30 July 2001
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Adobe Systems last week announced an agreement with SSB Technologies, a Web accessibility software provider, to distribute SSB's InSightLE Web accessibility compliance tool free of charge to all Adobe GoLive users. GoLive users will be able to use InSightLE to automatically identify accessibility violations in Web pages created in GoLive to ensure compliance with standards mandated by the federal government's Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.
Section 508 requires all federal government agency Web sites, intranets and Web-enabled applications to be accessible to people with disabilities. GoLive developers who use InSightLE will reportedly be able to save up to 90% of the time required to reach Section 508 compliance as compared to manually checking Web sites for accessibility violations.
InSightLE is available free to GoLive users from http://www.adobe.com/products/golive/actions/main.html.
Paris-based Virtools (formerly NeMo), a developer of interactive 3D development solutions, last week released Virtools Dev 2.0. The product is composed of four key elements: the Graphic User Interface, the Behavior Engine for the interactivity, the Rendering Engine for visualizing the applications and the SDK (Software Development Kit) to code proprietary behaviors, create executables and get low-level access to all features of the different engines.
The complete Virtools™ Solution Package comprises:
Fast Search & Transfer ASA (FAST), a developer of search and real-time filter technologies, last week launch of a revised and upgraded version of its Internet search engine, AlltheWeb.com, which the company says is now completely refreshed every nine to twelve days. The new version also incorporates a catalog of more than 70 million multimedia files, which are automatically integrated into the site's results page.
Additionally, the new version of AlltheWeb.com reportedly offers enhanced relevancy through algorithms powered by upgraded FAST FirstPage technology and automatic search tips to help users narrow their queries, as well as an enhanced and more intuitive user interface.
Other features include:
Finding information and filing it away for later reference is one of the primary reasons people surf the Web. Yet the Web browser that most people use provides very primitive tools for saving and organizing all those useful bits of information. Net Snippets, a new $20 program from software developer 4Developers LLC, lets users clip, organize and annotate Web information inside the favorite browser.
Appearing to the user as another feature within Internet Explorer, Net Snippets' user interface is similar to the "Favorites" bar on the left-side of the familiar Internet Explorer display. By dragging selected information to Net Snippets, users can choose to save all or part of a Web page, add notes, highlight text, save images, or eliminate ads and other "junk" content before saving. And unlike bookmarks, which may lead to Web pages that are no longer in existence, Net Snippets permanently stores Internet clippings in a "My Snippets" folder on the user's PC for future reference.
Users create, move, rename and re-organize their own hierarchy of folders using the same familiar browser interface that they use for bookmarked Web pages. The software also lets users drag content from other Windows programs, such as Outlook Express and MS Word, and organize that information in one location.
Just out from Digimation, Inc. is FaceGen, a $195 all-purpose head generator for 3ds max 3 and 4. The plug-in is built around a series of published anatomical metrics for real-life male and female heads.
With FaceGen, users receive full control over each feature independently. The tool is suitable for matching to real photos, as well as randomly creating anything from photo-realistic people to cartoonish aliens.
FaceGen also offers a set of Custom Mesh components so that users create their preferred head style, they can even add a fitted skeletal structure beneath. This takes the pain out of trying to match eyes, teeth and a tongue to a model, since the custom components are aware of the surrounding mesh and will align as expected.
Since the resulting face is constructed in a logical, edge-loop style, animating the features of the FaceGen face with 3ds max software's built-in Skin modifier, or other third-party extensions, like Bones Pro 3 or Morph-O-Matic, is easier.
Software developer Darkling Simulations last week released SimbiontMAX 2.0, a new version of its plug-in for Discreet's 3ds max 3 and 3ds max 4. The software, which consists of a variety of shaders, 3D maps and materials, was rewritten to integrate more closely with 3ds max's Material Editor. The plug-ins have all the features of max's maps and materials, plus Darkling Simulations' new Tweaks controls.
Designed into each shader, map, and material, tweaks allow the user to control high-level features that simultaneously affect bump, color and shading, such as the rustiness of a steel material. Tweaks can also control single attributes like the roughness of a noise or a spot color.
Tweaks are dynamic; they can be animated using the Track View or hooked to a texture map or bitmap. Changing tweak values lets users create a variety of new looks from a single shader, map, or material.
SimbiontMAX 2.0 includes three new texture sets. The first is a set of 10 procedural shaders to change the way light interacts with materials: six photorealistic shaders (Pearl, Metallic Paint, Dust, Satin, Chrome Halo and Thin Film) and four non-photorealistic shaders (Banded, Comic, Flat and Sketch). Each shader includes unique Tweak controls as well as the standard shader controls such as Surface Color, Diffuse and Specular.
The second set consists of 24 new 3D maps. Because the maps are procedural, they are generated at render time, use little memory and are of infinite resolution. Like the shaders, each map comes complete with a set of Tweaks controls.
The third set provides 110 procedural materials that combine both shading and procedural texturing to offer realistic, ready-to-use textures including stones, skins, woods and more. Each procedural material is customizable via Tweaks controls.
SimbiontMAX 2.0 is currently shipping and has a list price of $195. It is newly available on CD-ROM from select 3ds max plugin resellers. An electronic download is still available for purchase directly from Darkling Simulations. A demo is available from their Web site at http://www.darksim.com.
England's LightWork Design, a supplier of rendering engines for 3D design software applications, today announced the launch of the newest release of its flagship product, LightWorks v6.0. The rendering system integrates all key rendering techniques and is designed for direct integration into 3D software applications.
New features include:
ARM, a provider of 16/32-bit embedded RISC processor solutions, and Superscape plc, an interactive 3D specialist, plan to collaborate on the development of interactive 3D (i3D) enabling technology for wireless devices. This relationship will enable a new generation of multimedia for 2.5 and 3G mobile phones for applications including entertainment, information services, personalized navigation and innovative messaging systems.
Under the terms of the agreement, Superscape will license their SWERVE i3D software engine to ARM.
Superscape says its patent-pending i3D technology for wireless devices can deliver interactive services on both 2G and 2.5G networks, prior to the introduction of the 3G roll out. The new technology, which will provide an engine and content-authoring capabilities, has been designed to integrate with other development tools, such as Java technology, to encourage the widespread proliferation of i3D content for wireless devices.
Hold onto your pocketbook: Newly available from Bionatics is natFX, which the company claims is the first 3D plant modeler using behavioral animation technology. Using "bio-computing technology," the software is designed to allow for easy and rapid animation of complex vegetation. Initially a Maya plug-in, natFX will also be made available for 3ds max before year's end.
Based on AMAP technology that combines vegetal biology and computer science, natFX models and animates all types of plants. Botanic parameters (age, season, structure...) are automatically calculated for each model. Wood flexibility, leaf attachment strength and branch to trunk attachment are reproduced as well. The software is available in two versions : natFX Base and natFX Ultimate. natFX Ultimate allows the user to manipulate in real-time , heavy scenes and complex vegetation.
Bionatics will launch natFX with a 10-plant library as of August 1. Usera can purchase plants online from Bionatics' web site. The site has over 500 different plants and trees from around the world.
natFX base = $2,500 US (with 10 plants of your choice)
natFX Ultimate = $3,500 US (with 10 plants of your choice)
Extra plants = $200-$300 US
At this year's Siggraph, Cybelius Software of San Jose, Calif., will be demonstrating Conductor, its new 3D server software Conductor Runtime Platform with the Sharemore module that makes it possible for users at different locations to collaboratively view 3D models.
Announced in May, Cybelius Conductor is a 3D server platform designed to provide a rich-media solution for e-commerce and e-business sites. With Conductor, database-driven models allow a variety number of product configurations on a site. With Sharemore, as one user manipulates the model, the same interactions appear on the remote computers. This new capability is suitable for customer service, online training and collaborative product development.
Today's broadband consumers want games-on-demand from their service providers according to a survey published last week by Into Networks, whose content delivery platform enables software to stream in real time over the Internet. Further, the report indicated that more than 71 percent of the people surveyed would like to see games-on-demand services offered as a bundle, similar to the way cable provides expanded TV programming -- a basic package, plus selected software titles and a premium package. The study was conducted by Digital Research, Inc. to understand broadband consumers' interest toward new value-added services from their providers.
This consumer interest creates strong revenue prospects for Web sites, as well as game and software publishers whose products are offered on-demand. IntoMedia, Into's streaming technology platform, provides publishers and retailers new product opportunities to generate revenue, while giving customers new options for renting games.
Other survey highlights include:
The demographic profile of broadband consumers is primarily adults 35 to 44 years old, almost evenly split between male and female. The average household includes two adults and more than 29 percent of those households include approximately two children.
Most households have had high-speed Internet access between one to two years and spend 22 hours each week, on average, accessing the Internet at home. The average number of home computers connected to the Internet was 1.7. More than 83 percent have purchased PC games in the past year. The average number of software titles purchased in the past year was 6.6.
The results of this survey were based on a sample of 331 members of the Digital Research Consumer Technology Panel. A sample of this size is reportedly accurate to plus or minus 5.4 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.
The complete survey results are available upon request through Into's Web site, http://www.intonet.com.
Viewpoint Corporation, the product of a merger between the erstwhile 3D clip-art retailer and the former Metacreations, last week announced that it has entered into a broadcast licensing and distribution agreement with America Online, Inc. under which AOL will pay to Viewpoint undisclosed annual license fees.
The Viewpoint Media Player will assist AOL in providing rich media content to its customers. The Viewpoint Media Player provides integrated playback of interactive 3D, Flash, 2D "Zoomview," panoramas, character animation, video and audio, within an XML envelope and rendered windowlessly on any Web page.
Sony Computer Entertainment America last week released Extermination, an action-thriller for PlayStation 2. Developed by Deep Space, Inc., the creator of MegaMan, Ghouls and Ghosts and TOMBA! and from the executive producer of Bio Hazard.
Players navigate through intricate levels using "on-the-fly" decision making and strategic survival tactics to outlast and defeat a deadly mutant virus. The developer collaborated with weapons expert Ichiro Nagata, a writer and photographer for Combat Magazine.
Players can customize their weapon, the Special Purpose Rifle 4 (SPR4), with several different types of upgrades, including a tactical grip, grenade launcher, flame thrower, shotgun unit, zoom and night scope among many other components.
At a secret military station in Antarctica, Extermination sets the stage for the mission to save mankind from a virus that infects both organic and inorganic objects. Playing as U.S. Special Forces Marines RECON team "Red Light" member Dennis Riley, players brave blizzards and pressure situations on a mission through a military base, only to discover this biological disaster. Surviving carnage is an element of Extermination, but strategic planning is essential. Dennis must defeat the mutant creatures and exterminate the virus, before he becomes infected and mutates.
Features include environments with adverse weather conditions, various creatures and weapon accessories, third- or first-person view, and cinematic cut-scenes.
Crave Entertainment last week released its Dreamcast title, "Soldier of Fortune," previously published for PC by Activision. The ultra-violent (rated Mature) first-person shooter presents players with a variety of missions in which they eliminate the enemy with extreme detriment.
The covert-operative missions pit protagonist John Mullins against a fanatical terrorist organization intent on mass murder and destruction. The 3D title offers 30 international missions that run the gamut from speeding African freight trains to Russian chemical plants. The game's precision shooting physics localizes damage: for example, a shot to the opponent's shoulder causes the arm to fall off, while a shot to the leg leaves the target writhing and grabbing at the wound.
Sweden-based MindArk AB has begun selection of approximately 500 additional testers for its Phase II beta test. Project Entropia is said to be a new form of Internet-based interactive entertainment that will be made available free to Internet users. In the roles of human colonists on the virtual planet Calypso, they will be able to meet and socialize or adventure into wilderness areas where they will face challenges from wild indigenous creatures and invading robots. Prospective beta testers can apply at
Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. says that Max Payne, the action PC game from its GodGames publishing subsidiary, has shipped to retailers in North America and Europe. The publisher expects the game, developed by Finland's Remedy Entertainment and 3D Realms, to be one of the biggest PC games of the year. A PS2 port is in the works.
George Broussard, president of 3D Realms, stated, "Max Payne captures the mood and feeling of a classic film noir detective thriller, and Remedy has crafted a movie-quality script in the process. It's all about action, but there is a deep and rich plot here to uncover as you play."
WEB2001 and Internet+Mobile Conference & Exposition will be held in San Francisco's Moscone Center on September 4-8, 2001. The event brings together a diverse group of keynote speakers, from technologists to writers and musicians, to offer attendees a wider perspective on Web and mobile development. The keynote speakers include Lawrence Lessig (law), Thomas Dolby Robertson (music and technology), Grady Booch (programming), Warren Ellis (comic book creator) and Stewart Brand (writer and futurist). The conference addresses the growing need for Web and mobile professionals to be more productive and efficient, by encouraging them to think about technology from a multi-disciplinary perspective.
Lawrence Lessig, professor of Law at Stanford Law School and author of "Code, and Other Laws of Cyberspace," will deliver a keynote titled "The Impact of Code Plus Law." This presentation will demonstrate how the law can often clash with technology, and even circumvent it. The keynote panel, "Innovations and Deadlines," will examine the creative process and explore how people develop ideas that change an industry. Speakers on the panel are Grady Booch, creator of UML, Warren Ellis, comic book creator known for DC comics' "Transmetropolitan," and Thomas Dolby Robertson, rock star and founder of Beatnik. Keynote presenter Stewart Brand, author of "How Buildings Learn" and "The Clock of the Long Now," will examine why all technology should be adaptable, functional and built to last.
Other speakers include:
Convergence 2001: TV's Interactive Revolution will take place September 11 in Marina del Rey, Calif. Producers The Carmel Group has announced two keynote speakers:
Topics for discussion include:
Use promotional code "SNAP" for $100 discount. Register by August 1 for additional $100 discount http://www.carmelgroup.com/conferences/C2001/register_C2001.cfm
For further information and a full agenda: http://www.carmelgroup.com/conferences/C2001/conv2001_2.cfm
InfoTrends Research Group, Inc. recently announced a speaker roster of over 45 digital imaging experts for its conference and exhibition, “Digital Imaging ’01 - Digital Photography, Photofinishing and Internet Imaging”. The event, featuring 23 sessions, will take place on September 20-21, 2001 at the Westin Santa Clara Hotel in Santa Clara, CA. Attendees will include product development, strategic planning, engineering, and sales and marketing executives from imaging hardware, software, Internet and technology companies, as well as retailers, distributors, investors and consultants. Sessions will include market outlook presentations by InfoTrends analysts.
The conference opens on day one with a keynote by Stanley E. Freimuth, COO of Fujifilm USA. Freimuth will detail his outlook on the future of digital imaging and related markets, with particular emphasis on emerging technologies, digital output solutions and new pockets of revenue for manufacturers and retailers. Additional sessions on day one focus in on capital markets and venture funding, the digital camera and scanner markets, the latest print technologies, and the evolving role of electronic images in 21st century business.
Day two kicks off with a keynote address by Mark Viken, senior VP of Sony Electronics, who will address how the technical innovations explored on the first day of the conference will be integrated into the consumer digital lifestyle of the future. Sessions on the final day of the conference delve into topics such as wireless and Internet imaging, imaging devices and appliance, and digital video.
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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