Spectrum: Interactive Media & Online Developer News

2 June 2003
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Today's Headlines (details below)

WEBMEISTER --Zapatec Announces Free Web Publishing Service

IN THE INFOGROOVE --Broadband Subscriptions Up 488 Percent Since December '99
--Results of Chinese Online Gaming Market Survey Released

GRAPHICALLY SPEAKING --DAZ Updates 3D Facial Animation Software
--HI Develops 3D BREW Extension
--3D Compression Releases Rhino Web 3D Exporter
--Wildform Upgrades Flash Software

THE DIALS & LEVERS OF POWER --Acacia Launches Entertainment Tech Report

DEALS --3D Pipeline, Univessence Team on 3D City Simulation
--Toshiba Licenses Flash SDK

GAMES PEOPLE PLAY --Activision Releases GC Lost Kingdoms II from From
--Warcraft III Expansion Goes Gold
--Sony Ships MMO FPS

NUMBEROLOGY --Poll Shows Americans Favor Computer for Home Entertainment
--Interplay Q1 '03 Earnings Up

DIGERATI ILLUMINATI --Kaydara Wins Canadian Tech Award

HAPPENINGS --Siggraph to Host 21 Real-Time Interactive Installations

F.Y.I. --About Spectrum


Zapatec Announces Free Web Publishing Service

Berkeley-based Zapatec, Inc. last week announced Bloki (http://www.bloki.com/), a new free service that lets users users set up new Blokis in less than two minutes, then add pages as fast as they can type in a word processor-style editor. Giving co-workers, friends, or family permission to read private pages or edit entails sending an email message. All of Bloki's tools are available instantly to anyone with a Web browser; no plug-ins or other downloads are required.

Bloki's WYSIWYG editor provides formatting and other options, including fonts, paragraph styles, graphics, tables, and hyperlinks.

Each page can be set public, so anyone with a Web browser can read it, or private, visible only to a Bloki's members. Users let co-workers, friends, or family read private pages or help edit a Bloki by submitting their email addresses in an "Add Members" form. Bloki's history feature keeps track of who made changes to a page. Using an RSS service such as newsisfree.com or bloglet.com, visitors and members can be notified by email when pages are updated, or can receive the updated pages themselves by email.

In addition to the Web site, each Bloki also includes a blog. Blog entries use the same WYSIWYG editor and have the same options as pages, including the public/private setting and graphics. Since any Bloki member with edit access can add entries to the blog, it's a handy tool for workgroup discussions or team updates.

In the future, Zapatec will offer Bloki Pro, a paid version with virtual domain hosting (www.yourdomain.com in place of yourname.bloki.com) and other capabilities.



Broadband Subscriptions Up 488 Percent Since December '99

Broadband subscriptions have grown at a healthy pace since December 1999. According to a new study by AeA (American Electronics Association), broadband subscribers jumped 488 percent, from 2.8 million in December 1999 to 16.2 million in June 2002. The stu dy is based on Federal Communications Commission (FCC) data.

"Broadband in the States 2003" found that there is some indication that growth has recently slowed, increasing by 27 percent between December 2001 and June 2002. This 27 percent increase was the slowest since the FCC started collecting statistics back in 1999.

Other findings include:

"Broadband in the States 2003" examines the broadband industry at the national and state level between December 1999 and June 2002 and is based on the most current U.S. government data. AeA members can purchase the report for $45; non-members for $90. Vis it http://www.aeanet.org to download the report, or call 800-284-4232 or 408-987-4200.

Results of Chinese Online Gaming Market Survey Released

17173.com , a Web portal focusing on Chinese online games, announced at the recent 2003 E3 show the results of the 2003 China Online Game Survey, conducted by 17173.com from April 9 to May 13, 2003.

Highlights include:

According to IDC, the total market size of the Chinese online gaming industry has exceeded 1.2 billion US dollars in 2002, of which more than 100 million USD was directly generated from the subscription fees paid by online game players. There are over 60 million Internet users in China and about half of them play online games. The three largest Internet portal sites in China--Sina.com, Netease.com, and Sohu.com--have all entered the online gaming business.

For further information, contact Ming Liu, mliu2000@aol.com, or ZongJian Cai, Duke@17173.com, both of 17173.com, +1-909-612-1681.


DAZ Updates 3D Facial Animation Software

DAZ Productions last week released its first software application: Mimic 2.0 Pro.

Mimic 2.0 ($55.97) is a new version of a lip-syncing program that interprets speech from recorded sound files and outputs an animation file that allows the speech to be combined with a human figure and automatically animated.

Features include:

Mimic 2 Pro ($139.97), a professional version with advanced features, is also available.


HI Develops 3D BREW Extension

Tokyo-based HI Corporation last week launched Mascot Capsule Micro3D Engine extension, a 3D software rendering engine for Qualcomm's Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless (BREW) platform.

"Today, Mascot Capsule enjoys a strong user base of developers in Japan, and we expect that the release of our BREW extension will provide our current and future Mascot Capsule users with the capabilities to deliver ... interactive 3D content for BREW-ena bled devices," said HI CEO Kazuo Kawabata. "The emerging generation of wireless devices is ... suited for the applications that companies such as Bandai America and other ... developers are creating ..."

Qualcomm's BREW is a product and business system for the development and over-the-air deployment of data services on wireless devices. It provides tools and value-added services to developers, device manufacturers, and wireless operators for applications development and distribution, device configuration, and billing and payment.

For further information, contact Ritsuko Hirose of HI Corporation, +81-3-3710-2843, hirose_Ritsuko@hicorp.co.jp.

3D Compression Releases Rhino Web 3D Exporter

Just out from 3D Compression Technologies (www.3dcompress.com) is a $99 3D Web export plug-in for the Rhino modeler (www.rhino3d.com). The plug-in lets users save a 3D model to a file, reportedly 95% smaller than the original, that is viewable and manipul able on a Web page in 3D. A free ActiveX control/Netscape plug-in viewer can be used to examine models without Rhino.

Wildform Upgrades Flash Software

Wildform has just released Wild fx 3.0, an upgrade to its Flash text-animation software, previously sold under the name SWfX (they changed the name because no one could pronounce SWfX). Wild fx 3.0, $39 for Windows and Mac, comes with 417 effects that wor k with installed fonts. Creating a text animation involves entering text and selecting an effect.

Among the new features are:



Acacia Launches Entertainment Tech Report

Acacia Research Group recently launched Entertainment Technology Report, a monthly newsletter on the latest technology and business trends in the video services and video game marketplaces. The report promises real analysis based on real data collection.

The table of contents of the first issue includes:

Video Services: Q42002 DSTB Shipment Results
Humdrum Connectors Reveal DSTB Future
Game Technology
Wireless; Hype or Holy Grail: A Forecast
Game Console Forecast
Enabling Technologies
Video Services
Handheld Devices
Entertainment Technology Quarterly Results Trading Data

For a sample issue, fill out and submit the sample issue request form at http://www.acaciarg.com.


3D Pipeline, Univessence Team on 3D City Simulation

3D Pipeline Corporation (3DP) and Univessence Digital Studios (USA), Inc. ("UDS") announce their collaboration in the development of photorealistic real-time 3D computer-generated simulation technology and databases of urban environments, suitable for defense, homeland security, and entertainment applications.

3DP's HyperPipe image generator technology enables real-time visualization of high-resolution 3D model databases utilizing texture maps of up to 2k x 2k resolution. HyperPipe supports atmospheric and physical effects including rain, clouds, gas propagation, time of day lighting, weapon effects, wind, and water. HyperPipe is optimized for true real-time performance with large databases on consumer-grade computers.

UDS' production workforce creates geospecific and geotypical computer-generated 3D model databases of urban environments from satellite, aerial, and ground-level photographic imagery. Model databases are built to any desired degree of detail, from game qu ality to photo-realism.

Defense and security applications include urban warfare simulation, flight simulation, mission planning and rehearsal, terrorism response planning and training, and C4I. Entertainment applications include special effects, previsualization, simulation-base d games, and animation.

3DP and UDS will be displaying their capabilities at the Paris Air Show (15-22 June, Le Bourget, Paris, France); Siggraph (27-31 July, San Diego, California); AFCEA (7-9 October, Ft. Huachuca, Arizona); and I/ITSEC (1-4 December, Orlando, Florida).


Toshiba Licenses Flash SDK

Toshiba Information Systems (Japan) and Macromedia last week announced a licensing agreement to integrate Flash support into Toshiba's embedded software offerings.



Activision Releases GC Lost Kingdoms II from From

Just out from Activision is Lost Kingdoms II for Nintendo GameCube. Set 200 years after the events of the original game, the title challenges players to uncover the origin of a new evil force that is threatening to destroy the Kingdom of Argwyll.

Developed by FromSoftware, Inc., the RPG returns players to the perilous realm of Argwyll, this time as a new heroine named Tara, an abandoned child raised by a gang of thieves, who possesses a magical Runestone. As Tara, players must use the Runestone to summon both supernatural and mechanical guardian creatures as they travel through more than 26 worlds filled with forests, mountains and fortresses. Drawing upon their deck of more than 200 guardian creature cards, including 100 all-new cards, players ba ttle more than 200 enemies ranging from fighting skeletons and fire-breathing dragons to new mechanized beasts. Additionally, a new card transformational ability lets gamers turn into a variety of creatures to launch power attacks, overcome obstacles, sol ve puzzles and venture to hidden areas throughout the game.

In addition to the single-player story mode, Lost Kingdoms II also includes an expanded multi-player option where gamers can pit themselves against one another to battle in two-player Versus Mode.


Warcraft III Expansion Goes Gold

Blizzard Entertainment says Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne, the expansion set to the popular PC game ever, has gone gold. With initial orders of over 2.5 million copies, the game will be available at retail outlets worldwide in multiple languages beginni ng July 1.

In the single-player campaign, players revisit the war-torn world of Azeroth. Several months have passed since Archimonde and the Burning Legion were defeated at the battle of Mount Hyjal, yet a new threat has arisen throughout the land.

The evil Lich King Nerazhul has been imprisoned inside the Icecrown glacier, deep within the arctic continent of Northrend. Although the former Orc shaman lacks physical form, his soul lives on, forever seeking a means to escape his icy prison. As the sag a continues, it is revealed that both the Night Elf renegade, Illidan, and the traitorous Death Knight, Arthas, seek the Icecrown glacier and the mysterious powers found inside. To save all of Azeroth from the forces of darkness, players must traverse unc harted lands and battle treacherous new enemies while uncovering the schemes of these nefarious beings.

Features include:


Sony Ships MMO FPS

Sony Online Entertainment Inc. recently released its massively multiplayer online first-person action game, PlanetSide, to U.S. and Canadian retail stores. The game allows thousands of players to fight online in a reportedly unprecedented all-hours-of-day global war. The company also announced its first planned post-launch additional features including several new vehicles and game options. PlanetSide has a suggested retail price of $49.99, and includes a 30-day subscription to the game.

Players choose their allegiance and enlist with one of three empires, gaining experience with every conflict, and can excel in more than 30 combat specialties, including infantry, sniper, stealth commando, engineer, hacker, medic, pilot, driver and more. Other features include:

The first new features planned for release post-launch include three new vehicles: a bomber, an airborne vehicle transport and a four-wheeled anti-aircraft buggy. New game options include the ability to form three squadrons of 10 men each into one large p latoon and Sanctuary strikes, where empires can strike at previously untouchable bases, and outfit competitions, pitting squads against one another.



Poll Shows Americans Favor Computer for Home Entertainment

The focal point of home entertainment is changing as the computer edges out traditional consumer electronic devices in overall importance, according to the results of a new survey conducted by Harris Interactive Inc. for Microsoft. The survey, which polle d more than 2,000 computer users ages 13 years and older, revealed that the computer is redefining how people entertain themselves in the home. Almost half of those surveyed said their computer is more important than their television (43 percent), while n early two-thirds said their computer outranks their CD player (63 percent), stereo (61 percent) or DVD player (59 percent).

As its role in home entertainment expands, the computer is moving out of the home office and into more-social rooms of the house, according to respondents. More than half of those polled (63 percent) use a computer in the living room, family room, den, di ning room, kitchen, media room or other group space in the home, including 28 percent who use a computer in the living room specifically.

People are also becoming more confident about creating and enjoying their own entertainment content on the computer, the survey shows. For example, 44 percent of respondents said they consider themselves either "very" or "extremely" knowledgeable about burning CDs, and 48 percent said the next computer they buy absolutely must have a DVD burner. More than half (57 percent) said the ability to edit personal photographs is important to them.

Consumers' increased confidence in digital media also has resulted in growing interest in new ways to use the computer to enjoy entertainment. Sixty-nine percent of respondents said they are interested in having access to their digital music collection fr om anywhere in their home, as well as access to videos (51 percent) and photographs (51 percent). Sixty percent are interested in accessing entertainment on their computer without using a mouse or keyboard.


Interplay Q1 '03 Earnings Up

Interplay Entertainment Corp. last week reported operating results for the first quarter of 2003.

For the first quarter ended March 31, 2003, the company reported a net income of $5.6 million, or $.06 per basic and diluted share, compared to a net income of $1.5 million, or $.03 per basic share and $.02 per diluted share, in the same period last year. Net revenues for the first quarter 2003 were $18.8 million versus $15.4 million in the same period a year ago, an increase of 22 percent. Finally, operating income increased 267 percent from the prior year to $5.6 million in the first quarter 2003 as com pared to $1.5 million in the first quarter 2002. The increase in net revenues and net income was mainly due to the sale of all future interactive entertainment publishing rights to the "Hunter: The Reckoning" franchise for $15 million.

Gross profit margin for the first quarter 2003 was 63 percent, compared to 71 percent in the first quarter of 2002. Gross profit margin was lower in the first quarter this year as compared to last year mainly due to $1.8 million in write-offs of developme nt projects that were impaired because these titles were not expected to meet desired profit requirements and was offset in part by no inventory expenditures for delivering the gold master to one title in the first quarter this year under the new North Am erican distribution agreement with Vivendi Universal Games, Inc. Under this new agreement, Vivendi pays a lower per unit rate and in return is responsible for all manufacturing, marketing and distribution expenditures. Total operating expenses decreased 34 percent to $6.2 million from $9.4 million in the first quarter of this year as compared to the same period last year.

Net revenues by platform for the first quarter of 2003 were 3 percent PC, 16 percent console, and 81 percent OEM, royalties and licensing. On a geographic basis, North America accounted for 10 percent of total net revenues, International represented 9 per cent, and OEM, royalty and licensing accounted for 81 percent.


Kaydara Wins Canadian Tech Award

Kaydara, a Montréal-based developer of 3D character-animation and motion-capture software, has won Quebec's Mercuriades 2003 Technical Innovation Award (SMB) for the development of its FBX technology, a universal 3D interchange format that allows digital artists to view and transport content from one 3D package to another. The Technical Innovation category honors a business that gained distinction through technology that evolved from its own internal research and development program.

FBX is a five-year-old binary file format that supports all the major 3D data elements, as well as 2D, audio, and video media elements.



Siggraph to Host 21 Real-Time Interactive Installations

ACM Siggraph says there will be 21 real-time interactive installations from corporate labs, educational institutions, and individuals in the Siggraph 2003 Emerging Technologies program. Siggraph 2003 is the 30th International Conference on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques, being held 27-31 July, at the San Diego Convention Center, San Diego, California.

Said Joshua Strickon, Siggraph 2003 Emerging Technologies chair, "They ... give us a look at the future of robotics, music, displays technologies, 'intelligent' environments, haptics, sensors, wireless, virtual and augmented reality, collaborative environ ments, art, and entertainment."

The installations will include:

atMOS: Self-Packaged Movie, Taku Kotabe, Keio University: In this location-based entertainment attraction, players generate movie clips that are synchronized with their body movements. The self-packaged movie can be viewed, sent, and traded with others on third-generation mobile phones.

Food Simulator, Hiroo Iwata, University of Tsukuba: The Food Simulator integrates the auditory and chemical sensations of eating. The sound of biting is captured by a bone-vibration microphone and displayed by a bone-vibration speaker. It is synchronized with the biting action. Chemical sensations of taste are displayed using a micro injector installed in the end effecter (fork or spoon). The chemical sensation is synthesized from five elements of basic taste: sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and smell (displa yed by a vaporizer).

Everday Devices that See: Electronic-Perception Technology, James Spare, Canesta, Inc.: Electronic perception technology is a new, low-cost, single-chip imaging technology that creates 3D images of its nearby surroundings in real time, enabling everyday d evices to "see." This project demonstrates the first application of this technology: a projection keyboard for mobile and wireless devices.

Building Intelligent Environments With Smart-Its, Lars Erik Holmquist, Future Applications Lab, Viktoria Institute: The Smart-Its project develops technology to realize a vision of "computation everywhere," or ubiquitous computing, where computer technology is seamlessly integrated in everyday life, supporting users in everyday tasks. The researchers approach this vision by creating a class of very small computers, which are equipped with wireless communication and a number of different sensors. By attach ing these to everyday objects, it is possible to create "smart" artifacts with very little overhead. Do you need a coffee-cup that knows if it is full or empty, a table that tracks the objects you put on it, or a wine bottle that can tell if it has been s tored correctly? No problem -- just attach a Smart-It!

Body Brush, Horace H.S. Ip, City University of Hong Kong: Body Brush creates a human-computer interface that transforms unique human body language into 3D paintings in real time. With a locally developed motion-analysis system that can effectively capture human 3D motion data, the interface enables users to interact intuitively with the machine and provides an unprecedented aesthetic experience.

SmartTouch: A New Skin Layer to Touch the Non-Touchable, Hiroyuki Kajimoto, The University of Tokyo: SmartTouch is a haptic augmented-reality system based on electrical stimulation to convert sensed information into skin sensation. It is composed of a thi n electro-tactile display and sensors mounted on the skin, so the wearer can not only make physical contact with objects, but also touch surface information of any type.

The Walk-Through Fog Screen Experience, Ismo Rakkolainen, Tampere University of Technology: The walk-through fog screen is a novel and intriguing method for forming a superior-quality, physically penetrable fog projection screen. The image floats in thin air, and when you touch or walk through it, you can't feel anything. Applications include walk-through, play-with advertisements in shops or malls; walk-through screens in museums, science centers, or theatres; special effects; or theme-park entrances. Th e fog screen can also be used in CAVE-like virtual rooms to create fog walls. The fog screen is non-breakable, which enables safe gaming, exercise, or training, and unsupervised public presentations. It also enables the audience to enter and exit rapidly through the walls into virtual environments, which may be even sequential.

A complete list of the Siggraph 2003 Emerging Technologies installations can be found at http://www.siggraph.org/s2003/conference/etech/index.html.


About Spectrum

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/online-development tools and end product for review.

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