12 February 2001
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Newly available from eSynch Corporation, a developer of integrated video tools and services for the streaming media and video-on-demand markets, is the SiteStreamer Toolkit. Web developers can download a free, 30-day trial of SiteStreamer at http://www.sitestreamer.com.
SiteStreamer lets Web sites to develop corporate identity, manage brand awareness, and generate additional revenue by streaming video content through a customized media player with e-commerce capabilities. Automatic speed and format support detection, pop-out HTML trays for e-commerce, banner support, and a back-end reporting system are all included in the SiteStreamer Toolkit. Visitors to a Web site using SiteStreamer technology view all content via a free, downloadable SiteStreamer media player, which is installed automatically during their first viewing.
In March Apple will release OS X. According to the International HyperCard Users Group (iHUG), this will mark the beginning of the end for HyperCard, the widely used software development application for Macintosh. More important than the loss of thousands of creations that rely on HyperCard is the disappointment to come for the thousands of people and institutions that rely on HyperCard for everything from managing home gardening to tracking commercial jet maintenance.
iHUG says this course of obsolescence can be changed with the help of one person at Apple. HyperCard can be "carbonized" in six months or less; allowing it to run directly on OS X.
iHUG is asking educators, business people, developers, enthusiasts and anyone who recognizes HyperCard as a useful part of the Macintosh toolbox to help save HyperCard, and in turn promote Macintosh forward compatibility, by writing to Mr. Steve Jobs, Office of the CEO, Apple Computer, Inc., 1 Infinite Loop, M/S 301-CEO, Cupertino, CA 95014.
iHUG can be reached at www.ihug.org for additional details, and to submit a HyperCard story.
Spruce Technologies last week released DVDPerformer, software for integrated DVD authoring and encoding for Windows NT. Features include:
The software's SpruceLink feature lets the author attach URL links to Websites or files of any type, to any menu button or chapter point on disc. These URL links are retrieved during playback on a PC. It can also master this Web-linked DVD content on CD media, making interactive DVD content available to those who lack a DVD-ROM drive.
InterWeb Internet Limited last week released Talking Web Pages, its new technology that lets customers hear messages on Web sites without having to read written instructions. For example, if a customer were to move his or her cursor over an icon on a Talking Web Pages site, a human voice would explain exactly what that section of the site could do, without the need to click on the icon. Research shows that three out of four consumers who try to fill out a contact or purchasing form online become confused and give up before it is completed.
DoReMedia, Inc., says its new Sound Family online music library has been designed to eliminate the most common barriers to using audio: large file sizes, repetitiveness, and the high cost of custom sound design.
DoReMedia breaks music down into basic instrumental components so that instead of downloading an entire song, the user downloads each instrumental component only once, then reuses the components to reconstruct the song. Thus the audio, including individual instruments, can be arranged to suit the visuals of the multimedia presentation. This is said to eliminate the need for traditional audio editing and greatly reduces production costs.
Be Incorporated will include the Beatnik Audio Engine (BAE) in its BeIA Client Platform, a component of Be's IA solution. Using the Beatnik engine, a BeIA-powered Internet appliance will be able to play Beatnik's Rich Music Format (RMF) files. This technology makes it possible to create interactive audio environments and games on the Web and in digital devices. RMF files are typically in the range of 10k to 400K while the equivalent MP3 file would be 1MB to 4MB.
Sun Microsystems last week announced the availability of Electric Image's Universe on Sun hardware. The animation package, used in film, broadcast, game development, industrial design and Web authoring, will be available later this month for Sun Blade 1000, Ultra 80, Ultra 60 and Ultra 10 workstations running on the Solaris Operating Environment. Universe software will also be supported by the Sun's graphics accelerators, including the Sun Expert3D board.
Electric Image's Universe 3D is one of the largest upgrades to the company's Electric Image Animation System (EIAS) visual effects software in over a decade. The animation package is based on a new framework that provides new modeling, animation and rendering capabilities, as well as support for multiple platforms.
Artists can now create resolution independent shapes with solids, NURBS surfaces or subdivision surface modeling. Its animation system has also been enhanced with deeper character animation tools, a new inverse kinematics system, and advanced camera projection mapping with real-time image previews.
Universe's rendering system, Camera, features a new raytracing engine that offers network rendering, reflection maps with occlusion, and channel-based controls for optimized rendering times.
Hot on the heels of the shipment of 3ds max 4, SPEC/GPC's Application Performance Characterization (SPECapc) project group last week released the first standardized benchmark for evaluating performance of systems running 3D Studio MAX R3.1.
The benchmark is available for free downloading on SPEC/GPC's Web site: http://www.spec.org/gpc. Initial performance results are scheduled for posting on the site on February 14.
SPECapc for 3D Studio MAX R3.1 is the first digital content creation (DCC) benchmark in SPECapc's suite. It was developed exclusively for SPECapc by CAT Production (www.CAT-zentrum.de), a German computer animation and special effects studio. The benchmark contains four scenes reflecting typical uses of 3D Studio MAX R3.1:
Turbo Squid will offer the Muybridge Variations Motion Capture Library from Pepper's Ghost Productions to its digital artist community. The price is $35 for each motion file.
The Muybridge Variations files are suitable for main characters as well as secondary or background characters for group and crowd scenes, or simply for studying walk cycles and animation principles. They can be used in animation, visualization and development projects.
Caligari Corporation has begun shipping trueSpace5, a new version of its 3D modeling and animation program. New features include NURBS-based modeling tools, physically realistic, faster rendering, and advanced surfacing features, and new support for IGES, SAT and STL formats.
Interface enhancements include:
Autodesk division Discreet last week announced details of its Web studio set, a limited promotional inclusion within 3ds max 4. The set is a collection of integrated plug-ins and tools from Cycore, Ideaworks3D, Pulse, RichFX and Viewpoint on individual CDs with solutions for bringing 3ds max models and animations to the Web. The software includes:
Vecta3D-MAX from Ideaworks3D is used for rendering 3D scenes to the immensely popular Macromedia Flash format. The plug-in delivers amazingly cartoon-shaded vector images and animations with control over line color, line style and image detail with amazing. http://www.vecta3d.com
Cycore's Cult3D plug-in integrates with 3ds max to create low-bandwidth, interactive 3D objects for viewing and manipulating on the Web, in Microsoft Office presentations and in Adobe Acrobat documents. http://www.cycore.com
Pulse technology enables the creation of talking characters, interactive objects, and photo-realistic 3D content for gaming, entertainment, e-commerce, advertising or education. http://www.pulse.com
The RichFX Encoder compresses files from 1/20 to 1/100 the size of an MPEG, and speeds rendering up to 10 times faster than a regular rendering process. http://www.richfx.com
Viewpoint gives 3ds max 4 users a way to translate their content into the Viewpoint file format for the Web. http://www.viewpoint.com
Pixologic last week released version 1.13 of ZBrush for the PC and MAC operating systems. New and improved features in the current commercial version include:
Canadian firm Dynamic Digital Depth Inc. and Screenzone Media Networks LLC have signed an agreement to bring 3D without glasses to the latter's mall-based advertising and entertainment network.
DDD recently debuted its breakthrough glasses-free 3D technology and this agreement marks the first delivery into the consumer marketplace.
DDD will provide 3D screens and technology for the Screenzone network, which displays advertising and entertainment content that showcases movies, music, live events and new products. The displays will be viewable in mall food courts and walkways.
Under the terms of the agreement, test 3D screens are scheduled to be in malls by May 2001, with 12 additional locations to be launched during the first 12 months. DDD will be the exclusive provider of 3D technologies and enhanced 3D programming for Screenzone, providing hardware and software for each 3D system and converting the advertising and entertainment content from 2D to 3D.
The glasses-free 3D displays are manufactured by 4D-Vision of Germany, who teamed with DDD last year to integrate its flat panel display technologies with DDD's patented 3D content and delivery solutions.
NTA announces Wrist-Mate, a $10 ergonomic wrist support that moves with the mouse to prevent and relieve the pain and discomfort associated with carpal tunnel syndrome and general mouse or trackball usage.
The device reportedly supports and maintains the natural position of the wrist as its friction-free bottom slides over the work surface area. It attaches via a Velcro dot to the rear spine of a mouse or trackball and supports the wrist in a straight or neutral position on its cushioned top surface.
Jupiter Media Metrix, a specialist in market intelligence for the new economy, last week launched JxStreaming.com, a comprehensive Web resource on streaming media. The free Web site combines opinions from industry executives and experts with market data, focused news, company information, and tools.
O'Reilly has just released a revised and expanded edition of "The Cathedral & the Bazaar" (US $16.95 paperback, $24.95 hardcover), including new material on open source developments in 1999 and 2000.
New essays address the economics of open source and open source as a competitive weapon. Predictions in the chapter "Revenge of the Hackers" are examined from the perspective of one year later, and new ones are added. "There's a juicy new section on the mechanics of bazaar development that discusses communications structures and the nitty-gritty of parallel debugging and why it works so well," says Raymond. "I develop a more detailed analysis of project forking.
Evolutionary handicap theory--why peacocks have feathers and stags have horns--is probably important to any account of open source developer motivation; I go into that. I also take a harder look at the economic question of why open source software isn't an underprovided resource. A statistical appendix on the growth of the fetchmail project has been added."
Chapter 5, The Magic Cauldron, is available free online at: http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/cathbazpaper/chapter/ch05.html
For more information about the book, including Table of Contents, index, author bio, and samples, see: http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/cathbazpaper/
Read an interview with author Eric S. Raymond here: http://opensource.oreilly.com/news/raymond_0101.html
NewTek, Inc. last week announced a call for entries for games content created using its LightWave 3D software. Content is being accepted beginning immediately, with a deadline for this particular contest of March 9, 2001. A grand prize of a full copy of LightWave [6.5] and Aura 2, with a retail value of over US$3300, will be awarded for best overall submission, with prizes awarded to runners-up as well. NewTek is looking for content from real-time gameplay as well as full-motion-video cut-scenes. Still images, movie files, LightWave objects, textures and LightWave scenes may also be submitted.
Interested entrants should submit content on CD-ROM or via email (if less than 5 megabytes) to NewTek. Electronic submissions should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and CD-ROM entries should be sent to NewTek, attn: Games Content, 149 Fell Street, San Francisco, CA 94102.
"XML is quickly becoming the container of choice for electronic information, already with a huge base of support from open source developers to international banking institutions," says Erik T. Ray, author of the just-released "Learning XML" (O'Reilly, US $34.95).
"Like digital Tupperware, it is configurable to fit your data perfectly, while remaining a universal and flexible format that can be shared by many applications. Following the explosive popularity of HTML, XML will go further to break down barriers to global communication and data sharing."
XML (Extensible Markup Language) is a flexible way to create "self-describing data"--and to share both the format and the data on the World Wide Web, intranets, and elsewhere. "XML is an unprecedented effort by a consortium of organizations and companies to create an information framework for the 21st century that HTML can only hint at," says Ray. "If you are at all involved in Web development or information management, you'll need to know about XML."
In "Learning XML," Ray explains XML and its capabilities succinctly and professionally, with references to real-life projects and other cogent examples. The book shows the purpose of XML markup itself, the CSS and XSL styling languages, and the XLink and XPointer specifications for creating rich link structures.
Chapter 2, Markup and Core Concepts, is available free online at: http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/learnxml/chapter/ch02.html
For more information about the book, including Table of Contents, index, author bio, and samples, see: http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/learnxml/
An article by the author Eric T. Ray, "Organizing XML with Entities," can be read here: http://xml.oreilly.com/news/learningxml_0101.html
Cahners In-Stat Group, in conjunction with industry publications Broadband Week and CED, is conducting a research study aimed at measuring broadband deployment and implementation over the coming years against two groups: broadband service providers and business end-users. The study will cover broadband demand versus availability, user awareness and preferences, broadband alternatives and driving applications.
The high-tech market research firm is seeking qualified study participants from the two groups in order to complete the "Moving Towards Broadband Ubiquity" study. The study will be offered free of charge to those who register to receive it. In-Stat's ability to offer the study for free has been made possible through sponsor support from broadband solution companies like ADC, Core Networks, Harmonic, Philips, Terayon and others.
Those involved in broadband implementation or broadband corporate buying decisions can participate in the study via an online survey at http://www.intellisurvey.com/run/broadband
Study participants will receive an enhanced version of the study results before they are released to the general public.
For those who do not wish to participate in the survey - sign up to receive results upon release of the study in early April 2001: http://www.instat.com/bbsurvey/signup.asp
This time around, the French have conquered the Germans. Gallic game company Ubi Soft last week announced the acquisition of a German video game firm, Blue Byte Software. Blue Byte is behind the Settlers economic strategy simulation series as well as the Battle Isle series.
The Settlers IV will be released on 15 February.
Israel-based Geo Interactive Media Group has changed its name to Emblaze Systems Ltd. Simultaneously, the company announced the availability of its Emblaze A3 MPEG-4 encoder/decoder chip -- another piece of the Emblaze end-to-end wireless streaming video solution that will also permit two-way video conferencing over all types of wireless devices.
The A3 chip supports a wide variety of mobile multimedia applications, including multimedia streaming, messaging, and real-time conferencing. The A3 chip can operate on existing 2G - 2.5G GSM and CDMA networks and is already compliant with 3G networks. The Emblaze A3 chip will automatically scale up its performance (frame rate and image size/quality) as 3G networks become operational. The chip is fully standards-compliant, supporting industry-standard video coding (MPEG-4 and H.263), audio coding (MPEG-4 AAC and MP3), speech coding (GSM-AMR and G.723.1), and protocols (RTP, RTSP, SIP, 3G-324M). The A3 chip fully supports the recently published RTFD 1.0 specification by the Wireless Multimedia Forum, which enables interoperability between terminals equipped with the A3 chip and standard-based media servers.
Coming next week from LucasArts for PlayStation 2 is Star Wars Starfighter. The flight action game involves a series of missions to help save Naboo from the menacing Trade Federation. The game presents more than 20 realistic 3D starships amidst 14 environments set in air and space.
The story-driven flight adventure places players in the roles of one of three mismatched starfighter pilots: Rhys (pronounced Rees) Dallows, Vana Sage and Nym. These three unlikely allies all have personal vendettas against the Trade Federation and must learn to work together to repel the invasion of the Naboo system. To succeed, each character must engage in dogfights and outwit villains.
Players will battle against more than 50 vehicles, including Trade Federation drop ships, battle tanks, droid starfighters and never before seen craft such as the deadly Protector, Scarab and Dagger.
Startopia, coming in an unspecified time frame from publisher Eidos and UK developer Muckyfoot Productions, takes players to a once-thriving galactic network of starships, space stations and planets left lifeless after an apocalyptic war. The aim is to rebuild the network of space stations reuniting the surviving alien races under one banner.
Players must rebuild and successfully maintain a series of giant Torus (donuts) space stations that are scattered across the galaxy, providing a suitable home for the many alien races that inhabit space, and perhaps turning a tidy profit in the process.
Airport 2000 Volume 3, the third title in Wilco Publishing’s series of add-ons for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2000, will roll onto computer screens in March with seven new airports, three new aircraft, and 10 adventures with new intermediate and advanced designations. Gates will be numbered in detail. Cars, buses, pushback and service vehicles, refueling trucks and monorails will be in constant motion around airport areas. Passengers in some terminals will be in motion as well, walking from building to building.
A new docking system will require simmers to align their aircraft properly at the airport gate to allow passengers to disembark. New dynamic jetways will move up and down to adjust to the height of the aircraft as it approaches the gate. Tire marks will now appear on the tarmac as well as the runways, along with a special new texture that simulates oil leaking from the gear.
Birds will swoop around select runways as desktop pilots prepare for landing, raising the question: what happens if they head for the engines?
The airports will include San Francisco International, Denver International, Seattle Tacoma, Paris Orly, Kastrup Copenhagen, Berlin Tegel, and London Gatwick. Each airport will be recreated in detail, including the satellite terminals, actual hangars, office and maintenance buildings, radar towers, and taxiways with corresponding ID signs (CAT I, CAT II/III, etc.). Traffic will include dozens of airport liveries.
Interplay Entertainment Corp. and Shiny Entertainment will develop interactive entertainment projects, encompassing current and future interactive gaming platforms, based on upcoming sequels to Warner Bros. Pictures film, The Matrix. The agreement encompasses current and future interactive gaming platforms.
One in five UK Internet users - more than 2,400,000 - visited a games site in December, according to the latest figures from Internet monitoring company NetValue.
However, only 194,000 actually took part in games over the Internet.
In comparison, 28 percent of all users in the US visited a games site in the same period, or 23,814,000 unique visitors. More than 4,800,000 actually played games over the Internet, evidence that the online gaming market in America is more mature, and where fast Internet access is more widespread. However, the UK leads Germany, France, Spain and Denmark in terms of both visitors to games sites, as well as the number of individuals playing games online.
Just under a fifth of users in Spain visited a games site, and they remained online the longest. Spanish users spent an average of 27 minutes, with Danish and UK users just behind on 23 minutes. French and German users remained online for just 14 minutes. Not surprisingly, US users remained longest, staying for an average of 37.9 minutes.
The most visited games site in the US was uproar.com, with more than 4,500,000 unique visitors, although commissioner.com was the stickiest site, with users spending an average of 129.7 minutes on the site in the month. In the UK, gamesdomain.com was the most popular site with 234,230 visitors, and gameplay.com was the second most visited games site with 224,660 unique visitors. Ea.com, the new business division of Electronic Arts, featured in the top 5 most visited games sites in the US, UK, Germany and Spain.
Across all European markets, online gamers are strongly male biased: 97.6 percent in the UK, 90.7 percent in Spain, 84.9 percent in France, and 83.4 percent in Denmark. Although the majority of online gamers in Germany are male, there is a higher percentage of female users (32 percent) playing games. Not surprisingly, the majority are 24 and under, particularly in the UK and France, where 65.1 percent and 55.8 percent of users fit this age group. In Germany, 58.9 percent are students.
European games players contrasts sharply with their US counterparts: 46 percent of users in the US are women, with only one in five users aged 24 or under. 35 percent are aged between 35 and 49, whilst 16% of US gamers are professionals. Only 17% of US gamers are students.
Intrinsic Graphics Inc., publisher of the Alchemy game development platform, announced last week that former Sega America veep Gretchen Eichinger has joined the company as vice president of business development and marketing, and Presto Studios co-founder Farshid Almassizadeh has joined as director of developer relations.
Eichinger joins Intrinsic from Sega America where she was vice president of third party licensing and developer technical support. In this role, Eichinger was responsible for developing the base of publisher support that helped drive initial adoption of the company's Dreamcast console. Before joining Sega, Eichinger led third-party relations at Sony Computer Entertainment America. In this role, she managed software titles representing over 65 percent of Sony's PlayStation software market.
Before joining Intrinsic, Almassizadeh was co-founder and vice president of production at Presto Studios, where he was one of the original creators responsible for The Journeyman Project, a photo-realistic adventure game. Almassizadeh was also project manager for Buried in Time: The Journeyman Project II, Gundam 0079, Beneath and Stephen King's F13.
Eichinger will be responsible for managing Intrinsic's development and licensing agreements with leading console manufacturers and software publishers. Almassizadeh will oversee all other aspects of the company's relationships with the publisher and developer community in the United States.
The USC Annenberg Center for Communication presents Creating for Convergence/Designing for Divergence: Dialogues on the Future of Content Creation. This month’s free event is Story-As-Place: Theme and Location-Based Entertainment, featuring:
Thursday, February 15, 7:00pm , University of Southern California, Davidson Conference Center, 3415 South Figueroa Street (corner Jefferson), Los Angeles, CA 90089-0871 (Parking available across the street on Figueroa)
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