10 September 2001
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
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The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has issued Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) 1.0 as a W3C Recommendation, representing cross-industry agreement on an XML-based language that allows authors to create two-dimensional vector graphics. A W3C Recommendation indicates that a specification is stable, contributes to Web interoperability, and has been reviewed by the W3C Membership, who favor its widespread adoption.
"With SVG, Web Graphics move firmly from mere decoration to true graphical information," declared Tim Berners-Lee, W3C director. "Scalable Vector Graphics are the key to providing rich, reusable visual content for the Web."
According to the W3C, SVG 1.0 enables the textual content of graphics - from logos to diagrams - to be searched, indexed, and displayed in multiple languages. The spec builds on other W3C specifications such as the Document Object Model (DOM), which allows for server-side generation and dynamic, client-side modification of graphics and text. SVG 1.0 also benefits from W3C technologies such as CSS and XSL style sheets, RDF metadata, XML Linking, and SMIL Animation, which also advanced to Recommendation last week.
The full power of SVG 1.0 is said to be seen when it is combined with other XML grammars; for example to deliver multimedia applications, or provide rendering capability for business data - from interactive charts to process visualization. "The declarative facilities of SMIL Animation, combined with scripting through the DOM, opens new possibilities for Web-based interface design," added Dean Jackson, W3C Team Contact for the SVG Working Group and W3C Fellow from CSIRO.
HiSoftware Inc. last week released Version 2.0 of its client- and server-based Web site accessibility solutions, AccVerify, AccRepair, and AccMonitor. The new versions offer new Web site accessibility history tracking and executive reporting said to simplify compliance and maintenance with U.S. Section 508 and W3C accessibility standards.
AccVerify 2.0 verifies that Web content is in compliance with current accessibility standards. AccRepair 2.0 locates non-compliant Web elements and makes Wizard-guided repairs. AccMonitor 2.0 is a server application that verifies Web site accessibility, without requiring file or server access. AccVerify and AccRepair are available standalone, or as integrated add-ons to Microsoft FrontPage. AccVerify and Repair are also available as automated Web server software.
Starting this October, Jasc Software, best known for Paint Shop Pro, will distribute Korea-based Namo Interactive's WebEditor 5.0 authoring software in North America and other world markets.
Namo WebEditor features include:
A physical boxed version of Namo WebEditor will be available at SRP $149 from Jasc, with an electronic version available for $129.
Beatnik, Inc., a provider of structured audio software solutions for mobile devices, announced its support of eXtensible Music Format (XMF), the new worldwide audio standard for use in the development of wireless applications, services and content. The XMF format, newly approved by the MIDI Manufacturer's Association (MMA) and the Association of Musical Electronics Industry (AMEI) of Japan, offers features of Beatnik's own proprietary Rich Music Format (RMF) audio technology used to enhance music and sound on mobile devices.
XMF combines multiple music and sound formats, such as MIDI and Down-Loadable Samples (DLS), into a single file that can be controlled interactively during playback. An XMF file can be up to 100 times smaller than the equivalent MP3 file, with quality said to be greater than most streaming-audio formats. This makes XMF suitable for wireless applications including interactive music remixers, mobile phone ring tones, audio content delivery and games.
"Downloadable ringing tones have exploded over the last couple of years, and Top 40 music on phones is next," said company founder and science blindee Thomas Dolby Robertson.
Beatnik says it will migrate its existing tools, audio engine and player to the newly ratified file format, and expects to roll out the first product to support XMF in Q1 2002.
New from LaCie is a combination DVD-RAM/R drive that incorporates FireWire connectivity. Using 4.7GB DVD-R General media, the $689 combination drive provides a transfer rate of up to 11.08Mbps. With random-access 4.7GB DVD-RAM media, the drive delivers a data transfer rate of 22.16Mbps. Seek times for DVD-RAM are 75ms and 65ms for DVD-R, DVD-ROM or CD media.
By incorporating FireWire connectivity, the LaCie DVD-RAM/R drive can be connected to the Apple FireWire ports on the most recent Macintosh G4 workstations and Cubes, PowerBooks, and iMacDV systems as well as the 1394 ports of PCs with Windows 98 Second Edition or Windows 2000 (such as new models from Compaq and Sony).
The FireWire bus makes the drive hot-pluggable so it can be moved from computer to computer without having to shut down or reboot the system. The drive automatically detects the system interface and configures the connection so the combination drive mounts as soon as it is plugged in.
Editor's note: This story is nominally about e-commerce Web sites not working for TV-based Web browsers, but we're running it because the info can potentially help providers of non-commercial sites as well.
Usability firm Electronic Ink cites the findings of a study that reveals major usability disconnects encountered by users of TV-based Web platforms like WebTV, AOLTV and UltimateTV. Such users regularly confront barriers to engaging in e-commerce tasks like shopping and banking because Web sites are generally not designed with platform variations -- like TV-based Web browsing -- in mind.
Said Jenny Smith, human factors director at Electronic Ink, "WebTV Networks estimates that there are currently over one million WebTV subscribers spending nearly 40 hours per month online -- 70 percent more time than their PC counterparts. Given that WebTV is but one of several Web-based TV platforms currently available, it is clear that we are dealing with an audience that is routinely underserved from a usability standpoint and that means an inevitable, negative impact to ROI."
Electronic Ink aims to help companies analyze their technology to identify and resolve usability issues. Its comparative study of shopping and banking tasks on WebTV and PCs asked participants to complete five tasks across the two platforms. They rated each task and made overall comparisons between the platforms for preference, ease of use and other criteria.
The complete study is available by contacting Electronic Ink at email@example.com. However, key findings of the study are as follows:
Electronic Ink recommends that e-businesses follow the following basic guidelines, which can make WebTV sites more effective:
· Test and revise - View on a TV (or on WebTV's downloadable "WebTV Viewer") and revise before going live.
BitFlash recently announced its new Mobile Messaging Suite, which lets BlackBerry users view visually rich email attachments on the wireless handheld. Attachments can be accessed upon receipt or cached on the server for later access, allowing clients to manage content. The user interface lets users scroll, pan, and zoom and access embedded links. It also allows users to drill down to more relevant information, like reports associated with key dates in a stock’s performance chart.
Somehow we missed what appears to have been a significant announcement at Siggraph, namely a 3ds max plug-in called Absolute Character Tools by Australia-based Snoswell Design, coming soon from Digimation. The software, which has just begun a "short, active" beta test period, is designed for creating and animating muscles. The technology is extended with a complementary set of technologies for enhanced skin deformation driven by underlying muscles and bones.
In addition to basic new parametric primitives for muscles, the software includes a deformation-engine architecture with three plug-in animation engines for muscles already developed. A cross-section editor lets users view and edit the cross-section of hundreds of muscles and other objects in real time.
The core set of software includes:
Be sure to check out the demos at http://www.cgcharacter.com/.
Jasc Software last week released Virtual Painter, a suite of special-effects filters designed for adding painting effects to digital photographs, thanks to a recent agreement with Taka Umemura, the creator of Virtual Painter, and P&A, Inc. of Tokyo, Japan, the distributor of Virtual Painter in Japan.
Virtual Painter, a collection of 12 plug-in filters, is said to let users turn digital photos into realistic-looking paintings. Effects include Pastel, Collage, Rectangles, Drawing, Silk Screen, Impasto, Color Pencil, Pointillism, Oil Painting, Gouache, Watercolor, and Triangles. These painting styles can be applied to one of 12 different simulated materials, including Paper (Smooth, Medium, or Rough), Washi (Japanese rice paper), Canvas (Fine, Medium, or Rough) Stucco (Smooth, Rough, or Sand), Wood, and Cork.
A physical boxed version of Virtual Painter is available at a suggested list price of $49.00 from Jasc Software. An ESD version is available for $45.00 from Jasc Software. An evaluation copy of Virtual Painter can be downloaded from http://www.jasc.com.
Immersion 3D last week announced a 30-day trial offer of its new VirtualHand Studio software, available for download http://www.immersion.com/products/3d/interaction/virtualhandstudio.shtml.
VirtualHand Studio can used by designers for verifying, testing and evaluating 3D digital models in real-time. The software converts data from the movement of the physical hand into a graphical hand, letting the user interact with 3D objects. It also allows for the direct import of 3D data from multiple sources, such as 3ds max and OpenFlight, to construct functional digital 3D prototypes. 3D designers can interact with these prototypes using either a standard mouse or more sophisticated 3D input device, such as Immersion's CyberGlove family of whole-hand sensing and interactive products.
For a limited time, Autodesk's Discreet division is bundling a complete version of Macromedia Director 8.5 with the standard-priced shipping version of its 3ds max animation solution.
Director 8.5 features 3D functionality jointly developed with Intel Corporation. Director provides developers with a 3D content-creation and publishing solution. Director 8.5 can create simulated natural effects such as smoke, fire, water, dust, sparks, vapor, and explosions. In addition to the new 3D authoring capabilities, Macromedia Director 8.5 has support for both Macromedia Flash 5 and streaming Real Media content as assets in Director movies.
Eastgate Systems, a publisher of hypertext and hypermedia, announces the publication of Richard Holeton's Figurski at Findhorn on Acid, a hypertext screwball comedy about one man's quest to authenticate a seventeenth-century mechanical pig discovered washed up on the beach at Findhorn Park.
Published by Eastgate for distribution on CD-ROM, the new title is the story of Frank Figurski, a post-doc with a murderous past who becomes obsessed with verifying the authenticity of an antique mechanical pig. The porcine quest is hindered by the interventions of a no-hands cup flipper and a sly journalist, and by the fact that Figurski's on acid.
The story is a hypertext, a collection of interactive, interlinked documents through which readers create their own routes and connections between characters, objects, times and places. It allows for many possible plots and outcomes and each reading is potentially unique.
Holeton will give a reading of Figurski at Findhorn on Acid on Friday, 14 September 2001, at Stanford University. This event is hosted by Academic Computing and Stanford University Libraries, in association with eNarrative 3, an Eastgate-sponsored conference in San Francisco on Sept 15-16 (http://www.eNarrative.org). For more information about the reading, contact Diane Greco: firstname.lastname@example.org
Criterion Software, a British publisher of 3D game-development middleware, has launched Game On!, its game developer/game publisher matchmaking initiative. The service for unsigned videogame developers and videogame publishers introduces new videogame development projects to publishers worldwide.
Game On! kicked off at ECTS 2001, with 46 separate and confidential developer/publisher meetings. Publishers in attendance were:
Publishers and developers and other interested parties who wish to participate in Game On! meetings at GDC 2002 and E3 2002 should contact Criterion by email at email@example.com
Java 3D API Jump-Start, a new Java 3D book by Aaron E. Walsh and Doug Gehringer, is intended to give users a way to understand the many classes in Java 3D. The entire API is covered with details about the features that most programs use, and "need to know" information about less-used features. The concepts are explained using images and code snippets show what each feature does and how different features work together.
Following is a brief summary of the layout of the book:
Humber College of Ontario, Canada recently enhanced its teaching facility built on Media 100 digital media systems. With the addition of 54 new Media 100 i and iFinish 4 systems, Humber College has created a digital media facility designed to offer a course curriculum for aspiring journalists, production technicians, Web content creators and broadcast designers. In addition to a traditional digital-media content-creation curriculum, Humber is placing a new emphasis on interactive Web development by training students with Media 100's interactive streaming technology built into Media 100 i and iFinish 4.
The third annual ContentWorld symposium will take place at the San Jose Convention Center May 7-10, 2002. For those who wish to participate, this is an opportunity to present to an audience of professionals involved in the creation, acquisition, management and distribution of digital content. Response deadline is Friday, November 16, 2001.
The organizers are looking for submissions on any topics related to digital content and associated technologies, but not limited to:
1) Pre-conference workshops - half-day (3 hour) tutorial session covering important techniques and technologies involving content management and distribution. Beginning, intermediate and advanced levels will be considered. Please indicate your target audience.
2) Case studies/Industry Applications: Stellar examples of technology implementation and sound business practices from a variety of content-intensive organizations. Special consideration will be given to those proposals that include an end-user as part of the presentation.
3) Best Business and Technology Practices
4) Technology Directions-Overviews, presentations, and forecasts for changes in core content technologies including:
5) Application Areas: Critical cross-industry applications of content management systems that are needed in a wide variety of organizations. These sessions include in-depth technology information as well as implementation/integration techniques.
The Learning Company (TLC) has signed an agreement for the sale of its education division to Riverdeep Interactive Learning , a publisher of Web-based educational solutions for the U.S. K-12 market. TLC will return to its former name, Broderbund, and hopes to expand its core productivity software business into the rich-media segments of the market, including video and photo editing and digital music.
Additionally, the agreement with Riverdeep establishes a strategic alliance that includes a reciprocal distribution arrangement in which Broderbund distributes all Riverdeep and TLC education products into retail worldwide. Riverdeep will, in turn, distribute Broderbund productivity products directly to schools in North America.
The latest version of Activision and Raven's violent action shooter, Soldier of Fortune, has shipped to retail outlets nationwide. Dubbed Soldier of Fortune Platinum Edition, the game offers a "remastering" of the full retail version and features new enhancements and upgrades including:
In the game, players assume the roll of a mercenary-for-hire tasked with recovering a shipment of nuclear devices stolen by a rogue terrorist cell. Players must use quick reflexes, cunning and guile to achieve their objectives.
On the evening of September 15, 2001, San Francisco's Somarts Cultural Center (934 Brannan, 415.863.1414) will be transformed into a multi-sensory playground for the Gala Arty Party, also known as CyberArts International, being held for the first time in northern California.
From 8 pm until midnight, partygoers will be treated to novel sights, sounds, and even smells. The event will feature live interactive performances, multimedia installations, VR environments, software tools, and a gallery show with over 80 artists.
Performers include musician/astrophysicist/Mondo 2000 cover babe Dr. Fiorella Terenzi, Mobius featuring Joie Favier, Bob Bralove, & Michael Gosney, DJ Goz with trance, techno, and more from from Radio-V, and the Body-Synth featuring dancer Chris VanRaalte.
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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