24 February 2003
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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MindAvenue last week released AXELedge V2, the latest edition of its Web design suite. The software integrates 2D, 3D, video, sound and text, and enables publication and export in a range of Web graphics formats. AXELedge V2 bridges the gap between 2D and 3D by enabling the creation and export of 3D animations to the Macromedia Flash file format (SWF) and to Web video formats including MPEG-4. The new version adds support for publishing interactive 3D QuickTime content.
Other new export and publishing features include real-time export preview, as well as support for generating self-contained projector executables, anti-aliased image renderings and VRML worlds.
New from Intrinsic Graphics, Inc., the developer of the Intrinsic Alchemy game-development platform, is Intrinsic Alchemy for Linux.
"We expect to be seeing more game-capable embedded Linux systems in the coming years," said Brian McClendon, vice president of engineering at Intrinsic.
An evaluation of Intrinsic Alchemy for Linux is available at http://www.intrinsic.com/.
Paris-based Virtools, a developer of interactive 3D development solutions, last week released a new version of its 3D-development environment, Virtools Dev 2.5, and announced the upcoming release of the Virtools AI Pack, an artificial intelligence add-on pack for Dev 2.5.
The new Virtools Scripting Language (VSL) complements the two existing development interfaces: the Schematic Editor (Dev's GUI), and the SDK (low level access for C++ programming). VSL provides an interface to the SDK directly in Dev, and includes an intelligent coloring system, context-sensitive completion, and function arguments display. VSL also offers full debugging mode with breakpoint support, watchable variables with value editing, and step-by-step debugging (also step into/out support).
Other new features include as the Variable Manager, multi-level undo, and enhanced replacement. See other new Dev 2.5 features at http://www.virtools.com/solutions/products/virtools_dev_new2_5.asp.
The Artificial Intelligence Pack for Virtools Dev promises a cost-effective solution enabling users to implement AI in a variety of different applications while improving the production process and significantly reducing cost and time-to-market.
The pack is an add-on library of building blocks specifically geared to managing autonomous entities. The AI Pack lets development teams create AI-based applications within Virtools Dev's intuitive graphic interface.
More information on the AI Pack: http://www.virtools.com/solutions/products/virtools_aipack.asp.
Ulead Systems last week shipped DVD Workshop AC-3, its DVD-authoring software, with support for Dolby AC-3 audio files. Users can import 5.1 surround sound AC-3 audio files and create stereo AC-3 files within DVD Workshop. The audio file format, also known as Dolby Digital in theaters, allows audio playback compatibility, a higher compression rate for producing small audio files, and the ability to offer Dolby 5.1 surround sound on DVD Workshop authored discs. The software also includes Ulead AutoPlay, an auto-run DVD playback software that can be burned to DVD or VideoCD discs.
VBrick Systems, Inc., a provider of networked video appliances, last week introduced VBXcast, its new MPEG-4 intelligent video appliance. VBXcast is a networked video appliance that connects to standard video devices such as a video camera, DVD player or VCR. VBXcast compresses the video into an MPEG-4 format and delivers the video stream over any network. MPEG-4 uses bandwidth more effectively, allowing it to extend the reach of visual communication to everyone with Internet access. VBXcast is flexible, as a freestanding portable device that can be plugged into the network where and when necessary. It plays video through standard viewers as well as VBrick's freely distributed StreamPlayer viewer.
Just out from Montréal-based Kaydara Inc., a developer of 3D character-animation and motion-capture products, is Motionbuilder Personal Edition (PE) for artists, 3D enthusiasts, students and freelancers. The product is a full one-year production license of Kaydara's character-animation software, with printed documentation, upgrades and customer support. PE is priced at USD $100 until July 31, 2003.
Feature highlights in MOTIONBUILDER include:
Motionbuilder PE also natively supports Kaydara's FBX file interchange format, a format for 3D data that lets users acquire and exchange 3D assets and media from a variety of sources. FBX is widely supported by 3D content and streaming-media vendors such as 2D3, Alias|Wavefront, Autodesk/Discreet, DI-O-Matic, Face2Face, Maxon, ElectricImage, InSpeck, Motek, NewTek, QEDsoft, Reflex3D, Softimage, Turbosquid, Vicon, and Viewpoint.
Improvements to SpeedTreeRT delivered in the newly released version 1.4 include enhanced rendering speed, better control over lighting and LOD transitions, and extensive collision detection support, all of which have made possible the creation of vast, highly-realistic real-time forests.
Says Michael Sechrest, chief programmer and vice president at developer IDV, "SpeedTree can now be used to render huge forests with thousands of trees just as easily as it can be used to render a handful of fantastically detailed trees."
The changes have enabled the creation of a 300,000-tree, real-time forest, covering 200 square miles. In a publicly available PC executable, visitors can fly through the forest interactively, with the trees blowing in the wind and smoothly transitioning through LODs without the popping or flashing seen with trees in typical real-time game and simulation environments. Frame rates on commodity 3D hardware (NVIDIA GeForce3 and 1.8 GHz processor) average 50 Hz. Developers are invited to download a free evaluation of the new SpeedTreeRT SDK, which includes the source code to the forest flyover application.
Other important enhancements to 1.4 include:
ARM, a provider of 16/32-bit embedded RISC microprocessor solutions, and Canesta, a developer of electronic-perception technology, announced at last week's 3GSM Congress, Cannes, France, that Canesta has joined the ARM PrimeXsys Community Program. Canesta will be bringing to the Community, a technology that enables electronic devices to "see" by tracking nearby objects in three dimensions in real time.
The first application of the Canesta technology is the company's "projection keyboard." By integrating the three-chip chip set into a wireless device, a full size "QWERTY" keyboard and mouse will be created by projected beams of light.
Building a projection keyboard into a wireless device make it practical to enter large amounts of data into small, untethered devices.
The ARM PrimeXsys Platforms provide system developers with hardware, software and verification IP for design a system-on-chip (SoC). Canesta has ported its projection keyboard technology to the PrimeXsys Platform. Wireless device manufacturers using the ARM PrimeXsys Platform including Canesta's technology will now be able to easily and quickly integrate this new capability to their devices, offering customers an easy-to-use and familiar method for typing text in applications.
SciTech Software Inc. and Hyperion Entertainment VOF have enterered into a strategic partnership in which SciTech's SNAP technology will be integrated into AmigaOS 4.x, currently under development by Hyperion for PPC-based systems.
SciTech SNAP, SciTech's graphics device support, allows for the development and deployment of embedded solutions across multiple platforms and currently already supports over 170 different graphics chipsets including all the latest offerings from ATI, nVidia and Matrox.
Hyperion Entertainment is a privately held Belgian-German company, founded in March of 1999. The company specializes in 3D graphics and the conversion of entertainment software from Windows to niche-platforms including Amiga, Linux (x86,PPC) and MacOS (OS 9/X). Hyperion has undertaken contract work in the field of 3D graphics for companies such as Monolith and has developed small-footprint technology to bring 3D graphics to low-power digital devices such as PDAs and STBs.
Hyperion is currently working on AmigaOS 4.0, an enhanced PPC-native incarnation of the groundbreaking OS introduced by Commodore in 1985.
Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc. last week released Dark Cloud2, a 3D action-adventure, role-playing game (RPG) for PlayStation2. The follow-up to the 2001 release features a new character-driven story with two playable characters, cell-shaded graphics tech, the return of the Georama feature that lets players create, build and customize an interactive 3D world, and the introduction of the Invention System, which lets players create items for later use in battle and exploration.
Gamers assume the roles of two characters: Maximilian and Monica. Maximilian is a young inventor with the heart of a hero who always lets curiosity get the better of him. Monica is a warrior from the future and a master of magic who favors her graceful sword and possesses a magical bracelet. When Maximilian, who has never set foot outside of his town, uncovers a secret involving the fate of the world, Monica leads Maximilian on a journey through the past, present and future to prevent an evil madman from destroying the world. In the process, they find themselves assisting a diverse group of villagers, battling monsters, rebuilding the world and unlocking secrets that will lead them to their ultimate destiny.
In the Invention System, when players portray Maximilian, they obtain a camera that they can use to take photos within the environment. These photos help to give Maximilian ideas on items he can create for later use to assist him in battle and exploration. The game features an enhanced detailed weapons system, allowing players to upgrade their weapons by leveling up, spectrumizing, synthesizing or building them up. The improved battle system enables close and long range attacks, special maneuvers and evasive moves.
Korea's NCsoft last week launched the latest chapter to its multiplayer game, Lineage, in North America today. Episode XII: Aden represents the final segment in Part I of the ongoing Lineage saga. Lineage first launched in 1998 and has grown to more than three million active subscribers worldwide.
In Episode XII, players can explore the city of Aden and its surrounding lands that include the Twilight Mountains, where giants run amok, the Tower of Insolence, a mysterious place where only the best adventurers survive, or the Scar of Lindvior, a crater made when Lindvior the wind dragon crashed to the earth. In the center of town lies the Great Castle of Aden, which offers enormous rewards to the players who conquer its walls. Siege and triumph over Aden, and you'll become the ultimate ruler of all the land and wield influence over Lineage's other six castles.
Aden also introduces new game systems to enhance the player experience. The hometown system allows players to register as a resident of a village. The selection of the town's mayor is based on each registered players' contribution to protecting the area. All players who register with a village, city or town are paid a monthly dividend for their contributions to keeping it safe. This "cyber-community" within Lineage represents a redistribution of power and wealth through more democratic means. Additionally, the new alliance system means pledges in Lineage can band together to become more powerful than ever.
The virtual universe of Sweden-based Project Entropia has gone gold with the release of its latest version update 4.2. New features include:
Sojourn Development (http://www.sojdev.com), developer of Glympse, a multiplayer online game scheduled for release in 2004, will use Pandromeda's MojoWorld technology to create a virtual spherical world roughly the size of Mars.
"Pandromeda's fractal algorithms allow us to create an immense spherical world with a file weight of a couple hundred kilobytes," said Dave Cerra, COO of Sojourn Development, LLC. "Sojourn is now free to include unlimited modes of transportation for players such as flight and water-based vehicles, as there is no 'edge of the world' to resolve. Players will be able to use the planet's curvature to intelligently plot trade or invasion routes. Additionally, the sheer size of the planet allows players to enter into the excitement of player-vs-player combat or to simply avoid it all together without having to impose artificial PvP zones or 'toggle' options. And most importantly, the small size (in kilobytes) of the planet allows us to make drastic modifications and additions to the 'physical' world of the game while negligibly affecting our players' download rates."
Pandromeda's procedural technology models terrain in real time, freeing up storage and bandwidth on both the client and servers for other uses.
The world of Glympse is a world in which technology and Plexus have developed in tandem. Plexus, the elemental energy form of the universe, is battled over by several distinct factions, spread across two different races. Players can fight one another directly, or choose never to pick up a weapon and opt for a more peaceful life. Features include a combination of player-created, randomly generated, and developer-driven quests, plus tracking the outcomes of players' actions to develop the over-arching storyline.
Game designer BigBrainGames and Bearded Toad Entertainment will announce the release of their first jointly-designed game at the Game Developer's Conference in San Jose, Calif., March 4-8. BugLord will be launched in three different platforms simultaneously, with plans to release for additional platforms later in the year. The real-time strategy, multi-player game will be released for Microsoft Pocket PC, Palm OS, and Microsoft Windows. A Mac OS X version will be released soon, along with GameBoy Advance and a version specifically developed for Sony Ericsson phones.
By leveraging Bearded Toad Entertainment's proprietary cross-platform game technology, BigBrainGames was able to design BugLord specifically for each individual platform without the typical extended development time that is usually associated with porting content over to several different devices.
An original real-time strategy game of entomological combat, BugLord pits armies of bugs against each other in a struggle for survival. The player commands a diverse colony of insects, from simple worker ants to mortar-firing beetles, and fights to conquer as much territory as possible. In this world, only the strong will survive, and the dominant army feeds off the spoils of war. To be victorious, players must wage war on multiple fronts, and an ever-evolving enemy is sure to keep things challenging.
Activision recently announced Empires: Dawn of the Modern World from designer Rick Goodman and Stainless Steel Studios. The real-time strategy game lets players command civilizations as they battle to forge mighty empires during the days of longbows and charging knights to the land, air and sea battles of WWII involving Tiger Tanks, storm troopers, Spitfires, and submarines.
Said Goodman, "Players will be able to build up massive empires by utilizing each civilization's unique historical abilities, battlefield weapons and special technologies. The differentiation between these historically-based civilizations is unprecedented."
Stainless Steel Studios, Inc., founded by Goodman in 1997 and based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, previously developed Empire Earth, which was released in November 2001. Prior to founding SSSI, Rick was the co-founder of Ensemble Studios and lead designer for Microsoft's Age of Empires.
The International Game Developers Association (IGDA) will recognize game developer Gunpei Yokoi for the work he produced during his career. Yokoi will be honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Game Developers Choice Awards ceremony on March 6 during CMP Media's Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Jose, Calif. Last year's recipient, Yuji Naka, will be presenting the award, which Yokoi's family will be accepting on his behalf.
In a career spanning nearly three decades, Yokoi is best known as the creator of the Nintendo Game Boy. The Game Boy and its successors have sold more than 142 million units worldwide.
During his early years at Nintendo, Yokoi led the company's entry into the video game space, creating the Game & Watch - a credit card-sized video game that introduced the cross-shaped directional pad. He went on to collaborate with Shigeru Miyamoto to design arcade classics such as "Donkey Kong," "Mario Brothers" and "Metroid."
In 1996, Yokoi founded Koto Laboratory, while continuing to consult for Nintendo. Tragically, Yokoi was killed in a traffic accident the following year.
3ds max artist Tomek Baginski of Platige Image (Poland) was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Animated Short Film category for "The Cathedral." His first Oscar nomination, Baginski spent 15 months working on "The Cathedral" using Discreet 3ds max and character studio software to realize his creative vision. The complete list of nominees for Best Animated Short is at http://www.oscars.com/nominees/nom_32121.html.
"The Cathedral" tells the story of a pilgrim arriving at a strange, forest-like cathedral where he finds his presence there has a purpose he has not anticipated. With a limited team working on the project, Baginski and Platige Image created the animated short film relying on the professional modeling, animation and rendering tools in Discreet's 3ds max and character studio. Baginski won the 2002 SIGGRAPH Best Animated Short Award for "The Cathedral" and was the cover feature of Computer Graphics World magazine in July 2002.
This is the second year in a row a 3D artist using Discreet animation software has been nominated for an Academy Award for the Best Animated Short Film. Ireland-based Ruairi Robinson was nominated for the 2001 Best Animated Short Oscar with his "Fifty Percent Grey" animation.
Warren Buckleitner, coordinator of the 2003 Bologna New Media Prize, last week announced 20 finalists for the prize, chosen from 815 children's interactive media products considered from around the world. The jurors are now working to narrow this list to six winners, to be announced during the opening ceremony of the Bologna Children's Book Fair.
The 20 products will be demonstrated during a new conference on children's new media design called "Dust or Magic Bologna -- From Paper to Pixels" to be held prior to the Bologna Children's Book Fair (March 31 - April 1).
Finalist List: 2003 Bologna New Media Prize:
To learn more about Dust or Magic Bologna: From Pixels to Paper -- http://www.childrenssoftware.com/dustormagic
To learn more about the Bologna New Media Prize-- http://www.bookfair.bolognafiere.it/standard.asp?l=1&m=12&p=Libro2001prize
In his keynote address at the 2003 O'Reilly Bioinformatics Technology Conference, Lincoln Stein predicted that the term "bioinformatics" will be obsolete by 2012. Stein's assertion created a stir among the 683 biologists, computer scientists, software engineers, mathematicians--all bioinformaticians to varying degrees--who attended the conference in San Diego earlier this month.
Stein's presentation was just one of many thought- and debate-provoking sessions held during the four-day conference. Stephen Wolfram, known in scientific circles for his Mathematica software and his recently released tome, "A New Kind of Science," delved into his book's issues and their ramifications for bioinformatics in his keynote presentation, which spilled over to a question-and-answer session following his formal talk. Just prior to his keynote talk, Jim Kent was presented with the Benjamin Franklin Award for promoting freedom and openness in the field of bioinformatics by J.W. Bizarro, president of Bioinformatics.Org. Kent developed the "GigAssembler," a 10,000-line program that he wrote in a month and then used to assemble the public human genome fragments, helping to keep the data in the public domain and unrestricted by commercial patents.
Representatives from Sun Microsystems and the Blueprint Initiative, part of the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, chose the O'Reilly Bioinformatics Technology Conference to announce that the Initiative had acquired more than $5 million in Sun hardware, software, and storage to support the standard-setting BIND (Biomolecular Interaction Network Database). BIND is a growing repository of data on how the proteins that make up all life interact and control cellular life, and will benefit researchers in proteomics--the study of protein interactions.
Designed to bridge gaps between communities, sessions at the second O'Reilly Bioinformatics Technology Conference appealed to academic and industry audiences, wet lab denizens, and "chip heads" alike, exploring topics such as interaction networks, Web services, grid computation, visualization, genomics, algorithms, pipelining and automation of data, and building open source applications. Other speakers at the conference included experts such as Alvis Brazma, Microarray Informatics Group Leader, European Bioinformatics Institute; James Gosling, co-inventor of Java, and VP and Fellow, Sun Microsystems; Francis Ouellette, Director, University of British Columbia Bioinformatics Centre; Steven Brenner, Assistant Professor and leader of a computational genomics research group at the University of California, Berkeley; Damian Conway, Research Fellow, Monash University; Nat Goodman, Senior Research Scientist at the Institute for Systems Biology and an Affiliate Professor of Bioinformatics at the Arctic Region Supercomputing Center at the University of Alaska; Chris Dagdigian, founding partner of BioTeam Inc.; and Bill Day, Staff Engineer and Technology Evangelist at Sun Microsystems.
Other notable conference events included tracks planned by Bioinformatics.Org and I3C (including the LSID specification), and a GMOD (Generic Model Organism Database) meeting, which was open to developers and curators of model organism system databases.
For information about the conference, including interviews with Lincoln Stein, Stephen Wolfram, and Jim Kent, and slides of speaker presentations, visit: http://conferences.oreilly.com/biocon/.
The 3D Awards Committee announces the International 3D Awards 2003, to be held on 9 May 2003 at 3D Festival in Copenhagen, Denmark. The 3D Awards is an industry-wide set of awards recognizing excellence in the field of 3D design, animation and digital visual effects. The Awards covers all aspects of 3D creativity, from high-end digital effects in film and television to independent animations and student short films. The 3D Awards Committee also announces the launch of the 3D Awards Website at http://www.3dawards.org.
The 3D Awards contains a variety of fields such as interactive 3D gaming to feature film animation, digital effects, independent and student animations. Categories for the 3D Awards 2003 are:
The 3D Awards is to be held annually at 3D Festival, the world's largest creative 3D event in Copenhagen, Denmark. The 3D Festival is a celebration of 3D creativity, held over a four day period and comprising three conferences: 3D Festival Conference for high-end 3D animation and digital effects, Game Developers World for creative game production, and the Architectural Visualization Conference.
The 3D Awards is an independent, global event and will have coverage online on the 3D Festival Website (http://www.3dfestival.com) and through CGTalk (http://www.cgtalk.com), an industry community for computer graphics artists.
The 3D Awards is presented by the 3D Awards Committee, comprising professionals in the 3D, digital visual effects, gaming and architectural visualization industries. The Committee is in charge of all organization and judging for the event. The committee members are:
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