11 June 2001
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Spectrum will be taking next weekend off; we'll return June 25. Happy Summer Solstice!
- David Duberman
Actuality Systems, Inc., a developer of 3D display technology, demonstrated what it says is one of the world's highest-performance three-dimensional displays at SID 2001, the 32nd Annual Symposium of the Society for Information Display held last week in San Jose. The spherical display monitor, code-named Helios, looks more like a 20-inch-diameter globe than a traditional flat computer screen. It can show high-resolution color images that appear to hover in three-dimensional space, enabling users to move around the display and view the images from any angle across a full 360 degrees.
The technology, closely guarded since the company's founding in 1997, is believed now to provide the highest resolution volumetric imagery ever developed. The prototype display has a resolution of more than 100 million volume pixels or "voxels." Instead of flat square pixels, voxels also have depth. The resolution is defined in terms of a stack of flat slices arranged around a centerline like the sections of an apple around its core. The volumetric resolution of the Actuality prototype is therefore described as 198 slices that are each 768 pixels high x 768 pixels wide.
Unlike some 3D displays that require special stereoscopic goggles to simulate multi-dimensional imagery, or flat-screen monitors that translate 3D data into flat 2-D images, Actuality's technology is volumetric, meaning that it actually illuminates voxels throughout the full range of 3D locations within the spherical display. Futhermore, a custom embedded graphics architecture takes computational load off the user's workstation, enabling fully animated 3D imagery that can be controlled and maneuvered from the keyboard.
Actuality uses proprietary graphics-rendering algorithms to generate fast scene drawing needed for smooth animation. In addition, by using a high-speed, high-resolution projector, the display can create bitmapped 3D imagery that gives users access to 100 percent of the available volume instead of just a small portion of the display as with traditional vector systems.
Since the display is based on a standard graphics library, it can be used with a range of commonly used programs for mechanical CAD, molecular visualization, and medical imaging.
The firm is currently in the process of identifying beta sites in several industries. More information is available at http://www.actuality-systems.com.
The Kernel Group, a developer of enterprise software solutions, last week at the JavaOne conference unveiled an enhanced version of AutoTrace, its software "flight recorder" that adds debugging capabilities to companies' software products. Major new features include Java support, a new graphical user interface, de-referencing capabilities, and native compiler support.
A multi-platform software analysis tool, AutoTrace is designed to work with complex, multi-threaded and distributed applications that cannot be traced with traditional debugging tools. It can be used in both the developmental and production environments while minimizing the impact on performance and resources.
AutoTrace 3.1 extends the power and flexibility of the AutoTrace C/C++ solution to all Java software, including standalone applications, applets, and servlets. The existing features of AutoTrace, such as automatic instrumentation without code modification, minimal performance impact, dynamic control of trace levels, and First Failure Data Capture are available for all Java applications. AutoTrace 3.1 also provides full support for Java threads and exceptions on all platforms.
The new graphical user interface provides the ability to view all information on both a summary and detail level, a search and filtering tool, and customization.
The de-referencing feature permits viewing details of data structures that pointers refer to in C/C++ code. Kernel says this feature can be used to gain insight into the cause of crashes or other unexpected behavior. Like other AutoTrace features, de-referencing can be dynamically enabled and disabled without affecting the running program.
Native compiler support adds the Sun/Forte and HP/aCC compilers to the list of compilers AutoTrace supports out of the box. Solaris and HP-UX users can now more easily integrate AutoTrace using either gcc or the native compilers.
Just out from Macromedia is JRun Server 3.1, the latest version of one its Java technology-based application servers. Features include Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition (J2EE) compatibility and new productivity features.
Also, Macromedia last week announced new initiatives geared to increase the extensibility of its JRun Java application server. The company says it will partner with leading Java development tool vendors and working with Intel on JRun support and certification on Itanium 64, and delivering J2EE compatible functionality with the now available JRun 3.1.
Also, the company announced that Java developers are leveraging the open architecture of Macromedia Dreamweaver UltraDev 4 to integrate it with their business solutions. UltraDev provides a visual development environment for authoring of the presentation layer of dynamic Web sites and applications that work with other Web solutions.
Lastly, Blue Martini Software announced new extensions to Macromedia Dreamweaver UltraDev 4, said to enable developers to extend the Blue Martini external customer relationship management (eCRM) application suite. The new UltraDev extensions enable developers to visually design Java Server Pages (JSP), and insert or modify objects and method calls for Blue Martini applications from within the UltraDev user interface without having to write code.
McAfee Retail Software, a division of Network Associates Inc., has begun shipping the latest retail version of McAfee PGP Personal Security. The product provides consumers protection for data including files, disks, email and communication across the Internet.
New features include:
frontpath, inc., a subsidiary of SONICblue Incorporated, has formed a partnership with HealthBlocks, Inc. a Web-based medical applications provider. Together, the companies will integrate frontpath's ProGear, a wireless, broadband-based, customizable information appliance offering streaming audio and video capability, with HealthBlocks' enSite, a turnkey clinical web integration framework that is installed over hospitals' legacy information systems enabling the conversion of paper-based clinical information to digital content.
The companies will target hospitals and healthcare facilities that want to provide patient records in electronic format and do not have the capital dollars to invest in larger information systems.
ProGear supports X86 compatibility and offers a soft keyboard and a touch screen for quick access to applications or the Internet. The 3-pound product comes with 64mb of system memory, a 10.4" display, Soundblaster-compatible audio, microphone/headphone support and a 3-cell battery. An optional 6-cell battery, cradle with integrated USB hub and charging station, keyboard and mouse are also available.
ProGear includes the Linux 2.4x operating system, Netscape browser version 4.74 and an extensive set of utilities and diagnostics. ProGear is available in hard disk drive and thin client versions.
VRex Inc., a developer of 3D stereoscopic imaging products, last week released DepthCharge 2.0, an enhanced version of the Web-browser plug-in and viewer for viewing 3D stereoscopic images both online and offline.
New features include the ability to view streaming video on and support for multiple Windows platforms including NT, Win 98, ME, and 2000. DepthCharge 2.0 also features smart stereo scrolling which automatically maintains a stereo picture as a viewer scrolls in a window.
The software lets users view 3D images with a variety of viewing methods, including LC shutter glasses, anaglyph glasses, parallel "free viewing" and cross-eye. It defaults to 2D viewing in a browser with an option to view in 3D.
This month Boris will ship its new FX 6.0, an upgrade to the company's visual effects and image processing application. New features include natural effects filters such as Fire, Rain, Snow and Stars; advanced particle effects such as Stars and 3D Image Shatter; lighting filters; compositing tools such as apply modes, displacement maps and motion blur; audio support; and support for third-party video plug-ins.
Feature highlights in Boris FX 6.0 include: Natural Filters: Clouds, Fire, Rain, Snow, Comets, Sparks, and Stars are all auto-animated filters, allowing users to quickly create effects. These filters offer a variety of interaction and compositing options using alpha channels.
Lighting Filters provide simulated extrusions, bump maps, and gel and matte effects with user-defined shapes.
Compositing Tools include 27 Apply modes for each layer in Boris FX, motion blur, displacement maps, advanced particle and lighting filters, and Smart View to dynamically update views of animated parameters in the timeline.
Audio Import and Playback Scratch audio track includes timeline waveform display and level controls to enable easier reference and synchronization to audio during effect animation design. Real-time playback of scrub audio, and sync audio during Preview to RAM.
Third Party Plug-ins from packages developed for Adobe After Effects can now be used with all NLE systems supported by Boris FX 6.0. They appear in the Boris FX Filters menu, and behave like other Boris filters.
Open GL and Dual Processor Support on both Windows and Macintosh computers means faster effects creation and faster rendering. Boris FX 6.0 also features Altivec enhancement on Macintosh G4 computers.
Just out from non-linear video editing specialist Canopus Corporation is StormEncoder, a real-time MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 hardware encoding module for use with the company's real-time NLE DVStorm. With StormEncoder, DVStorm users can encode edited video directly from Adobe Premiere or Canopus StormEdit timelines.
StormEncoder is based on the MN85560 MPEG encoder chip from Panasonic in combination with Canopus' MPEG audio encoding technology. It reportedly encodes footage in real-time (and in near real-time when encoding directly from the timeline) using Main Profile at Main Level MPEG-2 (MP@ML) using IBP frame format.
With variable and constant bit rate options (from 1Mbps to 15Mbps), users can adjust the bandwidth depending on the complexity of the video. On the audio front, StormEncoder supports PCM and MPEG Layer I and Layer II formats up to 48khz at 16 bits.
Toon Boom Technologies, a developer of 2D animation software, last week released the Mac beta version of Toon Boom Studio, software for 2D Web animation, and launched its "Tooning into Animation" contest for Mac OS X users.
The contest challenges users to use Toon Boom Studio in one of three Web animation categories: music videos, political cartoons and online advertising. One winner in each category will work directly with interactive entertainment giant Sega of America, Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Mike Luckovich and DJ Mark Farina to create Web-based animated shorts.
The Toon Boom Studio public beta software is now available as a free download from the company's Web site at http://www.toonboomstudio.com, where the contest is being hosted. Entries for the contest must be created using the Mac OS X version of Toon Boom Studio. Luckovich, Farina and the vice president of marketing communications at Sega of America will select a winner in each category based on originality, creativity and overall consumer appeal.
Toon Boom Studio 1.0 is a 2D animation tool for animators, Web designers and graphic artists on the Web. The software automates routine processes and offers features such as paperless drawing, inking and painting; lip synchronization; and 3D scene planning.
Toronto-based Arius3D Inc. recently deployed its first color scanning systems in its Utah and Toronto service bureau locations. The system is based on Arius3D’s core scanning technology (called Foundation), which the company says is the only one that simultaneously captures the true color and geometry of an object, with perfect registration, independent of ambient light. The result is photo-realistic, 3D copies of real-world objects, which can be used for a variety of applications including the wired and wireless Web, video games, multimedia, film, advertising, product design, education, heritage, and manufacturing.
Traditional 3D scanning and modeling techniques involve the capture of color and geometry separately, followed by a texture-mapping phase to merge them together. These methods are time consuming and expensive. Arius3D's solution uses a proprietary laser scanning system whose results are unaffected by ambient light, giving end users color data without light artifacts at microscopic resolution. Data captured from 3D color point-clouds contains detailed color information, which can be used for such things as grouping, animation and part separation.
This isn't an ad; we just like to support small companies that make nifty 3D software. The 3D character-animation software package Life Forms Studio 3.9 is on special during June 2001. Credo has reduced the price to $299, 40% off the regular price of $495.
Life Forms features includes:
Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Philips Components, a division of Royal Philips Electronics of the Netherlands, showcased its display products and technologies at the Society of Information Display Symposium (SID), held last week at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center.
At the show, Philips introduced the industry's first readily available single-panel liquid crystal on silicon (LCoS) solution. With a resolution of 1280 x 768, the technology reportedly promises affordable, high-resolution, large-screen TVs, such as HDTVs, with flat profiles.
The company has also announced that its polymer-based organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technology is now available for production for telecommunications applications. Philips' proprietary monochrome, passive-matrix polymer OLED (PolyLED) technology features 65 x 102 maximum resolution, and high brightness and contrast. In addition, Philips is featuring multi-color and full-color PolyLED display prototypes at SID.
Philips also showed its recently announced low-power, color TFT-LCD technology for mobile phone applications. The color module is said to provide full-screen display capability while operating in stand-by mode -- thus consuming less power than other active matrix color mobile phone displays and enabling longer battery life.
Also at SID were Philips' Net Display Modules -- in-panel, system-board integrated LCD modules. These modules enable thin, light display-centric Internet appliance products. Applications include Web tablets, information displays, kiosks and thin clients.
Lastly, Philips demonstrated prototypes of its high-resolution electronic ink displays for handheld devices, based on a joint development agreement with E Ink (Cambridge, Mass.).
ESS Technology, Inc. a provider of silicon solutions for digital video, communications, and digital home systems recently introduced its third-generation, single-chip, progressive-scan DVD solution. The processor is based on ESS Technology's Programmable Multimedia Processor (PMP) architecture integrated with an NTSC/PAL TV encoder for a single-chip solution. The chip's set of features includes DVD-audio, progressive scan output, Internet Web browsing, and more.
The ES4438 PMP architecture includes two embedded processors; a 32-bit RISC CPU for general system management and a 64-bit digital signal processor (DSP) for audio/video and graphics acceleration. The programmable core can accommodate future applications and feature development.
The ES4438 single-chip solution integrates a video DAC and NTSC/PAL TV encoder. The video outputs support S-Video, composite, and YUV component video. The built-in SmartScan capability is high-quality, field-adaptive, de-interlace progressive scan for high-end video output. This feature supports Macrovision AGC version 1.03 for 480P. The ES4438 is DVD-audio compliant and includes multichannel meridian lossless packing (MLP) audio decode, linear pulse code modulation (LPCM) audio decode, audio watermark detection, and copy protection for prerecorded media (CPPM), and supports up to 192-kHz sampling rates and 24-bit resolution, high-resolution still pictures, and DVD-Audio navigation.
The iM-700 Flat Panel Audio System is now USB (Universal Serial Bus) capable. Sonigistix, producers of the Monsoon line of speakers, has developed an in-line cable attachment which makes the system capable of utilizing traditional analog connectivity as well as USB port connectivity.
The Monsoon iM-700 is USB enabled by an "ice"-colored cable attachment that converts the digital USB port to an analog 1/8" plug. This lets them work with both digital and analog connections so the system can be connected to a sound card using a 1/8" stereo plug or the USB port. The device works with Apple's new OS X operating system and is designed to support Apple's move to USB audio. For Windows users, Sonigistix recommends continued usage of the standard analog outputs to avoid "overworking" the USB port.
Entries for the fourth annual Independent Games Festival (IGF), which takes place annually at the Game Developers Conference (GDC), are due by September 1, 2001. The IGF provides a forum to showcase the work of independent game developers, foster recognition of games as an art form and facilitate relationships between game developers and publishers. Interested developers can obtain official festival guidelines and submission forms online at http://www.igf.com.
Games for all platforms without current publishing deals are eligible to enter. The competition culminates during the GDC, a trade-only event, at the San Jose Convention Center March 19-23, 2002, with the finalists’ games on display throughout the week.
The games submitted for the competition are judged by a jury of industry members in the categories of art, audio, technical excellence and game design. The best independent game of the year will take home the Seumas McNally Grand Prize of $10,000 cash, named for the president and lead programmer of Longbow Digital Arts who succumbed to cancer after his game, Tread Marks, swept the IGF two years ago. An audience award will be given as well, selected by popular vote of conference attendees. All of the IGF finalists will attend the IGF Awards ceremony, to be held during the week of GDC, where the winners will be announced.
The Independent Games Festival is also accepting games submissions developed by full-time high school and college students for the IGF Student Showcase. Launched last year, the Student Showcase is a non-competitive event held simultaneously with the competitive portion of the IGF. The Student Showcase features the best student game entries from around the world, helping to inspire and cultivate the next generation of game developers. Submissions for the IGF Student Showcase are due by January 10, 2002.
The Gama Network announced has issued a call for abstracts for the Game Developers Conference (GDC) 2002. The Game Developers Conference attracts game development industry experts from around the world who come together to exchange ideas and shape the future of the interactive entertainment industry.
Speaking proposals and topic ideas can be submitted via the online form on the official GDC Web site located at http://www.gdconf.com/speakers/. The deadline for proposals is July 3, 2001.
In the second installment of his Linux handheld series, Chris Halsall evaluates the sexy Compaq iPAQ, and walks readers through the reconfiguration process.
Linux on an iPAQ by Chris Halsall * 6/01/2001
Notable quote: Using a Compaq 3650 iPAQ can at first be a bit of a mind-blowing experience. You're holding in your hand a 206-MHz StrongArm processor, 32 megabytes of RAM, and a 240-by-320 pixel color LCD screen. Other than the display, this is better than what we had on our desks only a few short years ago!
Also, Project JXTA is an open-source peer-to-peer platform that enables a range of applications to take advantage of the power of peer-to-peer computing. An article on Clip2's experiments with writing a chat application in JXTA reveals the strengths of the JXTA platform. And you can see the source code, too.
JXTA Chat, Sans Server by Nelson Minar * 06/05/2001
OpenP2P.com Project JXTA Developer Contest JXTA developers are invited to submit their best JXTA work to this new contest. First prize: a full conference pass to the O'Reilly Peer-to-Peer and Web Services Conference, a Yopy PDA, and a digital camera for the Yopy.
Lernout & Hauspie Speech Products' Speech and Language Solutions Group has entered into a marketing and distribution agreement for the North American market with U.S.-based The Learning Company. The agreement was approved by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware in connection with L&H’s bankruptcy case.
Under the terms of the agreement, The Learning Company will be the sole distributor, within the U.S. and Canada, of L&H’s L&H Voice Xpress and Dragon Naturally Speaking consumer product lines. L&H says it leads the $35 million U.S. retail speech recognition software category with over 70% market share (for the twelve months ending March 31, 2001), according to NPD Intelect, a market research provider. The Learning Company will market, manufacture, and distribute current and future versions of Voice Xpress and Dragon Naturally Speaking.
Now shipping for the PC from Eidos Interactive is Gangsters 2, the sequel to Gangsters: Organized Crime. The real-time strategy game, set in Prohibition America, puts the player at the head of a crime family. As an aspiring mob boss, you deal in extortion, illegal liquor, prostitution, violence, intimidation, gambling, gang warfare, bribery of officials, permanent elimination of individuals, and money-making activities to ensure success over the other crime families in the city.
The player builds a team of mobsters including specialists such as card-sharps, hit-men, arsonists, and safe-crackers in the attempt to dominate the cities in the state of New Temperance. The game uses a new real-time engine, multiple cities and an advisor.
A demo version is available at http://www.fileplanet.com/index.asp?file=61057.
Coming this summer from Sony Computer Entertainment America is ICO, a heroic adventure for PlayStation2. The game will blend adventure, role-playing, fighting, puzzle and strategy elements.
Ico, a horned boy, is kidnapped from his village and taken to an isolated castle where he is placed in a tomb to be sacrificed. Surrounded by solitude, Ico begins to rock the tomb, causing it to tumble and break open, freeing him on the floor below. In the fall, Ico is knocked unconscious and dreams of a young princess trapped inside the castle, calling out to him to rescue her. Ico awakens, and is astonished to find out his dream has become a reality. Realizing his fate, Ico sets off to save the princess, as well as himself, from the wicked queen and the evil spirits that reside within the castle.
ICO offers gamers a perilous escapade through a large environment of challenging puzzles, from complex brain teasers to simple mazes. As he leads the princess through the secluded castle, murky dungeons, shadowy corridors and river scenes, Ico must battle monsters and confront the sinister queen.
Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. (SCEI) plans to integrate the Java platform developed by Sun Microsystems Inc. (Sun) into the PlayStation2 computer entertainment system to be available by the end of 2001.
By integrating Java technologies into PlayStation 2, its ability further extends to downloading new applications and services dynamically from the network in a secured manner. Through this, Sony says PlayStation 2 owners will be able to access to millions of Java applications that exist on the current Internet.
The availability of Java on PlayStation 2 also enables connection and communication with other Java enabled clients such as wireless handsets, PDAs, interactive televisions and other network devices. It will reportedly become possible to run Java-based applications including simple games, such as those available on mobile phones, on a cross platform basis.
Land ho! Ready your wit and your game controller, Escape from Monkey Island for PlayStation 2, previously available for Mac and PC, has gone gold and is headed for manufacturing. Featuring rendered backgrounds and more monkeys than you can shake a voodoo doll at, perennial wannabe pirate Guybrush Threepwood is on his way to deliver grog-swilling merriment to the console masses!
Shipping this week from Eidos Interactive is Startopia, which takes gamers to a once-thriving galactic network of starships, space stations and planets left lifeless with redundant scars of the apocalypse. Players rebuild the network of space stations that once served the commerce and communication of the old empire – reuniting the surviving alien peoples under one banner. The competition consists other enterprising life forms and organizations with the same goals, plus the various hazards of deep space.
A demo is available at: http://www.eidosinteractive.com/downloads/search.html?gmid=86
New Orleans-based Turbo Squid Corporation, an online digital marketplace, last week completed its first round of funding led by Advantage Capital Partners. Additional participants include Eastman Kodak Company and Intel Capital. The amount of the investment was $5.1 million. Other terms were not disclosed.
This round of funding will enable Turbo Squid to advance product engineering of its digital marketplace software, which aggregates and offers content to digital content creators. The funding will also be used to enhance Turbo Squid’s sales and marketing efforts and support their strategic partnership initiatives.
Turbo Squid’s online digital marketplace, which currently focuses on 3D assets and content, allows users to post, price and track the sales of their own assets, creating a digital repository.
ACM SIGGRAPH announced last week the theme and content for the Emerging Technologies venue for SIGGRAPH 2001, the 28th International Conference on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques, being held 12 - 17 August at the Los Angeles Convention Center, Los Angeles, California.
The theme of the program is a celebration of play. The work on display will enable attendees to experience new interfaces and other advances in interactive technology from corporate and academic research labs as well as some work currently in the beta test phase.
"The Emerging Technologies program celebrates the technology we develop to play, and the play we all enjoy in exploring technologies," said Mk Haley from Walt Disney Imagineering Research and Development, SIGGRAPH 2001 Emerging Technologies chair. "Imagine a multi-user puzzle that actually generates music, or a context-aware game played on PDAs that are connected to a wireless network. You can see these and lot more in the SIGGRAPH Emerging Technologies program."
The work in the SIGGRAPH 2001 Emerging Technologies program includes:
For more information on the SIGGRAPH 2001 Emerging Technologies program, see http://www.siggraph.org/s2001. Or contact Ann Kilhoffer-Reichert, SIGGRAPH 2001 Media Relations, +1.858.581.3330, or email@example.com.
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