparation and hot phase of the ShanghAI Lectures, e.g. a new exchange program between the AI Lab in Zurich and the Department of Automation at SJTU in Shanghai.
  4. Regluar participants in the videoconferences: University of Zurich, ETH Zurich, TU Munchen, Shanghai Jiao Tong University (Shanghai/China), NPU Xian (Xian/China), Peking University (Beijing/China), Hosei University (Tokyo/Japan), Chiba University (Chiba/Japan), Osaka University (Osaka/Japan), Sun Kyun Kwan University (Seoul/Korea), USTHB (Algiers/Algeria), University of Salford (Salford/England), UTAS (Hobart/Australia).
    Particpants in the virtual world exercises: HSG (pilot project with UZH), Konkuk University (Seoul/Korea), University of Sao Paulo (Sao Paulo/Brasil), University of Edinburgh (Edinburgh/Scotland), University of Essex (Essex/England), Sheffield Hallam University (Sheffield/England), Tallin University of Technology (Tallin/Estonia), Jagiellonian University (Warschau/Poland), University Carlos III (Madrid/Spain), Institute for Research in Fundamental Sciences (Teheran/Iran), IRML (Jeddah/Saudi Arabia).
    29 institutions have participated sporadically in videoconfereces, contributed to and used the recorded lectures or collaborated in one of the 12 research projects in the context of ShanghAI lectures.
  5. The company "VirtuRL" has been founded as a GmbH spin-off from the AI Lab in Zurich in order to offer 3d collaborative virtual environment consulting and solutions.
  6. Publications: 'Annotated Lectures': Student-instructor interaction in large-scale global education and several papers, talks and presentations.

The ShanghAI Lectures 2010

A new version of Prof. Pfeifer's lectures on Natural and Artificial Intelligence is scheduled for Fall 2010, building upon the experiences from and extending the networks of the 2009 project.
Check out for more information!

Initial situation

By using novel communication and information technologies, we intend to overcome the complexity of a multicultural and multidisciplinary learning context in education. The planned 10 lectures in the Fall Semester 2009/10 were held via videoconference at participating universities and distributed live via webcast.

ShanghAI lectures pioneered collaborative project work in a virtual 3D Collaborative Environment (3DCVE, OpenWonderland) and has systematically collected knowledge and best practices for this new educational and business tool. The resulting software and hardware setup will not only enable collaboration in virtual organizations but also allow new forms of eLearning and knowledge transfer in mixed reality environments.
In 2003/2004 we successfully ran the 'AI Lectures from Tokyo' where seven universities from Japan, China, Saudi Arabia, Poland, Germany, and Switzerland were connected via videoconference, supported by SWITCH (see As the technology has significantly advanced in the meantime, it seems realistic to expand this concept to more universities attached to the videoconference system and extend it with a virtual-reality component, so that more sites, researchers, students and even the private sector can be incorporated.

In short, the educational goals are:

  • Create a platform for exchanging ideas among members of the multidisciplinary community in order to promote networking and to foster innovation.
  • Support the development of intercultural communication and teamwork skills that will enable the participants to interact in a multidisciplinary world.
  • Create conditions for collaboration among students and teachers in a global learning community in order to face the complexity of an intercultural educational context.


With the ShanghAI Lectures we act on three stages:

  • We further dig into the arena of virtual learning environments. Students learn how to interact in a virtual environment and how to build a body of knowledge with virtual tools ('digital literacy'). Knowledge gained in this lecture series can be used for further development in this field.
  • We are ambassadors of Swiss excellence in research not only in the field of Artificial Intelligence, but also in the field of knowledge management and international collaboration, cooperating with universities situated on several continents. With this international presence, Switzerland gains visibility as a place where advanced methods are tested and used, which attracts professors, researchers and gifted students to Swiss universities. The involved Swiss higher education institutions (University of Zurich, Universität St. Gallen, Hochschule Luzern, potentially others) can present themselves formally and informally to a large audience of young academics.
  • We give students the opportunity to gain first-hand experience in an increasingly internationalized working environment. Thus they are being prepared for a job in highly challenging, interculturally active global companies as well as geographically distributed teams.

Since we have included companies and representatives from the private sector in the project, students gain direct experience in interacting with their future employers.
The entire project was accompanied by two research streams investigating and publishing on the collaboration and eLearning/knowledge transfer aspects of the project in a structured manner.