Spectrum: Interactive Media & Online Developer News 17 June 2002
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Today's Headlines (details below)
--W3C Releases XML Conformance Test Suite --Tool Compares Privacy Policies with Online Practices
--Nvidia Introduces 'Cg' - C for Graphics
--Siggraph 2002 Announces New Web Graphics Program --Alien Skin Announces Free Public Beta of Image Doctor --eZedia Creates eZeScreen 1.0, iMovie 2 Plug-in --Caligari Announces trueSpace6
--Interactive Maps of Nuclear Waste Routes Go Online
THE DIALS & LEVERS OF POWER
--New Riders New Titles
--GDC 2003 Accepting Speaker Proposals
--Digital Element Acquires AnimaTek WorldBuilder --Super Happy Fun Fun Signs with Sierra --Anark, Turbo Squid Announce Alliance
GAMES PEOPLE PLAY
--Warcraft III Goes Gold
--Aspyr Ships Clive Barker's Undying for Mac --Midway Ships Legion: The Legend Of Excalibur --Activision Value Brings Schoolyard Sports to PC
--Fifth EC Virtual Reality World Congress
W3C Releases XML Conformance Test Suite
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) released last week the "XML 1.0 (Second Edition) W3C Conformance Test Suite." The test suite, developed in cooperation with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), allows developers to test an XML processor for conformance with W3C's XML 1.0 (Second Edition) Recommendation.
The test suite was formerly hosted by the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS). It contains over 2,000 test files, and provides a set of metrics for determining conformance to the XML 1.0 (Second Edition) Recommendation. Both W3C's XML Core Working Group and OASIS' XML Conformance Technical Committee have contributed test cases.
While hosted by OASIS, the test suite helped improve interoperability between XML processors. "The XML conformance test suite is evidence that cooperation between organizations can work," noted Karl Best, director of technical operations for OASIS.
W3C encourages the community to participate in the ongoing development of this test suite. Information about the public mailing list for this test suite is available at the test suite home page.
Tool Compares Privacy Policies with Online Practices
Privacy Council, Inc., a developer of privacy and data protection solutions, announced last week a new member of its Privacy Scan Product Suite, Privacy Scan, which lets organizations compare their online privacy practices with their written privacy policies.
"All too often, organizations are unknowingly violating their own Web privacy policies," said Dr. Larry Ponemon, CEO of Privacy Council. "Not only do such practices expose these organizations to criminal or civil litigation, they can erode -- if not cause irreparable harm to -- customer trust and loyalty."
Companies requiring more than a snapshot of their potential online privacy risks can turn to Privacy Scan Advanced, which conducts an in-depth scan of an organization's entire Web site, highlighting actual and potential privacy risks and other data-protection issues. After scanning the organization's entire site, Privacy Council experts review and analyze the data, prepare a report that addresses privacy risks, and then recommend a customized plan to help develop and implement a privacy management strategy. Accompanying the Privacy Scan report is a set of materials that provides a step-by-step process for managing and monitoring online privacy policies and practices.
Nvidia Introduces 'Cg' - C for Graphics
Nvidia Corporation last week introduced the Cg Language Specification - C for Graphics. Cg is a high-level programming language designed to let content developers to create cinematic-quality real-time graphics.
Developed in collaboration with Microsoft, Cg gives developers a new level of abstraction, removing the need for them to program directly to the graphics hardware. The common, familiar C-like syntax enables rapid development of real-time shaders and visual effects for graphics platforms, and is compatible with Microsoft's recently announced High Level Shading Language for DirectX 9.0.
Nvidia also unveiled a Cg Toolkit that includes a Cg Compiler, Cg Browser, CgFX file format, Cg Standard Library and a collection of pre-written Cg shaders that can be used for a variety of applications, ranging from game development to digital content creation and computer-aided design. The toolkit is available for download at http://developer.nvidia.com/cg.
The Cg Compiler lets programs written for a standard DirectX 8- or DirectX 9-compatible graphics processing unit (GPU) be compiled and run on any conforming hardware. The resulting program is an efficient vertex or pixel shader, said to achieve performance levels equal to or better than hand-coded graphics programs. The Cg Compiler exploits Nvidia's GPU features and pipeline, as well as OpenGL. Cg shaders written for OpenGL platforms are compiled and optimized to take advantage of the extended graphics feature set in Nvidia GPUs. The Cg Compiler is also supports programs written for Windows, OS X, Linux, Mac and Xbox.
The Cg Compiler employs a Unified Compiler Architecture (UCA). Once written, programs will run on future or past generations of Cg-compatible GPUs and are automatically optimized at run time for the GPU in the system.
Siggraph 2002 Announces New Web Graphics Program
ACM Siggraph last week announced the new Web Graphics program for Siggraph 2002, the 29th International Conference on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques, being held 21-26 July 2002 at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, San Antonio, Texas. The Web Graphics program is designed to teach animators, artists, educators, and engineers how their talent can cross over to the Web.
Said Simon Allardice, Siggraph 2002 Web Graphics chair, "The SIGGRAPH Web Graphics program will teach techniques for developing graphics for the Web so that attendees can take advantage of the Web's artistic, commercial, and personal potential."
The program has 34 sessions presented by speakers from 13 countries. The sessions are divided in 12 categories: Images, Art & Design, Applications, Content Creation, Animation, Collaboration, Frontiers, Compression, Standards, Audio, Experimental Browsing Spaces, and Games & Communities.
Highlights of the program include:
Adaptive Solid Texturing for Web Graphics; Bing-Yu Chen and Tomoyuki Nishita, The University of Tokyo; A proposed method for rendering objects with solid texturing for Web graphics. Although the implementation uses only Java, users can also achieve an almost-real-time interactive response.
EventScope: Discovering Mars With Internet-Based Virtual Environments; Peter Coppin, Karl Fischer, Natalie Koch, Dana Martinelli, W. Ronald McCloskey, and Michael Wagner, Carnegie Mellon University; A telepresence interface through which students explore Mars. EventScope's 3D virtual environments are seamlessly integrated with a standards-based curriculum downloaded to classroom computers.
The Evolution of Animation: BedRock Revisited; Sandro Corsaro, Sandro Corsaro Animation; A comparison of television animation from the 1950s to the Web animation in the 1990s, including how the future economy of television animation will rely heavily on its storied past.
Flash MX Live: Real-Time Video and Audio Delivery in Multi-User Environments; Robert Reinhardt, (theMAKERS); The new real-time video and audio capabilities of Macromedia's Flash Player 6 plug-in for Web browsers.
Deconstruction of a chat application that enables several listeners to hear and see a discussion between a host and any given listener in the group.
The new technology is presented with an analysis of two main aspects of Internet communication:
* the differences between one-on-one messaging and group-discussion environments.
* the dynamics of audio and video "space" compared to a text-based LAN
Interactive 3D Characters for Web-Based Learning and Accessibility; Ed Sims, Vcom3D,Inc.; A character-animation authoring system developed for educators who have no previous animation experience. Applications created by educators using the authoring system, including sign-language interpretation of stories for young deaf readers, job interview skills training, and counseling skills training.
Pseudo-3D Photo Collage; Hiroya Tanaka, Masatoshi Arikawa, and Ryosuke Shibasaki, The University of Tokyo; A new method for using photographs to create virtual walkthroughs on the Web.
The Reality Cluster; Branden Hall and Samuel Wan, Fig Leaf Software/Samuelwan.com; A multi-user system that provides users with both focus and context in navigating relationships between multiple nodes of information: real-time audio-video conferencing, video recording, audio recording, text recording, and real-time interaction among multiple clients.
Scalable Vector Graphics; Dean Jackson, World Wide Web Consortium; Scalable Vector Graphics, a language for describing two-dimensional graphics and animation in XML, is the Web standard developed by the World Wide Web Consortium.
SMIL: An Introduction; Philipp Hoschka,World Wide Web Consortium/INRIA; The SMIL language enables interactive audio-visual multimedia for the Web. This summary of its key features explains some of the key insights into the Web-language design that influenced SMIL's development.
The Xj3D Browser: Community-Based 3D Software Development; Alan Hudson, Yumetech, Inc.; This presentation outlines the technical and organizational issues surrounding the community development process of the Xj3D browser.
It is an open source API for developing X3D and VRML 97 applications.
Siggraph 2002 registration information can be found at http://www.siggraph.org/s2002/registration or by contacting SIGGRAPH 2002 Conference Management, 401 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60611 USA. +1.312.321.6830 phone; +1.312.321.6876 fax; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alien Skin Announces Free Public Beta of Image Doctor
Alien Skin Software last week announced Image Doctor, a set of image-retouching filters for Photoshop, Fireworks, Paint Shop Pro, and other image editors. The software removes blemishes and defects, repairs over-compressed JPEGs, and replaces unwanted details and objects. A free public beta for both Windows and Macintosh, including OS X, is available for download from http://www.alienskin.com.
Smart Fill replaces large objects and defects, combining the repair with the background. Applications include removal of signs and trash from landscapes, unwanted tourists from vacation snapshots, and uninvited guests from party photos, leaving no seams.
Scratch Remover mends small defects and removes unwanted background details. Simplifying photo restoration, Scratch Remover repairs scratches, folds, creases, and wrinkles. Microphones, telephone poles, and text can also be eliminated from photos.
Spot Lifter removes blemishes while preserving the texture and detail of the underlying image. Spot Lifter is suitable for erasing skin flaws such as moles, birthmarks, acne, and beauty marks. Users can erase tattoos, as well as reduce dark circles, shadows, and wrinkles around the eyes. Spot Lifter also removes photo imperfections such as watermarks, stains and dust.
JPEG Repair revitalizes over-compressed JPEGs. Users can remove blocky compression artifacts while retaining detail and adding grain. Repairs can be made to an entire image or as needed to smaller selections. JPEG repair can be used to repurpose Web graphics and replace lost originals.
The full version of Image Doctor will be available this summer.
eZedia Creates eZeScreen 1.0, iMovie 2 Plug-in
Canada's eZedia Inc. last week released eZeScreen 1.0, the second in a series of plug-ins for Apple's iMovie 2 consumer digital-video editing software. The plug-in gives iMovie 2 users blue-screen and green-screen video effects. Users can position an additional movie over an iMovie 2 clip and adjust the transparency and fade levels of any selected color to add animated logos, talking heads, or any QuickTime supported movie.
eZedia's first iMovie plug-in, eZeMatte 1.0, was released in April 2002 and allows QuickTime-supported images to overlay iMovie clips. Users can add borders, frames, themes, logos or any customized graphic.
eZedia released the newest version of its primary product, eZediaMX, at Macworld San Francisco in January 2002. The software supports cross-platform multimedia authoring and editing with a visual linking environment. It combines media handling with interactivity tools and logic elements for creating digital portfolios, business presentations, multimedia slide shows, Web videos, animations and interactive CD-ROM projects.
Features include movie and media masking, non-destructive video editing, animation, text to speech, sound mixing and fading, and control of VRs without programming or scripting.
Caligari Announces trueSpace6
Coming next month from Caligari Corporation is trueSpace6, a new version of its 3D modeling and animation program. New modeling features include: * Color-coded layers - Users can hide, lock, merge, name, color and copy layers or manage them by painting layers in the Scene Editor.
* Scene Editor - combines six editors (objects, hierarchies, key-frames, function curves, layers and audio)
* Unwrapper and UV Editor - Direct manipulation of object faces allows for precise texture placement. Improved 3D paint allows users to paint color, transparency and displacement directly on the texture in the editor.
* NURBS Modeling Enhancements - Trim curve extrusion, capping and curve projection
* Chamfers and Fillets - supports three-edge mixed blends and the ability to select entire chains of edges.
* Array Tools - Radial, Spline and Grid * Deformation Tools - Bend, Taper and Skew * Additional new modeling features include expanded object and vertex snapping for NURBS and polyhedra, shelling for polygons, and real time mirrored modeling for polygons - even in surface subdivided modes.
Other new features include:
* Facial Animator 1.2 includes a library of heads * texture baking
* new physics module
* LightWorks 6.6 rendering engine provides support for objects as lights and textured area lights.
* improved X format provides better texture UV support, and improved DXF (r12) format
Interactive Maps of Nuclear Waste Routes Go Online
One in seven Americans live within one mile of the proposed routes for shipping highly radioactive nuclear waste to Nevada, but the government has not made details of the routes accessible to the public in any meaningful way. Now citizens can go online and see just how close nuclear waste shipments will come to their homes or schools with interactive Nuclear Waste Route Maps, published online last week by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) at http://www.mapscience.org/ .
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is pushing a plan to ship at least 70,000 tons of high-level radioactive waste by truck or train through 45 states over 24 to 38 years to a disposal site at Yucca Mountain, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. The Senate will vote on the plan as early as June 25, but crude multi-state maps in an appendix to a 5,000-page technical report have been the only information about the transport routes available to the public. The maps are hard to find on DOE's website.
EWG's new website lets visitors type in an address and get a customized map clearly marking areas within one mile, two miles and five miles of a nuclear waste route. The maps also show the locations of schools and hospitals near the route. State and major metro area maps are also available.
DOE's own data show that if the nuclear waste is transported by truck, there will be more than 100,000 shipments over the life of the project. If rail is the principal mode, there will be approximately 18,000 train shipments plus about 2,850 shipments by barge. According to the Department of Transportation, from 1994 to 2000 there were more than 28,000 fatal tractor- trailer accidents in the United States (almost 7,000 on interstate highways), and from 1990 to 2001 more than 88,000 train accidents.
THE DIALS & LEVERS OF POWER
New Riders New Titles
Following is a list of upcoming books of interest to Spectrum readers from New Riders Media:
Illustrator 10 Shop Manual, Steve Kurth - Reference for Adobe Illustrator includes cross-referencing of related functions and topics. The book comes in two parts: reference and appendices. The main text covers every aspect of the Illustrator 10 interface, following the same structure established for the Photoshop 6 Shop Manual.
3D Graphics & Animation, Mark Giambruno - Learn from the experiences of working professionals about the technology, shared through interviews.
Includes information for those just learning the 3D area and those who are trying to enter the 3D market. As a second edition, this book builds on the better-received segments of the first edition to cover the basics of 3D in general terms. It also offers coverage of such related topics as developing a story concept, storyboarding, and putting together a demo reel and portfolio. New elements in this second edition include interviews from industry leaders as well as application-specific tutorials for 3ds max 4, Maya 4, and LightWave 7 on the CD.
Photoshop Type Effects Visual Encyclopedia, Roger Pring - A non-linear tutorial and visual reference for designing professional level type effects. Organized into two general parts: an introduction with context; and the actual encyclopedia, with illustrations of each effect, how to create it, and how to create variations.
Photoshop 7 Artistry, Barry Haynes - For photographers and digital artists, revised and expanded to include all the new features in Photoshop 7. Covers the creation and output of art prints, images for high-end advertising, as well as GIFs, JPEGs, and Web photo galleries.
The Flash Animator, Sandro Corsaro - Teaches traditional animation techniques to create broadcast-quality Flash animations and illustrates point-by-point how to use traditional animation concepts in Flash. The CD included contains all of the example files used in the book, plus a collection of exclusive SWF files.
Inside Flash MX, Jody Keating - Tutorial-based instruction including advanced Flash topics and ActionScript coverage. Addresses Flash as both a designer's tool and a programming environment.
Fireworks MX Magic, Lisa Lopuck - Covers upgrades, tips, tricks, and best practices. Self-contained projects include step-by-step instructions, explanations, tips, and tricks. Also included are functional upgrades and practices of Fireworks MX with special emphasis on building Web graphics, animation, navigation, and integrating Fireworks into the workflow.
Train of Thoughts: Designing the Effective Web Experience, John Lenker - Theory, practice, and process of Web effectiveness. Uses creative methods for constructing satisfying and bandwidth-efficient sites that connect with the user in a way that maximizes positive reaction.
Eric Meyer on CSS: Mastering the Language of Web Design, Eric Meyer - How to write CSS, hands-on approach with practical examples.
GDC 2003 Accepting Speaker Proposals
The Game Developers Conference (GDC) is now accepting speaker proposals for the 2003 conference. The submission form can be found at http://www.gdconf.com/submissions.
Produced by the Gama Network, the GDC is the world's largest event exclusively devoted to game developers, featuring more than 300 lectures, panels, seminars and interactive sessions and attracting over 10,000 attendees annually. GDC is scheduled for March 4-8, 2003 at the San Jose Convention Center in San Jose, CA.
Digital Element Acquires AnimaTek WorldBuilder
Digital Element has acquired AnimaTek WorldBuilder along with several other key technologies, and has outlined a series of products for the remainder of 2002.
San Francisco-based AnimaTek International filed Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in 2001, leaving the future of several key technologies, including WorldBuilder, in question. In March of 2001, Digital Element secured the exclusive right to develop and distribute the technology and recently acquired ownership of that technology line as well as other technologies.
AnimaTek WorldBuilder is software for modeling and rendering realistic 3D outdoor environments. Used in film, computer games, architecture, landscape architecture, as well as by hobbyists and educators, WorldBuilder has a six-year history in high-definition outdoor environments.
Later this year, Digital Element plans to release a series of communication plug-ins to increase WorldBuilder Professional's connectivity with other software packages, such as Lightwave and Maya, and is also planning version 3.2, a free upgrade for both the Standard and Professional versions. The upgrade will address user issues (i.e., bugs) and will offer new functionality.
Super Happy Fun Fun Signs with Sierra
Sierra Entertainment, Inc., a studio of Vivendi Universal Games, has signed an agreement with Super Happy Fun Fun, Inc. to develop an unspecified game for several game consoles in 2004.
Founded by Mark Stephen Pierce, Super Happy Fun Fun is an entertainment software developer whose collective credits include titles such as Road Blasters, Pit Fighter, Klax, Dark Castle, Earth and Beyond, Deus Ex, Daikatana, Area 51 and Turok: Dinosaur Hunter. Said Mark Stephen Pierce, CEO of Super Happy Fun Fun, "Our goals are simply to create new, innovative properties that appeal to the broadest audiences."
Anark, Turbo Squid Announce Alliance
Anark Corporation and Turbo Squid announced a co-marketing and distribution agreement further expanding the two companies' sales and marketing channels. Under the terms of the agreement, Anark will bundle the Turbo Squid client application and offer 3D content through Anark Studio. Turbo Squid will offer Anark Studio to its marketplace of 3D artists.
The Anark Studio CD will include 25 free Turbo Squid 3D models.
Anark is expected to publicly release Anark Studio 1.5 at Siggraph in July.
GAMES PEOPLE PLAY
Warcraft III Goes Gold
Blizzard Entertainment, a studio of the games division of Vivendi Universal Publishing, says Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, the sequel to the company's #1-selling series of games, has gone gold. With record-breaking initial orders of 4.5 million copies, the game will be available at retail outlets worldwide in multiple languages beginning on July 3, 2002.
Players revisit the war-torn world of Azeroth a generation after the end of the Second War between the Orcs and the Humans. The fragile peace that had since settled over the land is now on the verge of being shattered, for a dark power has returned after thousands of years to carry out its nefarious plans. Two new races - the Undead Scourge and the Night Elves - emerge to join the fray, as players follow a single storyline through four successive campaigns. Players can also engage in an enhanced multiplayer mode, playable on local area networks and over the Internet on Battle.net.
New in WC3 is a focus on concentrated battles between groups of mighty warriors. In the single-player game, players follow the adventures of legendary heroes, who grow more formidable with experience. As the game progresses, these heroes are able to learn spells and special abilities and acquire powerful magic items. Heroes advance even faster in multiplayer games, and expanded multiplayer options include the ability to share units and resources with allies and to compete anonymously against other players of similar skill levels.
The game also includes the World Editor, which lets players create 3D maps and unique missions, with scripts for units, spells, and events. Players will also be able to produce their own in-game cinematics, using camera controls and incorporating MP3-based sound files.
Aspyr Ships Clive Barker's Undying for Mac
Aspyr Media Inc., in partnership with Electronic Arts, last week shipped Clive Barker's Undying for Mac OS X, with the conversion performed by Westlake Interactive.
In the horror adventure set in 1923, the player assumes the role of Patrick Galloway, investigator of the supernatural. Galloway has been summoned by an old friend Jeremiah Covenant, to his family estate in Western Ireland.
Nearly a quarter of a century earlier, he and his younger siblings had performed an ancient ritual at the Isle of the Standing Stones. As a result of an innocent incantation, the Covenant siblings unleashed a horror beyond comprehension. Now on his deathbed, Jeremiah knows that Galloway is his last chance to contain the deadly curse and purge the evil from the Covenant Estate.
The first-person, 3D action-adventure features five quests in detailed environments, with two-handed combat (fire weapons with one hand while unleashing spells with the other) and hell-raised enemies.
Midway Ships Legion: The Legend Of Excalibur
Shipping today for PS2 from Midway Games is Legion: The Legend of Excalibur, a game of strategy, role-playing and action.
Developed by 7 Studios and led by one of the creators of the Command & Conquer series, Erik Yeo, the game lets players take direct control of King Arthur and the knights of the round table, leading legions of men into battlefield environments.
Battling through 13 missions, players must find and recruit the eight knights of the round table, while Merlin provides background and insight to aid in uniting Camelot. Each mission features primary and secondary objectives as knights progress in rank, proceed on quests and discover more than 100 kinds of magic weapons, armor and other legendary items that characters can be equipped with.
Activision Value Brings Schoolyard Sports to PC
Kids of all ages can now turn their PCs into interactive playgrounds with "Schoolyard Sports" from Activision Value Publishing. With the click of a mouse, the family can enjoy school-time activities from the comfort of home as they roam the virtual playground playing recess games.
Featuring an interactive 3D playground, "Schoolyard Sports" offers seven children's school games, including Tag, Jump Rope, Kickball, Foursquare, 500 Football, various basketball games, and Dodgeball. From an overhead view of the playground, players can join any game in progress, choosing the team or player of their choice, play for as long as they like and then move onto any one of the other children's activities. The title also offers customizable rules for added enjoyment as well as playground characters with "personality."
Fifth EC Virtual Reality World Congress
VR World Congress V is to be held in Paris, France on September 9-10 with the theme "Systems for Visionaries."
The Congress is timed to provide the opportunity to identify prospective partners to submit proposals for the European Commission's forthcoming Sixth Framework Program (FP6). The budget for the category including Virtual Reality (VR) is 3.6 billion euros ($3.24 billion).
Managers from the European Commission will be available to answer questions about the Information Society Technologies and FP6 schemes in addition to making a presentation to explain how procedures under the FP6 for research will be simplified. The Commission has proposed a "radical shift" in the current management model, with more flexible rules and contracts and a substantive reduction of administrative red tape.
The Agenda includes demonstrations of existing VR projects as well as presentations of innovative and emerging technologies, techniques and applications of VR and interactive three-dimensional (i3D) systems.
Among the projects on show will be interactive speech-activated avatars, narrative applications that mix the real and virtual worlds; a new form of multi-sensory content; strategic e-learning experiments for laboratory education; a system for assessing safety, for training of rescue personnel and for planning rescue scenarios; new ways of working over distance; and a means to improve the process of building design and construction.
Chairman for VR World Congress V is Professor Robert J. Stone, and the opening keynote address will be delivered by Dr Louise Guay, founder and CEO of My Virtual Model in Montreal, Canada. Speakers from Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, the USA and the United Kingdom will be delivering papers.
Details including registration information are available at http://www.VREfresh.com.
Further details of this conference, together with information about the Sixth Framework Program, are available in several European languages on the European Commission's Website: http://www.cordis.lu.
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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