12 October 1999
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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According to an October 8 story in EE Times Online, Sony plans to produce a high-end workstation line based on its PlayStation 2 technology, including the Emotion Engine (CPU) and graphics synthesizer. The story quotes Sony Computer Entertainment president Ken Kutaragi as saying that the workstation would be aimed primarily at new sectors, such as servers for movie theaters. Which doesn't exactly make sense, given that theaters provide linear content for passive audiences while Sony's silicon is ideal for dynamic, interactive entertainment. Anyway, you can read all about it at http://www.eetimes.com/story/OEG19991006S0040.
Coming in November from Ulead Systems is the $60 program JavaRazor, which lets users create Java applets that contain interactive buttons and animations for Web pages, without coding in Java.
JavaRazor includes two programs:
Also, Ulead's PhotoImpact Challenge is an online animation and digital art competition for a grand prize of US$5,000 and other prizes.
WebSite Professional, O'Reilly & Associates' Web server for Windows, is being upgraded to take advantage of recent security advancements. The new version, expected later this quarter, supports Transport Layer Security (TLS) version 1.0, and features improvements such as client certificate authentication and the newly-approved exportable 56-bit cipher strength.
Transport Layer Security 1.0 is the successor to Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), the current standard encryption protocol for web data. In addition to supporting TLS 1.0 as defined by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), WebSite Professional 2.4 also supports SSL versions 2.0 and 3.0.
End users who visit a site served by WebSite Professional 2.4 can purchase a certificate which guarantees their identity. The certificate takes the place of multiple user names and passwords, which can be forgotten or lost, and can be used on any site which the user visits. According to O'Reilly, such certificates, which can be purchased from a variety of vendors, can be as reliable identifiers as fingerprints.
WebSite Professional 2.4 will be free to registered users by download from http://software.oreilly.com. It is installed over WebSite Professional 2.0, which has a suggested retail price of $799.
Macromedia last week shipped Macromedia Generator 2, said to reduce development times by separating the design of a Web graphic from the information contained within the graphic, enabling the graphic to be created on the fly. Free authoring templates used within the Macromedia Flash 4 development environment, for both Windows and MacOS, work with the Generator server software to dynamically merge the templates with media located anywhere, such as databases or URLs. Generator delivers various graphic formats ranging from GIF to Flash to QuickTime 4.
Macromedia also announced that Generator will be available for Red Hat Linux, IBM AIX and Sun Solaris platforms in November, in addition to the Windows 95, 98 and NT version currently shipping.
WebSideStory, a specialist in Internet tracking and traffic analysis, last week announced new features in its StatMarket eData Mining. The version 3 upgrade accesses the more than 100 million Web user profiles that WebSideStory has amassed, improves remote tracking in SSL-protected sections of sites, and provides data grouping capabilities.
A free seven-day trial is available at http://edatamining.statmarket.com.
Scheduled for release in Q1 '00 from O'Reilly Software is Host Master ($TBD), a companion for the company's WebBoard 4.0 live chat and forums/conference software.
Host Master's data and user-management features include:
Austin-based Adhesive Software, Inc. has incorporated a new feature into its line of Web-site management software that allows users to create multiple discrete sites that can be managed from a primary site without an increase in cost. The feature, called Dynamic Website Repurposing (DWR), is based on Adhesive's product architecture WebOS, which parses the elements of each Web-site page into distinct objects. This separation allows objects on the Web site to be grouped according to function, managed by different groups within a business organization and then reassembled in real time based on content, layout and functionality choices.
NextPage, LC's LivePublish 2.0 suite of Internet and intranet publishing software products is an XML-enabled enterprise publishing platform for commercial and corporate publishers. It will be available in late October.
The suite consists of the following individual products:
ViewCast.com's new $99.95 Your Video on the Web package lets PC users to capture video from a camcorder and stream (broadcast) it over the Internet. The package bundles the Osprey-50, a plug-in PCI computer card that enables PCs to capture and stream videos, with RealNetworks' RealProducer and RealPlayer applications. Ninety days of free hosting on the company's site will be included with purchase.
Coming later this year from Steinberg Soft-und Hardware GmbH is the Nuendo Media Production System ($1,295). Aimed at audio for film, video and interactive media markets, the Nuendo Media Production System is a modular system centered on a software audio application for the Windows/NT platform and includes several hardware accessories. Nuendo features up to 128 tracks of digital audio, surround mixing, a video-track, and MIDI tracks.
Nuendo uses entirely native signal processing, which means that every function is run from the computer's host processor rather than from a dedicated DSP unit.
NUENDO supports most computer systems capable of running Windows NT and Windows 98. NUENDO for the BeOS will be released later this year.
A new agreement between Be Here Corporation and RealNetworks, Inc. will let Web surfers using the RealPlayer G2 software view and interact with Be Here's iVideo 360-degree immersive video. The Be Here iVideo Play! extension will be available via RealNetworks AutoUpdate system. This system lets users transparently download and install the iVideo Play! without the plug-in download and installation problems typically associated with new content types.
Captured with Be Here's single-shot 360-degree optical system, iVideo lets viewers choose and control their point of view for each live broadcast or recorded streaming video.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is using MetaCreations' MetaStream 3D streaming technology as an interactive component of NASA's Shuttle Small Payloads Project (SSPP) Web site.
The site, http://sspp.gsfc.nasa.gov/3d/index.html, uses 3D to help visitors better visualize how the SSPP transports carrier systems for the space shuttle. Visitors can view, rotate and zoom in on 3D carrier system images.
The following patches are now available from http://www.digimation.com/download/max3patc.htm:
Set to ship this week from graphics studio and publisher Marlin Studios is "Seamless Textures 4 - Classic Stonework" CD-ROM, the sixth in its product line of photorealistic texture collections. The royalty-free collection features 348 seamless and tileable textures with bump maps -- all presented in three sizes and created from photographs of hundred-years-old stonework in Europe and North America. The CD-ROM also includes a pair of 3D models -- a castle and a chateau from Viewpoint -- which normally retail for $643, and a collection of 100 color photos for reference and artistic inspiration.
Textures and matching bump maps come in three sizes: Large (1152x768), Medium (66% of Large), Small (33% of Large). Categories and the number in each are: 99 stone bricks, 7 cobblestones, 92 cut stones, 34 flagstones, 82 rubble stones, and 34 variegated stones. Also included are printable color index pages, depicting thumbnails of all textures.
Free sample textures at http://www.marlinstudios.com
Set for availability around the holiday season from Canada-based Guillemot is 3D Prophet DDR (SRP $370), a 3D accelerator featuring NVIDIA's new GeForce 256 DDR design with DDR RAM. DDR RAM performs two instructions per RAM clock instead of a single instruction with SDR. Guillemot says 3D Prophet DDR will accelerate complex animations in 3D games: shadows, lighting, complex smooth-skinned characters and intense artificial intelligence (faster AI from a display card? I don't think so! -ed.). The company also claims the card will run games at 1600 x 1200 above 30 fps.
BitJazz Inc. last week began shipping its PhotoJazz v2.0 for Mac, with v2.0 for Windows due next month. The product's BitJazz technology reportedly offers lossless compression, averaging 2.5X for photo-quality images. Version 2 adds support for QuarkXPress, QuickTime, and 16-bit channels. Version 1 was accessible only through the PhotoJazz Photoshop plug-in.
Other features include embedded ICC profiles and CRC data-integrity verification. It supports all high-quality image modes, including RGB, CMYK, Grayscale, and CIE Lab, as well as multiple spot-color and alpha channels, with up to 16 bits per channel.
Using the BitJazz SDK, developers can incorporate the PhotoJazz interface directly in their software, and their users can read PhotoJazz images.
Applied Science Fiction (ASF) announces the availability of a new, integrated family of new technologies called Digital ICE3 (Digital Image Enhancement & Correction 3 or Digital ICE "cubed") imaging suite, that is being offered to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) of digital imaging products. The underlying technology is incorporated into the scanner by OEMs and functions are contained within the scanner-related software.
The three components are:
Vancouver, British Columbia-based Credo Interactive Inc., a developer of character animation software, last week announced the immediate availability of Life Forms 3.5, the newest release of the company's popular 3D character animation software. Advances include motion editing, rendering, and retargeting motion between models, Life Forms 3.5 builds on the already powerful Life Forms character motion tool set. See Spectrum 9 August 1999 for details.
This info comes from computer security experts the SANS Institute (http://www.sans.org/): Pioneer programmer and all-around good guy Steve Gibson offers ShieldsUP!, a free service that checks your computer's vulnerability to attacks from the Internet, at http://grc.com.
Adobe's newly revamped Website features a series of columns by Photoshop guru David Biedny at http://www.adobe.com/motion/columns/biedny/main.html … Entrepreneurs seeking advice and strategies for securing cyber-success can tap into StrategyWeek.com, a new Internet resource located at http://www.StrategyWeek.com. The site features interviews with companies that are creating successful online strategies ... Publisher Macmillan USA's new information technology portal, InformIT (www.informit.com) offers information, technology, reference, training, news, and opinion.
CNET's new Help.com (www.help.com) lets users get answers to tech questions in three ways: search Help.com's database of questions and answers culled from computer and technology newsgroups; access a catalog of tips and how-tos from CNET editors; access additional help from around the Internet ... PC Guardian offers Encryption Plus Folders Lite, a freeware 56-bit encryption program that uses the Blowfish algorithm at http://www.pcguardian.com/folders_download.html
Search By Media, a smart agent, lets users simultaneously search the Web for any combination of media at http://www.searchbymedia.com ... vDrome is a new 3D, multi-user entertainment complex on the Web, allowing members to share viewing experiences through mid-band audio and video streaming technology. Access to vDrome is free to Cybertown visitors and members (www.cybertown.com) ... Activeworlds.com (http://www.activeworlds.com) will host the grand opening for the Educational Universe on Tuesday, October 19 at 1PM EST. The Active Worlds Educational Universe (AWEDU) is an online 3D community aimed at the early childhood through higher education markets.
Nearlife Inc. will develop the KidsRoom2, a "Living Entertainment" to be featured at London's Millennium Dome. The Dome, which will open to the public in January, is being touted as the largest and most ambitious millennium celebration in the world. It is expected to attract over 15 million visitors during 2000.
KidsRoom2 will immerse children in an interactive, dreamlike experience, with talking furniture and animated playmates coupled with action, music, light and sound. Nearlife is also developing comparable forms of "Living Entertainment" for debut on the Web. The KidsRoom2 will take the form of a child's fantasy bedroom, where a virtual bird comes to life and takes flight, a boat navigates raging rivers, and mischievous monkeys lead children on grand adventures. The interactive animal characters are programmed to exhibit their own unique personality traits.
Utilizing Nearlife's proprietary immersive technologies, such as its Directable Character technology and Immersive Tracking System, the children "travel" in a team of four on a quest. They engage teamwork, encounter surprises along the way, and realize that their actions have consequences and that their decisions produce specific results. Parents and other visitors can view the experience from a gallery just outside the exhibit.
KidsRoom2 will utilize seven PCs and two 7x3-meter, rear-projected walls. Nearlife is creating the experience in collaboration with Land Design Studio of London, the designers of Play zone, one of 14 zones within the Millennium Dome. The zones will immerse visitors in the various aspects of life, including Work, Rest, Play, Mind, Body, Faith, Learn, Talk and Journey.
KidsRoom2 was inspired by a demonstration project at the MIT Media Lab under the KidsRoom name. Professor Aaron Bobick, creator of the original project, is a consultant to Nearlife on the KidsRoom2 exhibit.
Nearlife made its debut in 1998 with the Virtual FishTank at Boston's Computer Museum (now part of the Museum of Science). The 2,200-square foot, permanent exhibit focuses on the schooling behavior of simulated cartoon-like fish. Visitors are immersed in an undersea world where they can change the rules for the fish and also create their own fish. Visitors and the fish interact with each other, helping to blend the real and virtual environments-making the experience near-to-life.
More information on the Virtual FishTank can be obtained at Nearlife's Web site, www.nearlife.com.
The Internet has always been about collaboration: providing a means for people to communicate and work together effectively. Jon Udell's Practical Internet Groupware, a new book from O'Reilly & Associates, shows how to build effective applications for conferencing and other forms of Internet-enabled collaboration.
"The Internet is a groupware platform," says Udell. "It's easy to lose sight of that fact. Consider the Web. It was invented to enable scientists to collaborate. As it became a mainstream phenomenon, it morphed into something that many people think of as more like broadcast television than groupware."
The book describes the tools and technologies for building and rapidly deploying groupware applications, and also discusses the design philosophy and usability issues that determine the success or failure of any groupware endeavor.
According to Udell, the key to success lies in using simple tools, often Open Source, that effectively blend in established Internet technologies that have always had a collaborative aspect (SMTP, NNTP) with new technologies that enhance our ability to manage collaborative documents (HTTP, XML). The result is an approach that codifies the idea that many Web content providers have long suspected: yesterday's online content is fast becoming tomorrow's network-based applications.
"Practical Internet Groupware" is being serialized on the O'Reilly Website at:
For a piece written by Tim O'Reilly on why "Practical Internet Groupware" is such an important book, see: http://www.oreilly.com/ask tim/pracintgr preface.html
For more information about the book, including Table of Contents, index, author bio, and samples, see: http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/pracintgr/
The Winter 2000 issue of Convergence (vol. 6, no. 4) will be devoted to the theme of Intelligent Environments.
Embedded controllers are beginning to alter the nature of the fabric from which environments are constructed as well as the behaviors that are exhibited by them. Objects and environments with embedded sensor-effector and processing capabilities are becoming commonplace. Adaptive, interactive and autonomous material systems suggest that the relationship between humans and material culture is undergoing a fundamental shift. Discourses drawn from architectural/environmental and media theory are not significantly adapted to this new condition. Critical design practice, in these terms, is not yet well established.
Submissions are invited relating to the cultural and cognitive dimensions of interactions with intelligent environments from both the theoretical perspective and that of technical, artistic and cultural practices and products. Research papers may include a range of related issues, such as cooperative buildings or environments, intelligent rooms, structures, or objects, interfaces to situated and embodied media, interaction with and interfaces to distributed systems, human-machine, human-environment and human-agent interaction, especially that which does not depend upon symbolic, representational or linguistic interfaces. 'Intelligent Environments' will promote a critical understanding of the issues that surround the relationship between humans and adaptive, interactive intelligent and autonomous environments.
Copy deadline for refereed research articles: 30 April 2000
All proposals, inquiries and submissions for this special issue to:
Assistant Professor of Architecture
Director of Information Technology
206C Vol Walker Hall
School of Architecture
University of Arkansas
Fayetteville, AR 72701
Tel: + 1 501-575-7102
Fax: +1 501-575-7099
Macromedia, Inc. and Andromedia, a provider of marketing software for e-commerce, last week signed a definitive agreement to merge. Andromedia CEO Kent Godfrey will join the senior management team at Macromedia where he will be responsible for strategic e-business initiatives. The companies claim that the integration of their products will let developers to create content that has built-in tracking, profiling, modeling, analysis, personalization and reporting capabilities.
Also, Macromedia will establish shockwave.com, the company's online consumer entertainment business, as a stand-alone, independently capitalized company. shockwave.com’s assets will include rights to traffic and entertainment products to Shockwave clients. Reportedly, over 80 million clients already have Shockwave and over 140 million clients have Flash.
Just out on CD-ROM for Windows is Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings, the sequel to Microsoft's '97 hit strategy game Age of Empires. Age of Empires II spans a thousand years, from the fall of Rome through the Middle Ages. Starting with minimal resources, players win by conquering enemies, accumulating wealth by extensive trading and diplomacy, or building and defending wonders of the world. The title, developed by Ensemble Studios, features the expertise of Bruce Shelley, co-designer of Age of Empires and the hit strategy game Civilization.
With the century rapidly coming to a close, nostalgia is bigger than ever, and Activision feeds the flames with its all-new version of the legendary arcade classic Space Invaders for the PC and PlayStation game console.
Xenophobia reigns supreme as Space Invaders pits gamers against wave after wave of 13 different outer space adversaries and 10 alien "bosses" bent on conquering the universe. The game features over 100 3D levels filled with weapons and power-ups such as infrared laser beams, swarm-missiles, and neutron blasts. A new cooperative gameplay mode lets two players join forces in a campaign to save the galaxy.
Developer Z-Axis also hid a version of the original game amongst the new alien worlds.
Also just out for PlayStation from Activision is QUAKE II, with support for the Dual Shock analog controller and mouse for PlayStation. Multi-player capabilities let two to four players to compete head-to-head in Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch or Versus in any of the 12 specially designed multi-player arenas.
Publisher Eidos Interactive and developer Looking Glass Studios announced last week that Thief Gold has mastered for production, and is expected to ship November 2. Thief Gold is a new edition of last year's Thief: The Dark Project, a first-person "stealth" action/adventure game. It features three new missions, as well as updated versions of Thief: The Dark Project's 12 previous missions, which have undergone additional tuning and play balancing. The new levels continue the story of Garrett, a cynical, world-weary master thief in an ancient city, and are entitled "Thieves Guild," "Mage Towers" and "Songs of the Caverns."
Microsoft's Flight Simulator 2000 is completed and is expected to start showing up on store shelves in the U.S. in mid-October and mid-November in Europe. Microsoft is offering two versions: Flight Simulator 2000 Professional Edition for flight simulation enthusiasts and pilots; and Flight Simulator 2000 for new or more casual users.
New features include a variety of new aircraft such as the Concorde, Boeing 777-300, Mooney Bravo, and the Raytheon/Beech King Air 350. The product contains more than 21,000 airports worldwide, including London, Paris, New York, Tokyo, and Chicago. GPS provides point-to-point navigation using the Jeppesen database of real navigation and airport information. Users can also download current worldwide weather reports and have Flight Simulator 2000 automatically duplicate those conditions in the simulation.
Coming later this month from Blizzard Entertainment for PC and Mac is Warcraft II: Battle.Net Edition, an updated version of Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness and Warcraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal. Players on Battle.net, Blizzard's online gaming service, will be able to compete over the Internet. The updated title includes the original 28 single-player scenarios from Warcraft II: the Tides of Darkness, as well as the 26 scenarios from the game's expansion set, Warcraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal.
Improved combat controls including hot-key unit groupings, improved auto-commands, instant event-alert centering and shared vision. Blizzard's spawning technology that allows up to eight players to compete over Battle.net by installing multiple copies from the original CD-ROM.
In other Blizzard news, Diablo II will be out late this year, and Warcraft III will be available by the end of 2000.
Sierra Studios last week announced Arcanum: of Steamworks and Magick Obscura, an RPG due to ship next summer from newly formed Troika Games, based in Irvine, California. Arcanum is set in the late 1800s in an industrial-revolution environment filled with magic, sorcery and magnificent machinery.
Troika Games LLC was founded in April 1998 by Timothy Cain, Leonard Boyarsky, and Jason Anderson, the creators of Fallout, a popular RPG from Interplay.
Just out from Activision for Sony PlayStation is skateboard simulator Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. Featuring 10 top-ranked skaters, the game challenges players to work their way up the ranks by entering competitions and performing combo moves in an effort to become the highest-ranked skate champ.
Gamers can ride the pros' decks in more than nine environments that include real-world competitions and obstacles. Players can ollie and grind in a variety of realistic skateboard settings, including a skate park, elementary school, downhill course and half pipes, plus urban environments such as a downtown area and a shopping mall. Each environment is littered with secret areas, short cuts, ramps and interactive objects allowing players to ride off of just about everything they see.
Available combos include airs, grabs, slides, grinds, kick-flips and landing tricks. Players can gradually progress to more difficult stunts. The game also features Hawk's 900° (two and half rotations while airborne) -- a move that has never been accomplished until he recently performed it at the 1999 ESPN Summer X-Games.
The game was developed for Activision by Neversoft Entertainment, which also created Apocalypse and MDK for the PlayStation.
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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