8 May 2000
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Shipping as of last week from Alameda, Calif.-based NuSpectra Multimedia, Inc. are new version 5.0 releases of both SiteCam and SiteZAP. With newly added real-time audio streaming, the Mac-based products automatically broadcast in three different encoding settings. In a related announcement, Rearden Technology, former producers of SiteCam and SiteZAP, merged with NuSpectra Multimedia under whose name the products will be now produced and supported.
SiteZAP 5.0, a remote-controlled motorized pan/tilt/zoom system based on SiteCam 5.0, includes all the new features in SiteCam 5.0, plus a new Macromedia Flash interface. Controllable via the Internet, users with the access password (optional) can view the camera's video feed and control the camera through a Flash or Java control in their browser. The at $1,995 (starting price) SiteZAP system includes SiteCam 5.0 software, a Sony Pan/Tilt/12xZoom camera, IR remote control, and extra cable. Optional heated enclosures for outdoor use and other add-ons are available.
The integrated Web server in the new SiteCam 5.0 can serve Web pages that feature real-time live streaming audio/video, live video snapshots, time-lapse QuickTime movies and archived images. SiteCam's multi-document approach lets users capture video at different image formats using different images sizes, compression formats, and quality settings -- each labeled with text and graphics, letting the end-user pick a compression level and image size that fits their bandwidth and frame-rate needs.
Other features include image archiving, built-in FTP support, motion detection, password protection, AppleScript support for custom automation, multi-camera support and quick set-up guides.
WebSideStory last week released a beta of Version 2.0 of the Yep Web Companion, which lets users chat with other Yep users at the same site at the same time, take each other on guided tours of the Internet, post notes on Web sites, view personal Web surfing statistics, and vote on the quality of each site visited.
Websplit.com's new Websplit is a free downloadable software application designed to help users create a personal Web portal. It organizes browser bookmarks into a grid of Internet pages viewed simultaneously on one screen. The software also lets users add, delete and edit bookmarks, organize them into folders, define how many sites they want to see on one screen, and access bookmarks remotely.
Websplit also provides personal matching technology that indicates when people with similar interests are also surfing pages on Websplit. Users are represented as orange and blue icons on-screen, in various sizes according to their compatibility to the host user. A user can click on another user's icon to send an instant message.
Just out from Italian developer Phoenix Tools is a new "Yellow CD" collection of Softimage plug-ins including:
Also, the company is promising Maya plug-ins for the end of June.
ACD Systems International and LuraTech last week announced integration of LuraWave and LuraDocument compression technology in the ACDSee 3.0 image-management software. LuraTech's technology uses wavelet-technology, said to combine higher compression rates with superior image quality. Wavelet compression will be the core technology behind the coming JPEG2000 still image standard to be finalized late this year.
In addition to supporting the viewing of LuraWave (.LWF) and LuraDocument (.LDF) formats, ACDSee will offer LuraWave and LuraDocument plug-ins that let users compress image and image/text files at rates of 200:1 and higher. LuraWave provides additional features such as the ability to download progressively sharper versions of an image from a single file and the ability to have scaled images (i.e. thumbnails) from the original without having to create a new file.
It's not exactly what we think of as "new media," but this may be of interest to some: Authorlink.com, a news/information/marketing site for editors, agents and writers, has launched a new section called New Media. Defined by the Authorlink folks as titles published by subsidy presses or self-published by the author, they can be ranked for quality on a five-star rating system by the site's committee of "four published writers."
New Media books advertised by the publisher or author on Authorlink.com, potentially can earn stars for quality. Rankings include: "Excellent Read" (five stars), "Good Read" (three stars), or "Worth a Look" (one star). Books showing no stars are not rated or have not yet been evaluated.
Title listings range in price from $15 per month to $25 per month, plus a $40 setup fee.
Despite a slow start, good news is on the horizon for the U.S. digital TV market, with shipments projected to increase to more than a half million units this year. By 2004, as DTV set prices decrease and the government-mandated cessation of analog transmissions nears, this figure will soar to 5.9 million units, resulting in $9 billion in revenue, reports Cahners In-Stat Group, a high-tech market research firm.
HDTV Displays will reign supreme for the next couple of years, and will eventually be overtaken by Standard Definition (SD) TV sets in 2003.
According to Michelle Abraham, Senior Analyst for In-Stat's Consumer and Convergence Service, "The large price differential between HDTV and SDTV will remain constant and the minimal variance in picture quality in sets below 30 inches will convince consumers replacing smaller screen sets to opt for SDTV. As a result, SDTV sets will lead the market in shipping volume by 2004, even though HDTV sets will generate more overall revenue".
Few HDTV sets are currently being sold with integrated decoders. Instead, consumers purchase separate decoder set top boxes which enable them to upgrade at a significantly lower cost than purchasing an entire HDTV set.
Additionally, the use of Digital Terrestrial TV Set Top Boxes (DTT-STBs) gives consumers digital television benefits without the purchase of pricey High Definition sets. "SDTV-STBs, specifically, can be used in conjunction with analog televisions, allowing the consumer to receive Digital Terrestrial Transmission, increase their set's picture quality, and have access to multicast program services, Electronic Program Guides and stereo or surround sound audio outputs", says Gerry Kaufold, principal analyst with In-Stat's Consumer and Convergence Service. So far, the high cost of digital sets has parlayed into $100 million dollars worth of retail sales worldwide for STBs. In-stat predicts that these sales will explode to an estimated $1 billion in 2004. The European DVB-T market is breaking out of the chute first, In-Stat expects over 600,000 DTT-STBs to ship this year in England and Sweden.
In-Stat also reports:
The report Digital Television Sets: The Forecast (MM0004DV) covers the current state of the digital TV market and provides forecasts for DTV set shipments and revenue in addition to resulting semiconductor content. The report also profiles DTV products for companies such as Hitachi, Fujitsu, Panasonic, Philips, Pioneer, Samsung, Sony, Sharp and Thomson/RCA. The report price is $2,495.
The report Digital Terrestrial TV Set Top Boxes: Catching the New Digital Waves (MM0005ST) presents set top box features, transmission and reception issues in addition to set top box and semiconductor forecasts. The report price is $2,995.
We spent way too much time last weekend playing this title; if you like console RPGs, do not miss it. It's a bit wordy, and the battles are on the easy side (so far), but the puzzles are clever, if not downright tricky in some cases, the story is fairly compelling, and some of the NPCs are quite humorous. The PR says the battles are real-time, but in fact they're turn-based--thank goodness. Even better, the special effects are effective without taking forever. And on two CDs with minimal cinematics, it's a huge game: You get your money's worth and then some.
Sony Computer Entertainment America last week released Wild Arms 2 for PlayStation. As the sequel to 1997's role-playing hit Wild Arms, Wild Arms 2 is a true, traditional role-playing game (RPG) which brings back the best features from the first installment while adding improved graphics with 3D worlds, new characters, complex puzzles and dynamic battles.
Players must venture through Filgaia as one of three characters: Ashley, Lilka or Brad. Also known as dream chasers, these characters each possess their own distinct abilities and special fighting skills when engaged in battle. In Wild Arms 2, the journey will vary depending on the character selected, the information and items acquired, and the final decisions made by the player as the storyline unravels.
In an attempt to get the word out and broaden the appeal of its game MindRover, CogniToy last week released Mini-Mindrover, a free Web-based Java game available at the company's Web site.
In both versions of the game, users wire up intelligent robots to compete against the clock or other robots. The full version of MindRover lets users choose the chassis type and components, build the robots, wire them, and then provides a variety of 3D scenarios for competition. Mini-MindRover starts with a pre-designed robotic race car and lets the player program its components to race around one of three different race tracks in a top-down view.
Publisher Eidos Interactive last week announced its PC and console lineup for this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo:
The greedy Trade Federation has invaded pastoral Naboo, and the vile Neimoidians are wreaking havoc on the peaceful world. The planet's people have been imprisoned... or worse. But a handful of resistance fighters have rallied to defend their homeworld. LucasArts Entertainment Company LLC challenges players to strike back on land, sea and air in the Nintendo 64 action-arcade title Star Wars: Episode I Battle for Naboo. Inspired by Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, the game is being developed in conjunction with Factor 5 LLC of San Rafael, Calif., and is expected for release in fall 2000.
The title intersects Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace at key plot points, but Lucas claims the storyline is entirely original. Players will assume the role of Lieutenant Gavyn Sykes, a young and dedicated Naboo soldier fighting to defend his planet. In his quest to free Naboo, Sykes must master multiple vehicles, including the fast and agile N-1 starfighter, a heavily armored battle STAP, a stolen Trade Federation gunboat, and the powerful Gian speeder, to name a few. Each vehicle has different strengths, weaknesses, and weapons; understanding these factors will be a key to victory.
Battle for Naboo's dynamic difficulty adjustment continually evaluates the player's performance and adjusts the levels accordingly.
WildTangent was one of the most visible companies at the recent GDC, thanks to the unflagging energy of founder/CEO/ex-Microsoft game evangelist Alex St. John. Microsoft recently announced the release of its latest online game, "Tacoma Adrenaline" featured on the MSN Game Zone at.
The game was created by WildTangent using its Web Driver, which interfaces directly with DirectX. The software is said to let Web and game developers create and deliver multimedia content via the Internet using standard scripting languages. The Web Driver software development kit enables developers to take advantage of a user's hardware acceleration to display graphically rich content. In doing so, Web developers can create and incorporate rich advertising, entertainment and gaming content that scales to a user's system.
Tired of taking your life into your hands every time you go online? Electronic Arts last week released the latest version of its multiplayer virtual world, Ultima Online (UO). Ultima Online: Among the new features in Ultima Online: Renaissance are new lands, equal to the size of the original world and devoted to providing players with an area safe from the attacks of other players. Upon logging in to the world, new players are given the opportunity to go through the new in-game tutorial.
They are immediately taken to the safe town of "Haven" where they can practice in a live game environment and benefit from one-on-one training supplied by more than 2000 volunteer companions.
The upgraded features will allow expanded opportunities for housing. A doubling of the landmass in Britannia means additional room to build houses, towers and castles, giving more players the chance to live the Britannia dream. In addition, a new party system enables adventuring with a group of friends by facilitating group communication, combat, and profit and reward sharing. Skill management, a new skill system design feature, allows for more exact control over the development of your character.
Current Ultima Online subscribers won't be required to purchase a CD to enjoy the updated features of Ultima Online: Renaissance because the features are automatically downloaded to existing accounts.
eMediatainmentWorld, a new conference and marketplace focused on the development and distribution of the Internet's emediatainment-related content, supporting services and applications, has set a lineup of four main panels:
Other panels include:
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