Three-dimensional visual navigation software may be taking off with Menlo Park, California-based Informix Software Inc unveiling Informix Answers On-line – the first fruits of its much touted cross-licensing agreement with Perspecta Inc (CI No 3,097). The two companies now say they have formed a partnership to create a platform for building similar self-service customer care applications for intranets and extranets, utilizing Perspecta’s SmartContent visual navigation system (CI No 3,187). The two companies have been promoting SmartContent as a revolutionary means of organizing and navigating large repositories of on-line information and particularly so-called metadata – data about data. Information is presented in a 3-D format enabling users to fly through information and examine the relationship between various topics, correlating relevant material. Although Perspecta claims to be the first company to offer so called meta-content systems, the technology bears at least a passing resemblance to Apple Computer Inc’s HotSauce Meta Content Format, designed to give users a visual display of information from a web site or database in three-dimensional or hierarchical form. Apple is promoting HotSauce as a new standard with NetCarta Corp already signed up to support it in the company’s WebMapper content management tools (CI No 3,067). Search and retrieval firm, Verity Inc, announced in March that it would also be using the HotSauce format to develop a graphical interface for its Search ’97 platform of indexing software (CI No 3,111). Meanwhile Informix says it is using the SmartContent technology in its Answers On- line service to offer customers self-guided, intuitive access to thousands of pages of technical information relating to its products over the internet. The company claims the new customer care system will make it easier for users to access and interact with relevant information and save money by reducing the number of phone calls when compared against existing call center and help desk technology. Informix Answers On-line is available at http://www.informix.com/answers where users can also download the PerspectaView client, required for visual navigation. Informix plans to bundle Perspecta’s PerspectaView client software offering companies the tools to build their own on-line search applications in the fourth quarter of 1997.