Spectrum: Interactive Media & Online Developer News 6 May 2002
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Today's Headlines (details below)
--Macromedia Launches MX Line
--ZyWeb Launches Multi-Page Site Creator
IN THE INFOGROOVE
--Pulse Veepers Creates 3D, Interactive Characters --SciTech Software Upgrades 3D Enhancement Utility --3Dlabs Introduces Visual Processing Architecture --TDV Announces 2D-to-3D Conversion Software
--Activeworlds to Absorb StuffIt Maker
GAMES PEOPLE PLAY
--Mark of Kri Coming this Summer for PS2 --Capcom Releases Gamecube Resident Evil
Macromedia Launches MX Line
Just out from Macromedia is a whole family of MX products: * ColdFusion MX is built on a new architecture said to offer the scalability, reliability, and power of the Java platform without the complexity. Customers can deploy ColdFusion MX as a standalone server or on top of Java application servers, such as IBM WebSphere Application Server and Sun ONE Application Server. For more details, visit http://www.macromedia.com/go/cfmxnew/.
Fireworks MX can automatically generate data-driven graphics by dynamically linking to XML content as well as automate repetitive graphics creation by connecting a graphic file with variables to an XML file. It also features support for XHTML and accessibility, through the ability to ensure the accompanying XHTML is Section 508 compliant. Fireworks MX features Roundtrip XHTML with Macromedia Dreamweaver MX.
* Dreamweaver MX combines the visual layout tools of Dreamweaver, the Web application development features of Dreamweaver UltraDev, and the code-editing support of Macromedia HomeSite, into a unified development environment. A preview release is available for download at http://www.macromedia.com/go/dmxdl/.
Also, coming this month is Macromedia Studio MX with Dreamweaver MX, Flash MX, Fireworks MX, FreeHand 10, and a developer edition of ColdFusion MX.
Introductory pricing is $799.
ZyWeb Launches Multi-Page Site Creator
ZyWeb says its new Web Site creator lets users create a multi-page Web site with a single click of the mouse button. Available site styles range from a simple business site to an elaborate e-shop. The Web site is created in a few minutes with the pages already interlinked. The user adds text and company logo.
ZyWeb also offers Web hosting and a free domain name that is used for both the customer Web site and email address.
Web Site creator features include:
* the ability to copy a theme and style from one page to another with a customizable master template that reflects the user's choice of colors and graphic styles.
* page copying to grow and develop a Web site * built-in customizable graphics and photo editor
IN THE INFOGROOVE
Longtime Spectrum reader Ben Sawyer of Digitalmill sent in these items:
Just out in version 2.0, Virtual U is part of a new breed of game-based learning tools that enable people to learn about complex systems through hands-on interactive software. The new version of Virtual U has these features: * improved interface with several new university performance reports * a more challenging game, including more risk of being "fired" * an improved model for public universities, including "performance-based budgeting"
* a new and expanded distance learning model * increased control of facility construction * ability to output all data to spreadsheets for later analysis * ability to weight the factors that make up the game score
Virtual U's design is driven by a simulation engine built by game developer Trevor Chan of Enlight Software, creator of Capitalism, a series of simulation games about corporate America. It models the attitudes and behaviors of the academic community in five major areas of higher-education management:
* spending and income decisions such as operating budget, new hires, incoming donations, and management of the endowment * faculty, course, and student scheduling issues * admissions standards, university prestige, and student enrollment * student housing, classrooms, and all other facilities * performance indicators
Virtual U players select an institution type and strive for continuous improvement by setting, monitoring, and modifying a variety of institutional parameters and policies. Players are challenged to manage and improve their institution of higher education through techniques such as resource allocation, minority enrollment policies, and policies for promoting faculty, among others. Players watch the results of their decisions unfold in real- time. A letter of review from Virtual U's board is sent every "year," informing players of their progress.
Virtual U is available as a free download on the Internet at http://www.virtual-u.org. The boxed version, which includes printed game materials, and all electronic materials on CD-ROM, is available for $40 plus shipping at the Website or by calling 1-888-286-3540.
Second is a position paper by Sawyer called "Serious Games," developed with the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars. The paper, titled "Serious Games: Improving Public Policy through Game-Based Learning and Simulation," is located at: http://wwics.si.edu/foresight/game/index.htm.
The paper illustrates how government agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) can utilize game-based techniques, technologies, and approaches to produce innovative simulations, models, and game-based learning products that enhance public policy decisions. The Woodrow Wilson Center is distributing the paper online to a variety of agencies, organizations, and game developers to help foster greater discussion and cooperation between key public policy makers and game developers.
"Public policy makers live in a complex world where there is little room for error and where experimentation can be difficult, expensive, and often dangerous," said Dave Rejeski, director of the Woodrow Wilson Center's Foresight and Governance project. "In such a world, the wide spread use of inexpensive and effective simulation becomes crucial to learning and policy innovation. The game industry has been largely overlooked as a source of next-generation policy models yet the talent and creativity in this industry could make a significant difference over the next decade."
The paper covers:
* the relevance of games and game technology to model and simulation builders * the advantages game developers and games bring to a project * the barriers to more cooperation and how they can be overcome * a case study of the creation of Virtual U * a series of resources for those interested in developing game-based public policy projects
Pulse Veepers Creates 3D, Interactive Characters
Pulse Veepers, software for the creation of virtual humans and other characters for online deployment, began shipping today from Pulse, a provider of emotive interface technologies. Veepers-based characters feature interactivity, a range of expressions and other behaviors, and, according to Pulse, represent potential cost savings of up to 90 percent versus video, at as little as two percent of the file size. In addition, Veepers uses a "click-and-drag" interface that requires no technical expertise and can produce virtual characters in less than two minutes each, from a single 2D photo, drawing or other image. Veepers also features full-torso generation and animation, gestures and advanced facial animation for realistic emotions and speech. Pulse today also announced a partnership that will result in the creation of hundreds of virtual sales agents for real estate firm RE/MAX.
Pulse Veepers was designed to allow e-learning systems designers and corporate training departments, among others, to build, deploy and update interactive characters without requiring programming, animation, 3D modeling or authoring expertise. Beginning with a single 2D photo or other image, Veepers users click-and-drag a few "data points" to designate key areas of the Veepers subject's face. The software then maps the subject's image to a 3D model, complete with text-to-speech (TTS) and automatic lip-synching support built in. The resulting virtual character can then deliver audio via the TTS engine in a variety of natural human voices or in their own voice via spoken audio captured using any audio recording utility on PCs. Veepers characters can also display emotions and a range of gestures, and can be instructed to respond in real-time to users' actions.
In this way, realistic human interaction and conversation can be simulated, with branching logic that replicates an array of possible outcomes to a given situation.
Also, Pulse is working with Texas Instruments to offer personalized interface technology on 2.5G and 3G mobile devices that use TI's OMAP application processors. Pulse's Veepers technology for 2.5G and 3G devices using TI's OMAP processors will allow mobile device users to interact with 3D characters to obtain email, voice mail, news, games, driving conditions and directions, sales and product information and more. Pulse technology supports RealNetwork's RealPlayer, Apple QuickTime 5 and the leading browsers for Microsoft Windows and Apple Macintosh PC platforms.
Pulse is a member of TI's OMAP Developers Network, a group of software developers writing wireless applications for mobile Internet devices. OMAP developers exploit a variety of tools and support to enable rapid application development for leading operating systems and programming languages plus the opportunity to collaborate with a range of developers designing applications such as multimedia, security, location based services, mobile commerce and gaming. OMAP developers also use TI's open OMAP platform, which has been selected by Nokia, Ericsson, Sony, NEC, Matsushita, Palm, Fujitsu, Hewlett Packard, Sendo, HTC and others for their 2.5 and 3G wireless devices. For more information about the OMAP Developers Network, visit http://www.ti.com/sc/omapdevelopers
SciTech Software Upgrades 3D Enhancement Utility
SciTech Software, Inc. last week released the latest version of its 3D enhancement utility, SciTech GLDirect 2.0. The utility lets users run OpenGL-based games and other applications using their graphics card's DirectX 6.x drivers. Improvements include enhanced support for Open-GL based games, new stereoscopic support for hardware not specially equipped for stereo display, and support for professional applications such as AutoCAD.
The latest version of SciTech GLDirect supports a variety of Windows-compatible hardware devices and has been enhanced with support for Windows 2000/XP.
New and enhanced features:
* game driver provides faster performance for OpenGL-based games and applications, including GLQuake (and variants like GLHexen, etc.), Quake2, Quake3 and others
* support for the AMD 3D-Now game driver * stereo display lets users run stereoscopic OpenGL applications with graphics boards that are not specially equipped for stereo display.
* support for 3D CAD and modeling applications such as AutoCAD 2000, 3D Studio Max, SolidWorks, and others
* ability to turn non-stereo enabled applications into stereo-compliant application
3Dlabs Introduces Visual Processing Architecture
3Dlabs, Inc. last week announced a "Visual Processing Architecture" that the company claims combines the architectural strengths and programmability of general-purpose CPUs with extreme levels of hardware parallelism. This architecture, in development for the past two years, reportedly enables advanced software rendering techniques to be accelerated in real time to produce interactive imagery with unprecedented levels of realism. 3Dlabs expects to ship board-level products based on the first Visual Processing Unit (VPU), a chip codenamed the P10, during the third quarter of 2002.
3Dlabs intends to use the highly scalable Visual Processing Architecture in a variety of VPUs aimed at a range of market segments. Professional workstation graphics users are expected to have access to accelerators that offer OpenGL performance at affordable prices. Gaming enthusiasts should find VPU versions that perform well in DirectX shader performance. Digital photographers and video editors are expected to use VPU-enabled boards to accelerate Adobe Photoshop filters and Premiere effects.
3Dlabs' Visual Processing Architecture implements an optimized graphics pipeline, replacing previously inflexible pipeline stages with highly programmable SIMD (single instruction, multiple data) processor arrays. The P10 VPU combines over 200 SIMD processors throughout its geometry, texture and pixel processing pipeline stages to deliver over 170Gflops and one TeraOp of programmable graphics performance together with a full 256-bit DDR memory interface for up to 20GBytes/sec of memory bandwidth.
3Dlabs says the VPU provides application developers a clean, orthogonal, compiler-friendly architecture that implements many CPU-like architectural innovations. These include:
* a virtual memory subsystem, where all memory accesses are mapped into a full 16GB virtual address space, enabling P10-based boards to break through the limitations of on-board graphics memory * a multi-threaded command processor that enables P10 to effectively act as multiple virtual VPUs, providing stutter-free visual processing for many simultaneous threads and applications
* programmable units that support complex operations - including subroutines and loops - that allow application developers to implement a huge palette of visual effects
3Dlabs has supplied pre-production P10 hardware and prototype DirectX 9 and OpenGL 2.0 drivers to application developers. New applications are expected to soon emerge that use advanced techniques, including: * real-time wavelet-based geometry and texture decompression engines that enable reduction in the size of terrain models up to 100 fold * ray-casting engines for visualizing volumetric medical data sets in real-time
* back-end photo-realistic renderers producing imagery that can be accelerated in hardware.
Boards based on P10 VPUs will ship with 3Dlabs' custom Windows drivers, and are planned to support current and upcoming versions of DirectX and OpenGL application program interfaces (APIs).
TDV Announces 2D-to-3D Conversion Software
TDV Technologies Corp. last week released 3D software said to convert Microsoft streaming online video into a 3D stereoscopic viewing experience.
Activeworlds to Absorb StuffIt Maker
Activeworlds Corp. and Aladdin Systems Holdings, Inc., maker of the StuffIt compression software, have entered into a letter of intent regarding a nonbinding proposal pursuant to which Aladdin would merge into Activeworlds, which would survive the merger, and Aladdin's outstanding common stock immediately prior to the merger would, as a result of the merger, be exchanged into such amount of Activeworlds common stock representing, subject to certain adjustments, 60% of Activeworlds' outstanding common stock immediately after the merger.
Activeworlds Corp. provides software products and online services that permit users to enter, move about and interact with others in a computer- generated, three-dimensional virtual environment using the Internet. The one-megabyte Activeworlds browser has reportedly been downloaded by more than 1.5 million users worldwide. Through the technology's scalable capacity, Activeworlds users have placed more than 100 million objects in Activeworld's largest world, Alphaworld, whose virtual land space is larger than the state of California. Some uses for the software include: online training and education, Web site development, e-commerce and entertainment.
Clients include Boeing, Siemens, and Cornell.
GAMES PEOPLE PLAY
Mark of Kri Coming this Summer for PS2
This July, Sony Computer Entertainment America will release The Mark of Kri for PlayStation2. It's the first fully internally designed and developed title by the company's San Diego development studio.
Set in detailed 3D environments, each with its own distinct styles and themes, Rau, a fierce warrior, must battle the denizens of the dark world to prevent the invoking of an ancient spell that holds the power to unleash great evil throughout the land. Along with his loyal and trusted spirit guide, Kuzo, a large black bird, Rau's quest requires a combination of stealth, aggressive-action moves and calculated planning. Kuzo plays a strategic role in the quest with the ability to scout ahead to perches for a better view of looming danger, retrieve items and distract opponents. The game also features hand-drawn animation and music from Juno Reactor.
The Mark of Kri's combat system lets the player attack enemies in all directions while performing animated combinations. Whether in stealth or combat mode, players use the right analog stick to "lock-on" to up to nine challengers at a time and can perform various combinations to defeat increasingly persistent enemies. Using four weapons, including a broadsword, bow and arrow, battle axe and the authentic and sacred Taiaha (spear) from New Zealand, Rau must defeat each enemy before advancing to the next area. Selecting targets and using the best weapon and tactic for the situation will take precedence over pure annihilation of the denizens.
Capcom Releases Gamecube Resident Evil
Capcom last week released a "newly created" version of Resident Evil for Nintendo Gamecube. Effects in the new version, "re-invented" by original designer Shinji Mikami, include motion-captured animation, real-time lighting, and shadows and reflections in glass windows. Other features include: * first two-disc Gamecube - it just wouldn't fit on one of those itty-bitty discs
* new creature system lets "killed" zombies re-animate over time, becoming "crimson-head" zombie. In this form, the zombie is quicker, more agile and operates with a more frenzied hunger than before.
* more polygons (duh!)
* updated combat system - players attack with a gun, and use other items as weapons or for protection.
* new stages
* rendered opening movie
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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