29 October 2001
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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Cycling '74 recently released Max 4 and MSP 2, upgrades to its Mac-OS interactive graphical programming environment for building audio apps. Enhancements to Max include new user-interface building tools and advanced features such as scripting and high-precision scheduling. MSP 2 adds capabilities and objects including polyphony management, waveform display, and graphical filter design.
Max, a graphical programming environment for music and media applications, lets users to schedule events with millisecond accuracy, create complex mappings for incoming data, and run a large number of operations in parallel. In essence, it is a graphic tool to create programs by wiring together objects. MSP extends Max's capabilities by incorporating audio objects that are connected to create audio patches where signals flow from one object to the next - not unlike the fundamental concept of the modular synthesizer.
Zero G Software recently shipped InstallAnywhere 4.5 with enhancements such as increased platform support, improved installer optimization, and integration with the company’s software updating solution, PowerUpdate.
Paris, France-based Virtools, a developer of interactive 3D development solutions, recently released its free exporter for Maya. The Virtools Exporter for Maya lets users export 3D models, lights, cameras, materials, textures and animations into Virtools Dev 2.0. Maya' s bones, skin, and vertex colors features are also supported.
Users can then drag and drop interactive behaviors from the Virtools behavior library (more than 400 building blocks) onto exported 3D objects to create interactive 3D applications for e-learning, e-marketing or games, on the web or CD-ROM.
Ashlar-Vellum Inc., the number one name in precision design software, last week announced a free beta evaluation of Argon, its new 3D modeling tool. From now until November 30, 2001, Argon can be downloaded from the company's Web site.
Argon reportedly enables precision modeling of complex objects with engineering-quality results that can be exported to advanced engineering software such as Ashlar-Vellum's own Cobalt or products such as SolidWorks, UGS Solid Edge, Autodesk Inventor, PTC Pro/ENGINEER and Unigraphics. Argon also exports to VRML, Macromedia Shockwave 3D, Viewpoint, and other 3D Web and animation formats.
Other features include:
Fonix Corporation, a provider of user interface technology and voice solutions for wireless and mobile devices, and LIPSinc, developer of technology for automated facial animation of talking digital characters, last week announced a strategic partnership aimed at developing state-of-the-art 3D facial animation employing advanced Text-To-Speech (TTS) technology.
The announcement, made at SpeechTEK 2001 in New York City, aims to enable a new generation of real-time, talking, 3D characters for business and entertainment applications such as wireless communication, interactive kiosks, online marketing and training, gaming and more.
"Computer games, online banking, Internet chat, and eLearning are just a few of the industries and applications that are demanding anthropomorphic interfaces," claims Donovan Moxey, Ph.D., LIPSinc's co-founder and director of business development.
Fonix is employing FAAST (Fonix Accelerated Application Solutions Technology) TTS 5.2 as the underlying text-to-speech framework for the joint solutions. The company says it uses natural intonations, inflections, and pauses to create voices that are easy to understand. The technology not only vocalizes text typed by the user, but also generates speech from host applications.
LIPSinc's proprietary TalkBack and LiveTalk Software Development Kits (SDKs) serve as the building blocks for the integration of talking digital characters by performing both prerecorded and real-time voice analysis to drive the facial animation. Customers can use digital characters created by LIPSinc or its content creation partners, as well as 3D rendering and display technology developed by LIPSinc or one that is commercially available.
Actuality Systems, Inc., a developer of 3D display technology, has announced the first beta customer for its spherical 3D display. Structural GenomiX, Inc., (SGX) in San Diego, Calif. SGX develops experimental and computational structural biology, transforming genomic information into structural templates for drug discovery. The monitor, code-named Helios, is shaped like a 20-inch-diameter globe and can show high-resolution color images that appear to hover in space, allowing multiple users to move completely around the 360-degree display and view images from any angle. The technology is believed to provide the highest-resolution volumetric imagery available.
The sheer number of newly mapped genes in the human genome has dramatically increased the pool of potential drug targets. The challenge for scientists working to develop new drugs is that they need detailed information on how the protein in question interacts with compounds that are under study. Once a protein structure is determined, scientists can use an approach called "structure-based drug design" to design their compound libraries with the protein target in mind.
SGX has established an industrialized platform for transforming genomic information into structural templates for drug discovery and design. SGX's platform integrates advanced research methods and tools in multiple technologies -- from high-throughput protein expression and crystallization, to synchrotron radiation, structural informatics and chemistry.
Unlike 3D displays that require special stereoscopic goggles to simulate multi-dimensional imagery, or flat-screen monitors that translate 3D data into flat 2D images, the Actuality Systems technology is volumetric, meaning that it actually illuminates voxels throughout the full range of 3D locations within the spherical display. Furthermore, a custom embedded graphics architecture takes computational load off the user's workstation, enabling a fully animated 3D imagery that can be controlled and maneuvered from the keyboard.
Actuality Systems uses proprietary graphics-rendering algorithms to generate the fast scene drawing needed for smooth animation. In addition, by using a high-speed, high-resolution projector, the display is able to create bitmapped 3D imagery that gives users access to 100 percent of the available volume instead of just a small portion of the display as with traditional vector systems.
The display has a resolution of approximately 100 million volume pixels or "voxels." Instead of flat square pixels, voxels also have depth. Resolution is defined in terms of a stack of flat slices arranged around a centerline like thin wedges of an apple around its core.
Electric Rain, Inc. last week released a Mac OS X version of its Swift 3D LW vector-rendering plug-in. Swift 3D LW lets LightWave render 3D scenes directly to vector-based file formats, including Macromedia Flash (SWF), AI, EPS, and SVG.
Pixologic's new TextureMaster ZScript for ZBrush is a free download to current users. ZBrush is a painting, 3D modeling, and texturing application. The script simplifies the texturing process and lets users take full advantage of the 3Dcopy function. TextureMaster is possible due to a new scripting language that lets users automate actions in ZBrush.
In ZBrush, there are several methods that can be used when
texturing a 3D object.
The most effective method is to utilize the 3DCopy feature unique to ZBrush; a feature that lets users incorporate all ZBrush tools (2D and 3D) in the texturing process. With 3D copy, users can apply textures to 3D objects. The script lets ZBrush automatically do the proper texture adjustments.
Ulead Systems last week released Ulead PhotoImpact 7, an image editor for digital photography, image design and Web graphics.
New features include:
German 3D specialist Dosch has just released the latest addition (#14) to its Dosch Textures product line. Texture Aging Kit includes 300 aging texture layers that can be added and mixed with existing textures, adding subtle detail to make virtual images look real. Shiny metals can be made to look rusty and corroded, paint can receive a cracked or peeling look, stone and concrete can be aged with moisture stains, moldy deposit, moss growth etc.
LightWork Design, a supplier of computer graphics software for rendering, simulation and visualisation solutions, last week released its LightWorks rendering engine for Mac OS X. Benefits reportedly include improved overall performance, with greater speed and stability.
Caligari Corporation has released aniPak, a collection of 11 third-party animation plug-ins and libraries for trueSpace5 users.
Includes the following plug-ins:
New from Macromedia is a series of online tutorials designed to allow Macromedia Director 8.5 users to more quickly learn how to use the product and master the creation and deployment of interactive 3D content for the Web. The tutorials include lessons on 3D for current Director users as well as tutorials for 3D artists and Macromedia Flash developers who are new to Director. The video tutorials take users step by step through building a rich-media Web experience that incorporates sound, video, and 3D assets. There are also more specific tutorials for people coming from other 3D modeling and animation applications, such as Discreet's 3ds max. The tutorials are available at http://www.macromedia.com/software/director/productinfo/tutorials/
Siggraph 2002, the 29th International Conference on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques, is seeking veteran and novice contributors who work, play, and live with the latest advancements in computer graphics and interactive techniques. Following are the Siggraph 2002 submission deadlines:
See the SIGGRAPH 2002 Call for Participation at http://www.siggraph.org/s2002/cfp/index.html for detailed information on how to submit to each program.
SIGGRAPH 2002 (http://www.siggraph.org/s2002/) will be held 21 - 26 July, at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, Texas.
Vivendi Universal Publishing and Argonaut Software Ltd. have announced an exclusive long-term, multi-platform deal to publish the title Malice: Kat's Tale. The game is due to release next fall under the Sierra brand on Xbox and another unannounced next-generation console.
Malice: Kat's Tale, a character-driven 3D action adventure game, made headlines at this year's CES trade show when Bill Gates used it to demonstrate the capabilities of the Xbox video game system.
Also coming next fall from the same team on the same platforms is SWAT: Global Strike Team (GST). The game's new engine features hard-edged shadows, allowing more lights and shadows per scene, and photo-realistic film filter, giving a "distinctive true-to-life look."
SWAT: GST is a first-person tactical arcade game combining the strategic elements of SWAT 3 with the arcade action of the Virtua Cop series. Like the real-life SWAT organization itself, the SWAT Global Strike Team is a life-saving organization tasked with defending and saving the lives of the innocent. As a member of the SWAT Global Strike Team gamers will be called to duty at a moment's notice.
Activision, Inc. has acquired the worldwide publishing rights, excluding Japan, for Wreckless, a mission-based driving game for Xbox. Developed by Bunkasha Publishing, Wreckless was selected by Microsoft as a premier title for Q1 2002 and will be released to coincide with the European launch of Xbox.
A no-holds-barred driving game, Wreckless places players in the unpredictable underworld of Hong Kong. Gamers can choose from two distinct storylines -- to be part of an elite task force assigned to take down the Hong Kong mafia or to become a high-level government agent trying to uncover links between the mafia and the police.
Players pursue thugs and gang members in 20 missions. Gamers choose from 10 different vehicles as they race through an interactive city and maneuver traffic patterns, tear through parks and drive on sidewalks to complete their mission. However, players have to be careful, as real-time damage modeling will hinder their vehicle’s performance.
NovaLogic says its Comanche franchise will come to Xbox in late 2002. Comanche will be the first title developed by the company for the new system. Comanche on Xbox will offer third/first person arcade shooting action while flying the US Army's next-generation armed reconnaissance helicopter.
Along with a variety of missions in different world locations, the game will also include features such as power-ups and bonus items that can be discovered and unlocked throughout the game. As well as single-player mode, Comanche will feature standard console multiplayer options and large-scale online support, details of which will be announced next year.
Atlantis Cyberspace, Inc., an emerging virtual-reality system provider, recently announced its first products, Atlantis OS and Abyss. Atlantis OS is an operating system for the immersive entertainment industry. It reportedly converts off-the-shelf PC consumer games like Quake and Unreal Tournament into 3D VR experiences with various enabling features and automations.
The Abyss is a turnkey multi-user immersive entertainment system. Atlantis says its approach increases the level of interpersonal interaction among both participants and spectators, unlike VR entertainment that imposes a high level of isolation on users,.
The Abyss is a head-to-head VR system built around the Atlantis OS. Configured with pods for four or eight players, users experience action, graphics and team challenges as the Abyss networks with pods in other locations. The networked system handles up to 16 players simultaneously, including those in other locations, and includes a mission control for the system operator, a membership card-dispensing teller machine, and pre- and post-mission briefing equipment. The Abyss' back-end system analyzes, stores and distributes management information such as game revenues and utilizations.
Atlantis Cyberspace sells the turnkey eight-pod Abyss for $310,000 and the four-pod Abyss for $250,000. Suggested retail price for LBEs is five dollars ($5) per Abyss player game. The company claims this cost compares favorably with alternative offerings, particularly with the addition of briefing and de-briefing sessions that extend the experience by 12 minutes.
Atlantis Cyberspace makes an API licensable version of its operating system for use by other VR system manufacturers available on a negotiated basis. For more information contact Atlantis Cyberspace at (808) 842-3838.
Atlantis will demonstrate its new products at the upcoming IAAPA trade show, November 10 - 17, 2001, Orange County Convention Center Orlando, Florida, booth 1181.
Just out from Microsoft is Zoo Tycoon, simulation game that challenges players to construct a healthy zoo while managing animal and guest happiness. Developed by Blue Fang Games LLC, Zoo Tycoon allows players of all ages and skill levels to construct a zoo or engage in one of 15 challenging scenarios. Features include more than 40 animals, including elephants, lions, giraffes, pandas, and white Siberian tigers, and over 175 habitat and zoo building materials. Players must decide how to turn a profit with their zoo; some might choose the path of frugal management, while others might overcharge for admission and stiff the guests with an $8 soda.
A trial version, available at http://www.microsoft.com/games/zootycoon/, guides players through two tutorials and allows them to play a freeform game. In addition, players can create new habitats for animals such as the giraffe, the Bengal tiger, and the Thomson's gazelle.
Also new from the Bellevue behemoth is Asheron's Call Dark Majesty, with the full version of Asheron's Call as well as new additions such as housing and storage. Players will be able to purchase their own homes on pre-designated locations, as well as use their residence for secure storage purposes. Technically, the expansion improves upon the original by introducing all new models and textures which will now require a 3D graphics accelerator. The Expansion Pack introduces the island of Marae Lassel. Marae Lassel is a sprawling new landmass which will contain new quests, dungeons, and treasures. The island will be accessible to all levels of players who purchase the Asheron's Call Expansion Pack.
The Star Wars Starfighter flight-action game series returns in Jedi Starfighter from LucasArts Entertainment Company LLC. Expected to release spring 2002 on PlayStation 2, the new title features the new Jedi starfighter from the upcoming motion picture Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones.
Jedi Starfighter presents 15 one- and two-player cooperative story-based missions set amidst a variety of new rendered worlds and environments, as featured in Attack of the Clones. In addition to the Jedi starfighter, players can battle in three other original craft: the Havoc, Zoomer and Freefall.
Missions take place over land and in space, with players skirmishing against more than 40 starships and capital-class vessels, including enemy craft from the upcoming Star Wars film.
By virtue of a being Jedi pilot, players will have a variety of Force powers at their fingertips throughout the game. Force lightning saps the power systems of enemy ships and renders pilots unconscious. Force shield creates an energy barrier that deflects laser blasts. Force reflex simulates exaggerated reflexes and perception of the Jedi Knight pilot by putting the world in slow motion while the Jedi starship retains normal turning and shooting abilities. Force shockwave produces a powerful energy surge, which radiates multi-directionally.
Sierra Studios and Papyrus Racing Games last week released an upgrade for NASCAR Racing 4, their driving simulation game for PC. Enhancements include improvements to the AI, multiplayer capabilities, user interface, and overall car control.
The editors of Computer Graphics World and additional judges have chosen 20 products they feel best represent the essence of innovation in visual computing. The magazine's December issue will supply more extensive coverage of the winning products, which are listed below. Brief descriptions are provided for a few of these; for more info, click the link.
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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- David Duberman
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