It’s Keynote plus One and the dust is beginning to settle, on the second day of San Francisco Macworld. All the big players, from traditional ally Adobe Systems Inc to sometime foe Microsoft Corp, have been voicing strong approval of Apple Computer Inc’s plans. Over the next weeks and months, Apple will nevertheless still have its work cut out to come up with some detailed solutions to the many questions that are still outstanding.
By Herbert Festoff.
API for C incorporated into QuickTime VR
Even though this year’s Macworld was of necessity focused on the big OS questions, Apple has traditionally used the show to announce and release a slew of other items. One of the most important this time is the launch of a major upgrade to its groundbreaking QuickTime VR technology. By incorporating a C application programming interface into QTVR, developers can now create virtual worlds for CD-ROM, games and the Web, with 3D objects, movies, audio and animation embedded in them. And because it’s a cross-system technology, developers will only need to author once when distributing media-rich, photo-realistic VR content to Mac and Windows users and across the Internet. In fact, version 2.0 of QTVR has been optimised for the Web, and upcoming versions will support progressive JPEG rendering (speedier viewing of virtual worlds) and wavelet and fractal decompression from OLiVR. The addition of the application programming interface has made it easier for developers to integrate QTVR capabilities into their products, not just for traditional photo-realistic panoramas, but also for computer- generated content.
Macworld Webcasting uses Be Here technology
QTVR was an essential component of the technologies Apple deployed in its Webcast of yesterday’s keynote by Dr. Amelio. What made it really interesting was the use of innovative panoramic camera technology from Be Here, a small start-up in Los Gatos, California. Apple is using it for all of its Macworld Webcasting (https://live.apple.com/macworld), and there’s a complementary site, The San Francisco Traveler, with panoramic images of the city’s attractions. Visitors to the Web sites will need the Apple QuickTime VR plug-in for Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Explorer (a free download) in order to see conference areas and the show floor. Viewers can shift their viewpoint by clicking and moving the cursor anywhere in the image, creating a similar visual impression to Being There. It is an immersive 360- degree environment, complete with visuals and sound. The centerpiece of Be Here’s technology is a camera lens system that helps create seamless 360-degree photographs, and the lens works with standard 35mm cameras. In the first development phase, Be Here will roll out a still-frame system in Spring 1997. Towards the end of the year, the company plans to launch a full-motion live broadcast and photography system
Live Picture to add FlashPix support
Apple also announced a deal with Live Picture Inc of Scotts Valley, California. The companies have initiated a collaborative development effort to add support in Apple’s QuickTime Media Layer for the FlashPix image file format developed jointly by Live Picture, Kodak Co, Hewlett-Packard Co and Microsoft. This will enable any Macintosh or Windows application to display and share FlashPix formatted files locally or across networks. This is the first integrated system support for the FlashPix format, helping it become a standard for digital photography.
Now Live Picture to merge with RealSpace
Live Picture is becoming an increasingly influential player outside its traditional sphere of image manipulation (with the relative success of its Live Picture image editor). At Macworld it also announced the merger of the company with RealSpace Inc. of San Jose, California. RealSpace has some highly regarded spatial navigation technology, with products like RealVR Traveler, a VR browser plug-in (which also works with the Be Here technology), and RealVR Xtra, a plug-in for Ma
cromedia Director. RealSpace is led by Eric Chen, who was formerly Chief Technologist for the QuickTime VR team at Apple. The link-up of Live Picture and RealSpace is intended to spur the development, in Chen’s words, of a visually rich, photo-real experience which can be easily navigated. He added: Among our biggest advantages are extremely easy to use photo stitching tools and the small size of our resulting Web pages. FlashPix enablement of RealSpace technology raises the bar significantly for panoramic imaging on the Internet.
Castanet Tuner to be bundled with MRJ Java virtual machine
During Dr. Amelio’s keynote address, he introduced the chief executive of fashionable Java vendor Marimba Inc of Palo Alto, California, who announced that Apple would bundle Marimba’s Castanet Tuner with the company’s recently launched Mac OS Runtime for Java 1.0 – MRJ, which is now available for free download. Castanet Tuner is a Java-based tool for receiving up- to-date information and self-updating applications over the Internet. MRJ is Apple’s implementation of Sun Microsystem Inc’s Java virtual machine, and the Java Runtime will incorporate the Castanet Tuner directly into its installation configuration. The strategic alliance of the two companies should receive strong support from traditional Mac developers who would want to take advantage of the self-updating channels structure Marimba offers. Macromedia Inc, Excite Inc and the HotWired Web site are among those currently evaluating Castanet, which previously was only available for Windows and Solaris.
Authoring and premastering tools for Digital Video Disk
One final development didn’t take place on the Macworld show floor at all, but in a hotel suite a few blocks away. A largely unknown Japanese company, Daikin Industries Ltd, with its US subsidiary in Novato, California, announced what it claims is the first complete range of authoring and premastering tools for DVD- Video and DVD-ROM. Called Scenarist3 for Macintosh, the authoring system allows the development of hybrid DVD titles for playback on both consumer and PC-based DVD systems. The system is made up of four standalone Mac applications, which can be used in a combined environment or separately. The real question, though, is when is Apple and other manufacturers going to ship the players needed to run these DVD-ROMs. According to an Apple spokeswoman the company’s approach is to wait and see when and if a DVD-ROM market develops Who wants to sit and watch a movie on your computer, anyway? she asked. She’s got a point.