9 August 1999
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Webmasters seeking to further assist the needs of visitors can now add the C4.com parallel search engine technology directly to their Web sites. The free technology can be applied to any Web site by following the instructions at http://www.C4.com/3.0/tools.html. Net surfers will be able to conduct a search directly on the site, thus not requiring a visit to a separate entity to conduct their research.
C4.com's parallel search technology is designed to offer time-defined simultaneous searches of the nine top online engines: AltaVista, Excite, HotBot, InfoSeek, Lycos, Magellan, Snap.com, WebCrawler and Yahoo!. In addition, C4.com will offer simultaneous searches of the major news search engines: ABC News, CBS MarketWatch, CNN, CNNfn, MSNBC and The Street.com.
Searches can be customized to meet individual preferences, such as the specific number of returns and specific number of displays per engine.
Vanguard Software Corporation's new DecisionScript is billed as software for building Websites that use artificial intelligence to assist visitors in finding products and receiving support. It lets each Website visitor to interact with his/her own session running on a Web server, said to be like having a separate salesperson for each visitor who enters a site. DecisionScript interacts with visitors by asking questions and dynamically constructing individualized Web pages.
Use of DecisionScript is not limited to sales-related Websites. The U.S. Air Force, Department of Energy, Harvard University Medical School and 50+ other organizations worldwide perform tasks ranging from stock valuation to performing medical diagnoses. To see DecisionScript in action, visit www.vanguardsw.com/jupiter.htm.
The DecisionScript application includes two products that are sold separately: DecisionScript Author and DecisionScript Server. The Author ($395) is a graphically-oriented development platform used by Website developers. The Server ($1,995) is used to publish completed DecisionScript applications as Websites or Website components. Both require Windows 95, 98, or NT. The DecisionScript Server can be used in conjunction with any Web server software or it can be used alone to host an entire Website.
A free trial copy of DecisionScript can be downloaded at www.vanguardsw.com.
Mindbridge.com, Inc. bills its new IntraSmart as a comprehensive "instant intranet" or "intranet in a box" software solution. Features include:
San Diego-based WebSideStory last week debuted HitBOX Site Analyzer, the new version of its HitBOX Web traffic analysis service. HitBOX Site Analyzer's path tracking capability reportedly reveals the habits and the precise navigation courses taken by Web site visitors. It profiles where the visitor came from, point of entry, the precise paths taken within the site, and the exit page. All information is accumulated and displayed in intuitive charts, giving a real-time overview of activity on the site.
Actiontec Electronics' 56K USB Call Waiting Modem will support the iMac, G3, and other USB-equipped Macintosh computers. The modem’s call waiting feature is designed to ensure that users with a single phone line don't miss incoming calls while surfing the Web or checking email.
Using the call waiting service available on most telephone systems, the modem monitors the phone line for incoming voice calls while the user is online. The user is notified when a call comes in, and has the option of ignoring the incoming voice call or picking up the call to see who is calling without disconnecting the Internet connection. The user can then accept the incoming call or take a message and remain online.
Visitors at this week's Siggraph conference in L.A. will be able to see the new version of Credo's Life Forms character-motion software. Life Forms 3.5 features include:
Sweden's Cycore last week announced Cult3D 4.0, a new sound-enhanced version of its 3D animation technology for the Web. The new version lets interactive 3D objects "speak" to users on the Web, and also includes a new Cult3D Exporter that lets 3D modelers or Web developers customize object compression levels and polygon reduction.
Licensed from Lucent division VoxWare, the compression technology reportedly lets users compress one minute of recorded voice to less than 25K.
A new Cult3D Exporter for exporting 3D models from Discreet's (formerly Kinetix) 3D Studio Max. 3D mavens can now have even greater control over how an object is compressed and how much bandwidth it requires. Compression levels and polygon reduction can be individually set for each part in a model, reportedly making it possible to zoom even further into product or object detail while retaining high image quality and visual appearance. For example, a 3D model of a video camera can be compressed to a size that makes it acceptable for a Web page, and it can still retain the quality of important details such as the text "Play" on the play button.
Other new or improved features:
The Cult3D development tool and plug-in are available free for download at www.cult3d.com. A licensing fee of $3,600 will be charged for Cult3D objects once they are posted to a commercial Web site or Web store. In addition, Cycore has introduced a free art license for 3D modelers who wish to showcase their work on the Web for potential employers or customers. For more information about how to obtain a Cult3D art license, contact www.cult3d.com/ordering/intmodho.html.
Eyetronics, a 3D acquisition company with offices near LA and Brussels, launches the ShapeMatcher, an add-on for the ShapeSnatcher 3D Toolkit, which turns cameras into 3D-acquisition devices. To use ShapeSnatcher, the user inserts a special slide into a slide projector, projects the slide onto the object, and captures its image. ShapeSnatcher reportedly creates a textured 3D model from the single image.
The new ShapeMatcher add-on integrates different 3D patches of a shape into its complete, seamless textured model. The patches are first captured with the ShapeSnatcher,where different viewpoints and distances can be combined freely. Only a crude indication of relative patch positions suffices for the ShapeMatcher to precisely match the patches; thereafter both their shapes and textures form a perfect blend. The result is a single polygonal mesh and single texture map.
ShapeMatcher, now available, runs on Windows 9x/NT, with Linux and SGI versions following soon. The ShapeMatcher add-on costs $1,499. When bought together with the ShapeSnatcher, the complete package of ShapeSnatcher and ShapeMatcher costs $5,999. For more information, send mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.
At Siggraph this week, Muse Technologies, Inc. will debut a new version of the MuSE (Multi-dimensional user-oriented Synthetic Environment) Development System with integrated human-computer interface and network-collaboration products. The company will also announce new lower pricing as well as the formation of a software developers program.
New features of the MuSE Development System Version 1.6.4 include:
The MuSE Development System Version 1.6.4 is now entry-level priced at $15,000 for Windows NT and $22,500 for UNIX systems and includes the MuSE environment with built-in network collaboration capabilities, MuSE speech synthesis, MuSE voice recognition, MuSE sound, MuSE collision and proximity detection tool, MuSE FEA tool as well as device drivers and example applications. Purchasers of the MuSE Development System receive a three-day training course at a designated MUSE training facility, 30 days of free maintenance, online documentation, and an installation guide.
Using the MuSE Development System, programmers can create applications that integrate any form of data with powerful visual presentation capabilities, tactile feedback, voice command, voice response, head tracking, and other features that take advantage of human perceptual skills. Built-in network collaboration capabilities permit multiple users on any TCP/IP-based network to manipulate data and interact together within a MuSE-based application regardless of their geographic location, hardware configuration, or computing platform. Applications created with the MuSE Development System can be licensed for run-time usage and are fully-scalable across WindowsNT and UNIX platforms.
At Siggraph ’99, MUSE Technologies will also announce the formation of MuSE DNA (Developer Network Access), a special program for software developers that provides an array of benefits and unique opportunities for qualified programmers. Membership information is available at SIGGRAPH ’99 and at www.musetech.com/dna/.
Dosch Design, which specializes in add-ons for Cinema 4D, is taking a survey to get more information on user needs and to get input for new products. Each person who sends a complete survey until August 20 will automatically participate in the contest, in which the company is giving away the following:
Sierra Studios' and Berkeley Systems' new Web site dedicated to their upcoming game, Orcs: Revenge of the Ancient (www.orcs.net) has new screenshots and concept art, a developer's journal, as well as updates and information … Fast Search & Transfer claims its FAST Search search engine (http://www.alltheWeb.com) includes more than 200 million unique URLs in its database, reportedly making its catalog almost twice the size of search engine reseller Inktomi and three to four times bigger than several popular search engines. FAST intends to resell the engine to major portals, search engines, ISPs, and content sites ... Grasshopper Entertainment's www.planetG-hop.com is a free interactive Website that for children ages seven to 12 that integrates stories, games, services and products designed to be safe and user-friendly.
Deerbrook Publishing Group's ArtUp.com Network will soon begin offering free electronic commerce-enabled Web sites to galleries and artists who wish to sell their works online. Artists and galleries can currently pre-register for the free sites at www.artup.com, and will be able to begin uploading images and textual information concerning their wares before the network launch later this month … If you like fiction, this is a good 'un. BitBooks, a new search engine designed by Phil Flora exclusively for online stories, lists each individual story, and users can search by author, title, genre, or publishing site. Users can also post their own stories and rate others'. The first few lines of each story are usually also included in the listing. Search for stories at www.BitBooks.com.
GameSpy Industries' PlanetDrakan (www.planetdrakan.com) is a community Web site dedicated to Surreal Software's PC game Drakan, coming this month from Psygnosis. The site has news, hints, articles, editorials and interactive forums for fans of Drakan, a fantasy-themed game that combines first-person shooter action with the unique flight sim aspects of dragon-flying. It also offers free hosting for fan-created Drakan-related sites. Special debut content includes a complete multiplayer guide to the game, as well as an interview with John McWilliams, the Surreal level designer who created the multiplayer levels for Drakan … Civilization II: The Test of Time, from MicroProse, and Vegas Fever High Roller Edition, from Encore Software, are now available for free multiplayer matchmaking on Microsoft's MSN Gaming Zone (http://www.zone.com/).
"I think the Greenhouse Effect is the central problem our civilization has right now," said techno-guru Bruce Sterling, addressing a national conference of industrial designers in Chicago on July 17. "We don't face the problem, but we sure as hell have it." Sterling will be investigating this and other questions about the future of the outdoors in a three-week online forum at the GORP.com site for outdoor recreation from August 9-31.
Sterling will turn his attention to the immediate future of the outdoor experience: what will it be like for us, outdoors, in a decade or two? How will the Internet affect travel and outdoor recreation? Will planetary and technological changes open up new realms of exploration and activities? What's Sterling's take on the outdoors and its future?
"'Nature' is over," says Sterling. "The twentieth century did it in. There's not a liter of seawater anywhere without its share of PCB and DDT. An altered climate will reshuffle the ecological deck for every creature that breathes. You can't escape industrialism and hide from the sky. It's over. From now on, 'Nature' is under surveillance and on life-support. Face up to it."
A self-described optimist (who would have guessed?), Sterling isn't intimidated by the future or the problems it presents. "The human condition is inherently problematic. Problems are good. If there were no problems, human beings would have nothing to do. The scary part is that in 2005 we might still be discussing typography and brand management, instead of dealing directly with a dysfunctional technological reality that is rendering our world uninhabitable.
"The Greenhouse Effect is a design problem," Sterling says. "So it's obvious that what's needed is a major new design movement." Last November, Sterling founded the Web-based Viridian Movement, a loose-limbed, politically-motivated design lab for an era of global warming.
VTechSoft, a subsidiary of electronic educational toy company VTech Holdings announces its new titles:
David Biedny's IDIG, Inc. (Interactive Digital Intelligence Group) will conduct a three-day "Ask the Gurus" charity benefit during Seybold San Francisco 99 Conference and Exhibition, being held at Moscone Center, San Francisco, from August 31 through September 2, 1999. At IDIG's booth (#4043), Photoshop "gurus" will be available to answer questions from the public for a donation to San Francisco's Project Open Hand.
Currently, the tentative line-up of gurus includes Russell Brown, senior creative director of Adobe Systems; designer and author Ardith Ibanez Rigby; Jeff Schewe, author, artist, electronic manipulator and teacher; illustrator Pamela Hobbs; teacher and author Barry Haynes; author Natalie Zee; educator Edward Kemper; and others.
Attendees posing questions will be asked to make a donation of any size to Project Open Hand. The gurus will have demonstration Macintosh computers loaded with Photoshop 5.5 and all of the coolest plug-ins and accessory products, and their answers and techniques will be projected on a large plasma display in order for everyone in the booth to share the intelligence wealth. Attendees may even win a prize in the unlikely event that the gurus can't answer their queries.
The best tips and techniques uncovered during the show will be posted on Photoshop Central, www.photoshopcentral.com.
A new report from Jupiter Communications reportedly shows that less than 10 percent of online commerce dollars in 2002 will be incremental, and anticipated sales gains will largely occur in lieu of sales that traditional channels would have captured otherwise. The research advises that traditional merchants must build unified ventures that take advantage of their off-line assets--an existing customer base, a trusted brand name, customer data, and sales and distribution infrastructure--or risk losing sales to Internet-only merchants.
"With few notable exceptions, traditional merchants' Internet strategies have been paralyzed by indecision and the merchants continue to watch Web upstarts seize the early momentum," explains analyst Ken Cassar. "Business leaders have rationalized that sales generated through their Web site will cannibalize sales that they otherwise would have captured in their traditional channel, negating the value of their Internet investment. Since Internet sales largely represent sales shifted from traditional channels, the Internet is a threat to existing businesses and must be evaluated accordingly. Merchants must accept that cannibalized sales are better than lost sales."
According to Jupiter's research, only 6.0 percent (or $720 million of the expected $11.9 billion) of online commerce in 1999 will represent incremental sales--those that would not have occurred otherwise. Jupiter estimates that the percentage of incremental sales will grow only slightly, to 6.5 percent (or $3 billion of the expected $41.01 billion) by 2002, with growth dependent on merchants' ability to target offers and promotions. Product categories, with the following characteristics will become the most likely to drive incremental sales: maturity, a low price point, high discretionary basis, high likelihood of impulse purchase, and high product counts.
Internet merchants should be very concerned that Internet sales will not be incremental, according to Cassar. Merchants' efforts to seize opportunities and use the Internet to capture new customers, or increased wallet share from existing customers pale when compared with the risk that existing customers might move to online competitors.
Sales tax considerations and internal challenges--such as a lack of experience in dealing with fulfillment and customer service issues--have driven many traditional merchants to separate their off-line sales channels from the Internet. Now, merchants must combine their traditional assets with Internet assets to provide a buying experience that leverages the inherent advantages of each channel. In fact, these channels should have a symbiotic relationship in which each benefits the other--and together should form an entity that is more valuable than the sum of its parts.
EA-owned Maxis, creator of popular computer game SimCity 3000, announced that over 4,000 new SimCity buildings are available for download at the game's official Web site, simcity.com (http://www.simcity.com). The new buildings, all added over the last month, are the creations of SimCity players using the free Building Architect Tool, also available from the site.
Maxis has announced the "Create a Sci-Fi Building Contest." To enter, players must create a building for SimCity 3000 using the Building Architect Tool with a science-fiction theme. Players. The first-place winner will see his or her building featured on simcity.com; have a special Building Set named in their honor; receive a Maxis Prize Package; and win a choice of any game from Electronic Arts.
Entries are due by 11:59 p.m. PST, August 13, 1999. For more information and official rules and conditions, go to http://www.simcity.com/citycam/contest_19990722.html.
Six Perl books--Programming Perl, Learning Perl, Perl in a Nutshell, Perl Cookbook, Learning Perl on Win32 Systems, and Advanced Perl Programming--are now available on a single CD-ROM in the $60 Perl CD Bookshelf by O'Reilly & Associates. Features include:
Digital Media Online, a developer of Web-based vertical communities, last week launched three communities for digital media professionals in the content creation marketplace.
Digital Video Editing combines hands-on practicality with news and technology, tutorials, reviews and opinion.
Digital Webcast is targeted at the creation and distribution of streaming video and audio media, with technology and product news plus techniques and white papers, as well as examples of Webcasting.
Digital Game Developer focuses on design, animation, software techniques and current projects.
Eidos plc has signed a two-year publishing deal with Enix Corporation to publish Dragon Warrior Monsters - Terry's Wonderland on the Gameboy (Color and black-and-white). This will be the first Gameboy title that Eidos has published.
Dragon Warrior Monsters has already sold over 2.2 million units in Japan since its release last year. The game forms part of the Dragon Quest series of role playing games which has sold over 20 million copies since its inception in the late 1980s. Dragon Warrior Monsters is the first Dragon Quest game on the Color Gameboy.
Black Isle Studios, the role-playing game (RPG) division of Interplay Entertainment Corp. and BioWare Corp. last week announced Neverwinter Nights (NWN), their latest development/publishing venture. The launch comes on the tails of Wizards of the Coast's announcement to develop the 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) rules set which Neverwinter Nights will use. This marks the first time the Dungeons & Dragons rules have been revised in over 10 years.
Neverwinter Nights, due to ship in 2000 for Windows 95/98 PCs, will utilize the BioWare Omen 3D game system. NWN is set in the D&D Forgotten Realms campaign setting and has an epic storyline in a game world that focuses on the multi-player component. Players can create their own game worlds, crafting castles and placing monsters, landscape and treasure with a few mouse clicks. They can then host their own adventures and multi-player servers on the Internet. The player will also be able to play the role of "dungeon master" or "DM," allowing him/her to interact in real time with the other players in the game. The dungeon master mode lets the DM assume the roles of non-player characters and alter the course of the other players' experiences.
More information can be found on the official Neverwinter Nights Web site, located at http://www.neverwinternights.com.
A trial version of Microsoft's Midtown Madness driving game is available for download at http://www.microsoft.com/games/midtown. The trial version includes three of the game's 10 vehicles, including the city bus, the 99 Ford Mustang, and the Panoz Roadster. Gamers will be able to play in cruise mode, Blitz race, Checkpoint race, and Cops and Robbers.
The trial version also includes multiplayer support on the MSN Gaming Zone (http://www.zone.com), with the exception of Cops and Robbers. In addition, available exclusively in this demo version are billboards that can be rammed into and knocked over.
Lots of new titles forthcoming from Infogrames North America:
RTIME, Inc. and the Mindscape Entertainment unit of Mattel, Inc. last week announced the first interactive, interoperable, multiplayer simulation that brings together two different games in a shared, electronic battlefield over the Internet. Using the RTIME Interactive Networking Engine, Aeon Electronic Entertainment, developers of Silent Hunter II, and Ultimation, developers of Destroyer Command, are working together to enable submarines and battleships from each respective game to compete against each other in a realtime, interactive experience.
The RTIME Interactive Networking Engine is a runtime and delivery platform that enables realtime, multiuser interaction over the Internet and broadband networks. The product is packaged into four components:
Shipping this week from Interplay division 14 Degrees East is Star Trek: Starfleet Command for Windows 95/98/NT-based computers. Using data from the strategy board game, the strategic real-time tactical game lets gamers play one of six races: United Federation of Planets, Klingon Empire, and Romulan Star Empire, plus new races the Hydran Kingdom, Lyran Star Empire and Gorn Federation.
The mission directives players receive are a direct result of their actions, rank and the political state in the galaxy by way of the Dynaverse campaign engine. The player will command over 100 unique campaign missions generated by the Dynaverse engine, or reenact classic scenarios from the original series. By introducing a unique role-playing element, players will experience a 30-year campaign that takes them from Lieutenant Commander of a Frigate to a Rear Admiral in control of a task force including Destroyers, Heavy Cruisers and Dreadnoughts. The player will be able to choose from four classes of ships and over 50 3D rendered hull designs.
The single-player campaign features missions created by the designers of Star Trek: Judgement Rights and Fallout. Multi-player options include 'Pass the Tribble' and cooperative Starbase Assault with up to six players. Players can also go head to head via modem or serial cable.
Spectrum is an independent news service published every Monday for the interactive media professional community by Motion Blur Media. Spectrum covers the tools and technologies used to create interactive multimedia applications and infrastructure for business, education, and entertainment; and the interactive media industry scene. We love to receive interactive media and online development tools and CD-ROMs for review.
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