17 September 2001
Reported, written and edited by David Duberman
for editorial/subscription inquiries, send mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
Search the Spectrum archives at http://www.3dlinks.com/spectrum
Editor's note: I was lucky to get this edition out today, being that the whole weekend was consumed by CyberArts X, a hopefully not-so-temporary revival of the esteemed conference series. Hosted by the seemingly inexhaustible Bob Gelman, the conference was a small but exhilarating gathering in San Francisco of folks who devote their lives to technology in art. We'll have a full report in next week's Spectrum.
Meanwhile, be sure to read Howard Dyckoff's report from the Web 2001 show in this week's edition.
- David Duberman
Ulead Systems recently shipped Web Chameleon v1.2 software, which translates Web information -- including text and images -- to a format readable on mobile Internet devices such as handheld computers and mobile phones. The product is targeted initially to content providers, wireless providers, enterprises, hosting services and system integrators in North America, and is priced accordingly. Two standard packages are available: Personal Community Edition for single-domain use, and Advanced Edition for larger enterprises. Pricing for the Personal Community Edition starts at $5,000, and the Advanced Editions begins at $25,000.
The technology, developed by Ulead partner AdaptView Inc., consists of two modules, the Page Customization Tool and the Transformation Proxy Server application.
The Page Customization Tool is a visual layout editor that runs on a client workstation and uses drag technology to capture selected objects in the original Web page and drop them into a standardized or customized template for the appropriate device. The designer sees instantly, via an emulation screen, how the content will look in real time on a specific device.
Web Chameleon's Transformation Proxy Server transforms general Web content into a format that can be displayed on an Internet-enabled device. Using the rules designed in the Page Customization Tool, the Transformation Proxy Server automatically detects the device requesting Web content and serves up information in the format best suited for that particular mobile device.
Coming in January from developer Kelseus is the ANTICS 1.1 SDK. ANTICS is a middleware solution that allows game and virtual reality developers to create interactive real-time characters that walk correctly on the floor and interact realistically with objects and props. Import avatars, key frame and motion capture data from 3ds max/character studio and layer inverse kinematics data to produce control of any action. Characters can reportedly dynamically pick up or put down objects and transfer them from one character to another.
It also includes route planning to allow a character to walk through its environment without passing through objects and motion retargeting to allow any character to be resized and common activity to be replayed.
Just out from Envivio is EnvivioTV, which the company claims is the world's first ISO/MPEG-4 complete media player, supporting streaming, local playback and digital rights protection of MPEG-4 audio, video and mixed media streams for the Internet and broadcast networks. The player is available for download on the Envivio.com Web site.
EnvivioTV implements the MPEG-4 Advanced2D graphics profile, providing content designers with the ability to create standards-based mixed media content. Standards-based mixed media lets content providers stream or locally play rich media content based on the ISO/MPEG-4 open standard. Existing content such as audio, video, graphics, text and 2D animations (such as Macromedia Flash) can be converted into a single MPEG-4 file with the software solution Envivio sells for production and distribution of MPEG-4 content. The MPEG-4 file or stream can then be distributed over virtually any network and played on any MPEG-4 compliant device. Through partnerships with Sigma Designs and other broadcast hardware companies, Envivio provides a standards-based path for content to be viewed in future devices such as digital set top boxes, mobile phones, and new media display devices.
EnvivioTV is also the first MPEG-4 standards-based plug-in to the QuickTime and Real players. This allows MPEG-4 media to play in the leading streaming media-player platforms without requiring the viewer to necessarily download new viewing programs. Content distributors can ensure users will experience the same presentation if they use either Real or QuickTime. By providing a layer of interoperability that works between clients, content providers have the capability to decrease encoding and distribution costs.
Lastly, content distributors can optionally utilize IPMP (Intellectual Property Management Protocol) to protect content.
pmG Worldwide LLC is selling an advance version of messiah:studio, the company's new, integrated 3D animation, rendering and developer's package, introduced last month at Siggraph 2001. Featuring a new interface and efficient architecture, the advance version of messiah:studio is on sale for $1,395.00 (MSRP $1,795) and is expected to ship the first week in October. Purchasers of the advance version will automatically receive the final version of the software when it ships November 26.
According to pmG partner Fori Owurowa, the advance version of messiah:studio is designed to give interested parties the opportunity to get an early look at the 3D animation toolset. The company says feedback it receives will guide it in determining whether to add or improve features before the final release.
When released on November 26, the complete suite will consist of messiah :animate, messiah:render and messiah:develop, a new kind of custom tool for developers, developed in-house by pmG. The advance version will not include messiah:develop, nor pipeline connections to other 3D packages.
Coming soon from Electric Rain is Swift 3D Version 2, the company's 3D vector graphics application. New features include:
Watch for a Spectrum review of this software next month.
A British company with the unlikely name of Spankola Software wants you to know about its Sequence Master software. The program, a sequential file browser, has tools designed for users producing large quantities of sequential files, such as 3D animators and 2D artists producing content in the form of image sequences.
Sequence Master was designed by 3D animators who migrated from Unix SGI systems to NT. The company says it found that with NT it was difficult to write and port scripts for file management from Unix to NT, so it devised Sequence Master, which wraps all its scripts into GUI-based application. The program works much like Windows Explorer but with added capabilities for sequences of files. Sequence Master shows a sequence of files as a single entity allowing users to copy, rename, renumber, reformat and organize files.
Dublin, Ireland-based ParallelGraphics last week released Pocket Cortona v1.5, a viewer for interactive 3D graphics on wireless devices. Applications include data visualization, location-based navigation, field maintenance and sales, and entertainment applications. The company failed to respond to a request for details on the update.
Pocket Cortona supports Pocket PCs with the following processors - Intel ARM, MIPS and SH3 processors in addition to Handheld PCs with StrongArm processors. Pocket Cortona is priced at $19.95 and is available at www.parallelgraphics.com/products/cortonace.
Xi Graphics Inc., a privately held firm that specializes in graphics support software for Linux and UNIX systems, last week released a beta of Version 2.0 of its Accelerated-X 3D Linux Graphics Drivers (LGDs).
Version 2.0 offers an accelerated and redesigned OpenGL pipeline, said to support more than 30 popular graphics cards. A free trial download for testing the software is available at http://www.xig.com. The demo package includes a complete OpenGL rendering pipeline, Accelerated-X server and associated libraries as well as the OpenGL 1.2.1 Development kit.
In addition to supporting different cards and laptops in Linux, the company says that by the time the full product is released, Solaris will also be supported. The full 3D product line should be announced shortly and will be available as a free upgrade to those with a valid license key for v1.1.
British consultant Mobile Streams has published Mobile Gaming, an investigation and analysis of the infant mobile gaming industry, expected to evolve into the leading non-voice value-added mobile service after mobile messaging. It identifies a range of business, technical, and design issues affecting the entire value chain, providing analysis from multiple perspectives to inform venture capitalists investing in mobile games start-ups, operators evaluating products for licensing and deployment, device manufacturers whose products serve as vehicles for delivery of entertainment applications, established video games companies entering the market, and mobile games start-ups seeking to establish leadership.
Mobile Gaming outlines and analyzes issues and strategies for maximizing consumer demand and revenue from mobile gaming. This is a particularly complex market due to inherent technical restrictions, fragmentation of the value chain between content creators and service providers, and the need to improve product strategy and design. The report also explains and analyses both the present and future of mobile games, identifying success factors and potential pitfalls.
The report's author, independent analyst and usability expert Jennifer James, believes that the structure of this industry and quality of content will change radically in the near term. "Continued refinement and redefinition of content design and revenue models is necessary in order to circumvent obstacles in the turbulent wireless arena limiting the growth of mobile gaming at this time. There is little question that the successful enterprises will eventually reap titanic rewards for delivering compelling gaming content via wireless devices."
XSLT, Extensible Stylesheet Language for Transformations, was born from a need to separate content from presentation on the Web. The problem with HTML is that most HTML pages have one goal in mind: the appearance of a document. "Veterans of the markup industry know that this is definitely not the way to create content," explains Doug Tidwell, author of "XSLT" (O'Reilly, US $39.95).
"Separation of content and presentation is a long-established tenet of the publishing industry; unfortunately, most HTML pages aren't even close to approaching this ideal." XML (Extensible Markup Language), on the other hand, represents structured content independent of its presentation. Because of its flexibility, XML is becoming the language of choice for sending structured data across the Web, and more and more, its successful implementation depends on XSLT.
XSLT is a powerful language for transforming XML documents into something else. "That something else can be an HTML document, another XML document, a Portable Document Format (PDF) file, a Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) file, a Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) file, Java code, a flat text file, a JPEG file, or most anything you want," explains Tidwell. "You write an XSLT stylesheet to define the rules for transforming an XML document, and the XSLT processor does the work."
As useful as XSLT is, its peculiar characteristics make it difficult to get started in, and the ability to use advanced techniques depends on a clear and exact understanding of how XSLT templates work and interact. In "XSLT," Tidwell gives developers a tutorial and reference guide to the language. A developer with years of XSLT experience, Tidwell explains XSLT by building from the basics to the more complex but powerful possibilities of XSLT.
The book includes real-world examples that show how to apply XSLT stylesheets to XML data. The resulting transformations run the gamut of XML applications including sound files, HTML, WML, graphics (SVG), and Braille. Readers will get an understanding of XSLT and XPath and their relationship to other Web standards, along with recommendations for a honed toolkit in an open, platform-neutral, standards-based environment.
An article by the author, "Extending XSLT to Encrypt XML on the Fly," can be found at: http://Web.oreilly.com/news/xslt_0801.html
Chapter 5, "Creating Links and Cross-References," is available free online at: http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/xslt/chapter/ch05.html
For more information about the book, including table of contents, index, author bio, and samples, see http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/xslt/index.html
Eidos Interactive last week released Frog City Software’s trading and transporting simulation, Trade Empires, for the PC. Beginning at the dawn of human civilization and progressing up through the 19th century, Trade Empires is an economic simulation game in which gamers focus on building a successful and profitable merchant empire. Gameplay revolves around the relatively simple model of producing and delivering commodities to make more money than the other players. Gamers build vast transport and trade networks that change over thousands of years, as new technologies are developed and more modern products are discovered. The variety in gameplay is said to come through the discovery of new products to trade and new ways to transport those products.
The game is episode-based, and each episode covers an area during a time period, for example trade along the Silk Road between the Roman Empire and the Han dynasty. The time period varies dramatically from one episode to another. Consequently, time passes at a different rate in each episode. Each episode also has a unique list of available products and technologies. Some episodes cover a relatively short time period, depicting a historical situation. Other episodes cover a longer period with more dramatic technological advances. The longest episodes depict periods over 1,000 years.
Founded in 1995, Frog City Software, Inc, is a small San Francisco-based game developer specializing in the development of strategy games. The developer is best known for its Imperialism PC game series.
Square Electronic Arts L.L.C. (Square Electronic Arts), the publisher of all Squaresoft products in North America, announced last week that Final Fantasy X for the PlayStation 2 computer entertainment system will hit U.S. retail store shelves in January 2002.
The game was released in Japan on July 19 and sold through 90% of the 2.14 million units it shipped in the first four days. It is the first PlayStation 2 title to reach the two million-unit mark.
The main character, Tidus, is a star player of blitzball, a full contact sport. After surviving the destruction of his homeland, he awakens among ruins and thereafter meets a young woman named Yuna. As a summoner, Yuna must travel to distant temples and learn the secret art of summoning aeons -- powerful spirits of yore, in order to defeat "Sin." Tidus learns that a thousand years in the past, mankind lived in spectacular cities and relied on machines for everything, until Sin suddenly appeared and destroyed all civilization. Now, people shun technology, and no one knows when "Sin" will strike again. The game features a distinct Asian influence.
Final Fantasy X will also be the first in the series to feature voiceovers for the characters. James Arnold Taylor ("A Moment of Silence") and Hedy Burress ("Valentine") will voice the main characters in the U.S. release. Taylor voices the main character, Tidus. The voice of "Walla" in the TV series "Futurama," Taylor appeared in the feature film "A Moment of Silence," and most recently lent his voice to the TV series "Team Atlantis." Burress provides the voice for the female lead, Yuna. Best known for her performance in the 1996 HBO original movie "If These Walls Could Talk," Burress' credits also include a role in the upcoming TV series "First Monday," "Boston Common" and recurring guest appearances on "Gideon's Crossing."
Final Fantasy X offers 3D environments that integrate real-time movement with battles, allowing players to walk around and engage in battles on the same field map screen. The game will also feature high-polygon, motion-captured characters designed by Tetsuya Nomura (Final Fantasy VII & VIII, Parasite Eve, Parasite Eve 2) as well as new mini-games, such as mastering the sport of blitzball and the Al Bhed language, plus a newly designed battle system with a character development system using the "sphere grid." The game will be released on DVD format with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound.
Coming next March from Interplay is Hunter: The Reckoning, based on White Wolf's pen-and-paper game. The Xbox game is set in a small prison town, where the prison itself has become the center of evil and corruption. Some time ago, a group of Vampires embraced the Warden and took over the prison as their personal feeding grounds. They have spent years subjecting the inmates to unspeakable experiments and tortures. The inmates that died within the prison walls rose again as vengeful and destructive wraiths, uncaring of who or what they destroyed. They were eventually subdued by powers greater than them, and they slept, waiting for the chance to break their bonds.
By Howard Dyckoff
This conference and trade show happened between the dot-com crash and the tragic destruction of the World Trade Center. Had it been held a week later, some of the participants may have been on one of the hijacked airliners. What a difference a week can make.
Since the vast majority of internet startups were in the SF Bay Area, the attrition could be seen in the thinned ranks of the attendees and the even thinner showing of vendors. Several of the new technology companies that would have touted their wares and handed out t-shirts or flashlights. But many of them closed their doors in the last month.
Several people I spoke with came to the conference shortly after getting a pink slip. Some got to come courtesy of their past employer, and others just decided to pay their own way. That would explain the subdued tone of the proceedings (and perhaps the simple tote sacks that were given out in lieu of more sophisticated conference shoulder bags).
Make no mistake, the content was decent and covered a wide range of topics:
As technical conferences go, this was satisfying. And the attendees did get a conference CD with about half the presentations on it. The rest of the papers are on-line, available at the www.web2001show.com web site, from the “vault” link (where previous papers are available without restriction). If you need to see the content now, use the pair of "web2001" and "papers."
The best session overall was David Rhodes's detail-rich and humorous expose of hacking using online tools. The depth and sophistication of these tools is very sobering. The session followed a day-long technical class on hacking techniques using tools that could be downloaded from special security (or hacking sites).
In a similar manner, Eric Costello again taught a day class in CSS techniques and tricks, followed by technical session later in the week called “CSS Anarchy” that dealt with unorthodox ways to modify page appearance and/or thwart the plans of marketers…. liberal code samples were provided (check the vault).
Graphics for the PDA/Pager
One of the more interesting products highlighted at the expo was the BitFlash system for displaying graphical information on "any" PDA. Using a low-level micro-graphics engine, the BitFlash system essentially streams graphics to all supported PDAs in a platform-neutral manner and actually builds graphical content in memory. Since all the popular PDAs (Palm, WinCE, RIM Blackberry, and several mobile phone OSes) have working ports, this covers most users. The C-code graphics rendition engine has bindings for all the platforms and is highly portable.
The full product suite consists of the graphics engine, the GUI SDK, and the BitFlash Server which encodes the graphics for the local PDA. The graphics produced conform to both Java and XML/SVG standards. The outputs are SVG, PNG, and bitmaps.
Since the data sent is basically vector graphics, the local device can pan and scroll (and zoom) without having to download more data. This is rather fast.
The BitFlash Server delivers visually rich content and applications to mobile devices. EJB-compliant, the BitFlash Server merges multiple inputs (XML data, real-time feeds, corporate content, historical, relational, and statistical data) into a visually rich
graphical display optimized to each device. This URL links to a white paper on the product suite: http://www.bitflash.com/products/pdf/BMSfinal.pdf
The folks at JASC released their new SVG editing tool at the show. Web Draw is an up-to-the-minute implementation of the W3C working group's standards for SVG in a nice integrated developer environment, which allows round-trip editing. The use of vector graphics (this tool converts JPEG and GIF files) will reportedly reduce a graphic by 50-75% without loss of quality. The tool is loaded, but currently lacks a search-and-replace option.
Also leading the "cool" list was the WEB2001 mobile Application V.2, powered by OpenGrid's mobilePlanIt. This was a hands-on trial of very nice mobile scheduling software available free to all attendees. Since I had a wireless Palm VII, my schedules were updated through out the week (especially when rooms changed or sessions were cancelled, which happened frequently). See OpenGrid's product pages here: http://www.OpenGrid.com/products/?page=mobileplanit
Many of the other products on display involved wireless security and enterprise monitoring. Several booths were also occupied by professional groups such as ITVA and Worldwide Organization of Webmasters (WOW).
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.
Send your interactive multimedia business, product, people, event, or technology news to: email@example.com. We prefer to receive news by email but if you must, telephone breaking news to 510-549-2894. Send review product and press kits by mail to David Duberman, 2233 Jefferson Ave., Berkeley, CA 94703.
If you contact companies or organizations mentioned here, please tell them you saw the news in Spectrum. Thanks.
Please send address changes (with old and new addresses), subscribe and unsubscribe requests etc. to the above address. If you use the Reply function, please do _not_ echo an entire issue of Spectrum with your message.
Publisher's note: We are now accepting limited advertising. If you'd like to offer your company's products or services to Spectrum's elite audience of Internet and multimedia professionals, send an email query to mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org, or telephone 510-549-2894 during West Coast business hours.
- David Duberman
©Copyright 2001 Motion Blur Media. All rights reserved. No reproduction in any for-profit or revenue-generating venue in any form without written permission from the publisher.