1 November 1999
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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MathEngine is the provider of real-time natural behavior for 3D applications in entertainment, engineering, education and e-commerce.
Surveyor Corp. and Rearden Technology have released SiteCam-Transit, a $500 interactive Webcam package for the Macintosh. SiteCam-Transit includes Rearden's SiteCam Webcam software designed for Macintosh platforms and Surveyor's camera mount (TransitRCM), which allows users to move their Webcam in any direction with live video through the Internet. SiteCam-Transit can also snap pictures from preset positions and broadcast (FTP) them on a Web site.
The SiteCam-Transit bundle (TransitRCM, cables, power supply and software) can be purchased online from Rearden Technology (www.rearden.com/transit). An evaluation copy of SiteCam software is available for download and a live demo of TransitRCM technology is available from www.surveyorcorp.com.
Binary Evolution Inc., a provider Web application development tools and consulting, and the Sun-Netscape Alliance announced last week that Binary Evolution's VelociGen will ship with iPlanet Web Server Enterprise Server 4.0.
VelociGen is a Web server plug-in for developing Web applications that integrate with OBDC-compliant databases and legacy applications. It reportedly improves Enterprise Server's speed and stability and enables deployment of enterprise applications based on the Perl or Tcl programming languages.
The Enterprise Server CD includes a version of VelociGen with limited functionality with the option to download a fully functional version from a link at Netscape's Web site.
VelociGen is designed to let developers speed up existing CGI scripts with no modification to existing code. VelociGen scripts can be pre-compiled and pre-cached and used to make persistent database connections, which reduce overhead and increase the execution speed. Requests are handled in the order they are received, allowing consistent response times, even under heavy load.
Applications written with VelociGen are said to be more stable than server APIs, because they run in separate, isolated processes. The Web server is protected even if a script crashes. VelociGen also provides the additional benefits of load balancing by distributing Perl or Tcl processing across multiple Web servers to improve performance and reliability.
In-house testing shows iPlanet Web Server with VelociGen outperforms Apache with mod_perl by up to by 25%. For more details on this testing, see: http://www.binevolve.com/press/pressdocs/iplanet/iplanet.html#results
Additional information about Sun-Netscape Alliance is available at http://www.iplanet.com
Open Door Networks Inc., the developer of Mac OS 9's Internet file-sharing feature, last week announced additions to its line of Macintosh Internet products, enhancing the security of Mac OS 9's Internet features, and of Internet-connected Macs in general. ShareWay IP 3.0, an upgrade to Internet file sharing, is shipping immediately, and DoorStop Personal Edition, an end-user version of Open Door's powerful server firewall software, is available in a public beta release
ShareWay IP 3.0, available at http://www.opendoor.com/shareway/, offers such new features as :
DoorStop Personal Edition, available as a public beta release from http://www.opendoor.com/doorstop/, is an entry-level version of Open Door's DoorStop firewall software. Its features include:
Egerter Software has released Power Render 3, a high-level 3D API for all 3D applications and games. Now shipping, Power Render 3 contains features such as multi-texturing, hardware bump mapping, multi-monitor support, curved surfaces, 130 pre-built shaders and the ability to write your own, particle systems, 3D light sources, light maps, key-frame animation playback from 3D Studio or LightWave files, terrain landscape engine, portal engine, BSP tree level viewer, character animation system with particle and sound scripting, two different sound libraries with support for digitally tracked music and DirectSound3D with EAX support, projected and stencil buffered shadows and more. Over 35 detailed examples range from rendering simple objects to complete mini-engines with animated characters and collision detection.
Other features include:
The API has been designed over DirectX 6 immediate mode and requires no knowledge of DirectX functions to use. However, the user can mix both Power Render and DirectX calls. Power Render 3 is available for Microsoft Visual C/C++ and costs $290 US per product. Source code licenses are also available.
LifeView, Inc.'s new USB RoboCAM is an $80 PC digital camera that employs CMOS technologies to capture still or motion video at 30 frames per second. The device offers a TWAIN interface for video editing capabilities, and also supports I-Mac systems. It comes bundled with Ulead Video Studio, Video Mail, MS NetMeeting and LifeView Utilities.
Other features include 1/500 exposure, automatic balance/gain control, progressive CODEC, <20 lux minimum illumination, >42dB signal to noise ratio, 4 Mbits buffer memory, and a low power mode.
For more information on the USB RoboCAM, contact LifeView, Inc. by phone at 510/661-2968, via fax at 510/661-2978, or visit www.lifeview.com.
Blink.com last week launched the first of a suite of "collaborative searching" tools. In contrast to major search engines, which require entry of a keyword, and often return long lists of useless sites, Blink's proprietary algorithms identify other similar sites that have been bookmarked by members. Instead of picking a keyword, Blink members click on "Show related blink links" to return only sites other Blink members have found useful.
Blink.com provides members with a personalized filing and navigation system for important Web site addresses. Members can create a free, secure Web account to which they can upload existing bookmarks or favorite links. Then, Blink.com enables members to sort links into folders and provides the capability to add new links from the blink library.
DigiPortal Software last week released OmniViewer ($35), a real-time, customizable Internet news and information content collection software program. The client-side software reportedly lets users decide exactly what content they want sent to their desktops and how they view it.
OmniViewer includes the following features:
North Sky, an online community solutions provider, last week introduced its customizable, next-generation instant-messaging program as part of its suite of community building tools. Features include online presence indicator, real-time chat, file transfer, "friends' lists," and fully customizable interfaces or "skins."
North Sky has also made the instant messenger modular, letting partners create custom modules or select from North Sky's pre-developed modules such as a "friends' list" and "messaging center." Modules can be added or removed through a module manager. Users will be able to create private, customized chat rooms and will be able to indicate their presence online through their personal home page.
North Sky supports a public standard for instant communications and will offer the ability to communicate with other public networks, including the forthcoming Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) standard, once the standard has been determined.
Webroot Software's new $20 software tool, Accelerate 2000 for Win9x, reportedly optimizes Internet speed for Windows users by modifying Windows settings for data transfer via modem/network connections.
Coming soon from MetaCreations for Mac and Wintel PCs is KPT 6, the most recent release in the KPT series of image effects. The Adobe Photoshop-compatible plug-in set, aimed at graphic designers, digital artists and Web content developers, includes eight plug-ins from the KPT X series, including KPT Goo, KPT Gel and KPT Equalizer, new plug-ins such as KPT Materializer and KPT Projector, plus two bonus plug-ins originally developed by RAYflect.
Productivity enhancements include standardized interface and workflow integration, large real-time previews and reproducible image effects.
Plug-in applications featured in KPT 6:
Canada-based Fakespace Systems last week announced the RAVE (Reconfigurable Advanced Visualization Environment), a reconfigurable large-scale immersive display system for collaborative work with virtual prototypes and other complex graphical data. The RAVE system is designed to support multiple viewing modalities including immersive room (CAVE-like) environments, flat wall displays, and a variety of other configurations.
The company also announced that it has already built a RAVE system for Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Fakespace Systems is scheduled to install the four-module reconfigurable system at LANL in January 2000, upon the completion of a new facility in Los Alamos, New Mexico.
3Dlabs, Inc. last week released its PowerThreads SSE - a new-generation multi-threaded OpenGL driver for its Oxygen VX1 entry-level workstation graphics accelerator. The driver reportedly leverages multiple CPUs to boost geometry and lighting performance for all single- and multi-threaded OpenGL applications and uses Intel's Streaming SIMD Extensions (SSE) to accelerate geometry transform and lighting calculations on Windows workstations equipped with Intel Pentium III processors. Additionally, through cooperation with Autodesk, 3Dlabs has implemented driver optimizations for 3D Studio Max that it claims boost application performance by up to 300%.
The drivers are available for immediate download at www.3dlabs.com and will be included as standard with all future shipments of Oxygen VX1.
The new 1394 Digital Video Capture Card from Cadmus Micro allows high-speed transfer of digital video output, hard drive information, and other digital sources directly into a notebook computer. The $149 card is based on the IEEE 1394 standard, a.k.a. "Firewire."
iCompression last week introduced a new family of MPEG-2 encoders that incorporate audio, video, and system encode functions in a single chip, designed to be used in new generation of consumer-priced electronic products and communications systems.
The company says its new iVAC family will spur the development of products such as personal video recorders, personal computers, and set-top boxes that allow consumers to simultaneously compress, store, playback, and transport audio and video streams. iVAC encoders will also drive low-cost systems for videoconferencing, video e-mail, and other Internet applications that allow consumers to easily exchange high-quality audio/video data.
The entry-level iTVC10 encoder can time shift, record, or edit video data to set-top boxes, televisions, and computer peripherals and add-in cards. It performs MPEG-1 Layer II audio compression and MPEG-2 video compression. For MPEG-2, the ITVC10 encoders handle 480x576 (PAL) and 480x480 resolution (NTSC) formats. The device supports 6 MB of external SDRAM.
The high-end iTVC12 can exchange digital video data between systems based on broadcast or consumer standards. Applications include archiving video data in PCs, DVD authoring, and transferring home video to DVD formats. These capabilities are targeted at high-end televisions and hard-disk recorders.
The iTVC-12 offers MPEG-2 compression at standard CCIR-601 or CCIR-656 (also known as D1) resolutions (720x576 for PAL and 720x480 for NTSC). The device also provides AC-3 interoperability by supporting both MPEG-1 Layer II and Dolby AC-3 audio compression schemes, and supports 12 MB of SDRAM.
Additionally, the iTVC12 incorporates Transport layer processing, enabling designers to utilize MPEG-2 encoding in consumer devices or to implement video over IP networks for running Internet applications that can use widely available low-cost systems, such as videoconferencing, video e-mail, and distance learning.
Mindscape Entertainment's newest virtual pet is … a baby! From the creators of the Dogz and Catz family of virtual Petz characters, Babyz is a virtual baby for the PC. SRP is $30, and best of all: no college education required!
Each box comes with one unique infant whose picture is on the front, plus 15 additional Babyz on CD. More Babyz are available at an online adoption center. Mindscape says every virtual baby has its own unique personality and will behave differently. Up to three Babyz can play on-screen at once, and they will interact with both their owners and each other.
Babyz features IBM's ViaVoice voice recognition technology, which lets users speak to their desktop playmates and teach them up to 70 words. In time Babyz will learn to recognize their own names as well as those of several objects. They will also learn to understand the difference between good and bad behavior -- but no spanking allowed.
Free sample rugrats at www.babyz.net
Chapter 1, The Client-Side Search Engine, is available free on the Web at:
In a recent, $1,495 wireless report, Cahners In-Stat Group estimates that the wireless data market will grow to 25 million subscribers in 2003 from 1.7 million users today. Current users represent approximately two to three percent of traffic over cellular and broadband PCS carriers' networks.
Wireless Internet access is expected to become seamless to users in the next few years and demand will be high because users won't realize they are accessing the "Net for simple requests." For example, in the future, carriers will provide customers with the ability to access their Web site to obtain frequently requested information, thereby reducing the burden on call centers and their associated expenditures.
The report, The Wireless Data Market: Finally Poised for Growth, # WP9909SP, details the market demands of business users of cellular or PCS phones in the small office/home office (SOHO), small, middle and large businesses.
For more information, call 480.483.4473 or visit http://www.instat.com/pr/1999/wp9908mp_pr.htm
According to a new study from interactive advertising research firm Millward Brown Interactive, superstitials, typically large-format online advertisements, are more effective and more positively perceived by the average Web user than other online advertising formats. The full report - sponsored by Unicast and The Intel Corporation - expands upon initial findings released last August and covers data aggregated over a three-month testing period involving approximately 2,000 participants.
Superstitials are non-banner rich media ads that can be any size on the screen and can be authored in various formats. Pre-loaded using a "polite" delivery system that eliminates latency problems experienced with streaming online advertising solutions, superstitials only play on a user-initiated break in surfing, such as a mouse click. They never play until fully loaded, ensuring that every user gets a consistent and complete brand message and that advertisers pay only for guaranteed impressions.
The full report can be accessed at www.mbinteractive.com.
More information on Unicast and the superstitial format can be found at www.unicast.com.
Montreal-based Guillemot last week announced its acquisition of American manufacturer Hercules Computer Technology Inc.
Established in 1982, Hercules Computer Technology Inc. can reportedly be credited with starting the PC graphics add-in board business. Hercules created, manufactured and marketed graphics cards and 3D accelerators throughout the world. In 1998, the company had a turnover of $20 million (US) and its status and product positioning in high-end graphics market ensured worldwide notoriety with PC users and system builders.
Guillemot is planning to revitalize Hercules' business through capital and R&D backing, and says it will "enhance" all assets obtained in the transaction, including brand name, patents and designs.
Computer and video game publisher Gathering of Developers has secured computer and video game rights to The Blair Witch Project license from Artisan Entertainment and Haxan Films. The Gathering will publish multiple games for the PC and at least one console system based on the property.
Several development teams affiliated with The Gathering will create the PC games using Terminal Reality's Nocturne game engine, said to be capable of creating worlds of dark, brooding shadows, suspense and terror. The Blair Witch Project Games will be released starting in summer 2000. Details regarding the teams and various projects will be disclosed in early 2000.
Micro-review: If you like console-type RPGs, don't miss this one. It's fun, funny, and eminently playable.
Sony Computer Entertainment America last week launched Grandia, a two-CD title for the PlayStation game console. Developed by Game Arts, the producers of the Alisa Dragoon and Lunar series, Grandia features a character-driven story combined with 70 hours of vibrant and detailed gameplay.
The story pits magic and technology against the feral guise of corruption. Long ago, before humans could claim their superiority upon this world, a benevolent race with great knowledge and powers lived in peace and harmony in the magical city of Angelou. As the world evolved, humans began to establish their roots in these lands and people began to believe that the existence of Angelou was nothing but a myth. But the sinister General Baal knows otherwise and scours the world in hopes to find the ancient city and unleash its secrets.
Players assume the role of Justin, a precocious 15-year-old boy, as he and his friends, Sue and Feena, set out to stop the evil General and his diabolical plans. Justin's adventure begins as he uncovers what happened to the ancient world and tries to stop General Baal from awakening the deadly secret.
Key features include:
Westwood Studios last week announced Firestorm, an expansion pack for Command & Conquer Tiberian Sun scheduled for release in early 2000.
In Tiberian Sun Firestorm, NOD leader Kane has been defeated, but a new, more powerful enemy has emerged. About 30 minutes of new film sequences have been created to tell this next chapter of the Command & Conquer Saga.
Created by the original Tiberian Sun team, Firestorm contains new features, weapons and hidden secrets. It will feature 18 new single player missions, at least 10 new multiplayer maps, and new units, including the Juggernaut, the Mobile War Factory, the Mobile Stealth Generator, and the Cyborg Reaper.
More information about Firestorm's new units and features can be found at www.firestorm.westwood.com.
A trial version of Microsoft's Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings is available at http://www.microsoft.com/games/age2/. The trial version offers the William Wallace Learning Campaign, which teaches players the fundamentals of the game. In this campaign, the warriors of Scotland attempt to hold off an invasion of the better-equipped English armies. Players take command of the highlanders and learn the basic concepts of the game, such as how to build an economy, how to train their soldiers and, most importantly, how to fight and defeat their enemy.
The Age of Empires II trial version also features a sample Random Map game. This is the heart of the game, and the variations are endless. Gamers start in the Dark Ages with a Town Center, three villagers and a scout. Players must then build their empire and eliminate the two computer-player opponents. Additionally, using another sample Random Map, players can join their friends and do battle with their enemies on the MSN Gaming Zone (http://www.zone.com/).
CogniToy's first game, MindRover: the Europa Project, will ship this week. MindRover was selected as one of 15 finalists in the 1999 Independent Games Festival at the Game Developer's Conference. For the first few weeks, CogniToy is offering its customers discounts off list price of $45 in return for help in marketing the game.
"We are a small, independent game developer with a limited budget," explained Kim Quirk, CEO. "Instead of paying huge sums of money to an ad agency up front, we pay our customers, directly, for each email address they give us. This way we buy our ads one pair of eyeballs at a time."
The deal works like this: MindRover is available only through the CogniToy Web site (http://www.cognitoy.com). The order form allows the customer to recommend the game to up to six friends. Each recommendation is worth $5 off the p rice of MindRover.
MindRover gives players the tools to create their own intelligent robotic vehicles to compete in a variety of challenges. CogniToy classifies it as a "strategy programming" game. Players start with an empty vehicle and add components such as sensors, weapons, and engines. Next they wire those components together using an innovative visual programming system, and finally set the vehicles free in the game world to compete without further intervention.
Features include 3D graphics, a visual programming system, a large variety of components, and competitions that include races, puzzles, sports and battles.
Underlying the MindRover system is CogniToy's proprietary ICE programming language, which is used to build components, scenarios and vehicles. This modular system allows CogniToy to release new components and scenarios on its Web site. In early 2000, CogniToy plans to release an ICE development kit that will allow players to build and share new levels and components.
Coming soon from Activision is the publisher's first Star Trek title, Star Trek: Hidden Evil. The game, aimed at both casual players and game enthusiasts, is an action/adventure set nine months after the events of last year's motion picture "Star Trek: Insurrection." Gameplay includes combat, stealth and exploration as players engage with alien forces in an attempt to save the Federation.
Eidos Interactive last week released Cinematix Studios' Revenant for PC CD-ROM. The role-playing game combines a combat system with adventure elements and a deep storyline. Features include:
A demo is available for download at www.eidos.com
Eidos also last week shipped Thief Gold, an updated version of first person "stealth" action/adventure game Thief: The Dark Project. The title contains three new missions along with updated versions of the game's 12 previous missions, which have undergone additional tuning and play balancing. Thief Gold was developed by Looking Glass Studios and published by Eidos.
Fox Interactive last week shipped The X-Files for PlayStation. The four-disc title lets players assume the role of field agent Craig Wilmore, assisting Agents Scully and Mulder in an investigation. Gamers uncover clues, examine crime scenes, conduct interviews and make decisions that control the final outcome of the story.
The X-Files was developed by Seattle-based HyperBole Studios.
Bullfrog Productions last week launched its multiplayer demo for Dungeon Keeper 2. Use wit and cunning to obliterate opponents over the Internet in three realms. Dig out your dungeon and fill it with Workshops, Combat Pits, Prisons, Monster Lairs and more, then watch as your creatures take up residence. Your minions will form your army, research spells for you to use and line your dungeon with traps.
The demo can be downloaded from http://www.dungeonkeeper.com.
SouthPeak Interactive's new $20 PC CD-ROM title Scooby-Doo: Mystery of the Fun Park Phantom is a mystery/adventure game that places players in the haunted Gobs O' Fun amusement park. Players can choose to be Velma, Daphne, Fred or Shaggy as they gather clues, interview suspects, and dodge angry ghouls to keep the theme park from closing. When sufficient clues are gathered, players work with Scooby-Doo to set a trap and capture the villain.
The location of clues, Scooby Snacks and trap components, and the specific trap required to capture the villain change randomly with every new game, letting the kiddies have a whole new experience every time they play.
Players can play along against computer opponents or select multi-player adventures with up to four players on a single machine, LAN or MSN Gaming Zone (http://www.zone.com).
With the conclusion of open beta on October 24, Microsoft announced that Asheron's Call, the online-only game available exclusively on the MSN Gaming Zone (http://www.zone.com), has gone gold. This means the product is completed and is expected to start showing up on store shelves in the U.S. in early November.
When available at retail, Asheron's Call will have an estimated street price of $49.99 and include one free month of play. After the free month has expired, there will be a $9.95-per-month charge to continue play.
Developed by Turbine Entertainment, Asheron's Call is a massively multiplayer role-playing game that draws together thousands of players within a dynamic, 3D online world. Players create unique characters by choosing between combinations of visual appearance, attributes and skill sets, and then compete or cooperate with thousands of other online players. An extensive system of allegiance and influence enhances social interaction. The online nature of the game facilitates an evolving and dynamic adventure inside a consistent universe. The game will never be solved because there will always be more areas to explore and quests to complete.
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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