New multimedia products. (Multimedia PC) (Buyers Guide)
OPEN WINDOWS TO FUN
Daily computer chores can get monotonous, but Moon Valley Software has developed a new multimedia product that will open your Windows to fun by replacing standard screen graphics with animated icons, cursors, and backdrops.
ROMaterial uses sight and sound as a weapon against boredom. Replacing ordinary wallpaper, ROMaterial's backdrops are color images that come to life as moving pictures. Fifty of the most popular icons in Icon Hear-It and Icon Do-It, including the familiar happy face and oversize arrow cursors, are also featured with Moon Valley's new creations.
As you sift through the Windows menus and dialog boxes, you can hear any combination of impressions, languages, and sounds. ROMaterial features many of the sounds found on the original Icon Hear-It along with new vocal effects, including the voice of Ross Perot, the calls of animals, and the sounds of musical instruments.
ROMaterial requires Windows 3.1 and a CD-ROM drive.
MORPH TRANSFORMS WINDOWS
With Gryphon software's Morph for Windows, you can create the same special effects on your home computer that were used to transform objects in movies such as Terminator II and Jurassic Park and on recent television commercials.
Morphing is a two-dimensional special effect that smoothly transforms one still image into another. Time used this technology when promoting its "Agony in Africa" issue. The magazine's commercial began with the image of a young child, which transformed into a skull and then became an image of the African continent. Crest also used morphing to advertise its baking soda toothpaste in a commercial. It began with a box of baking soda, which changed into a tube of toothpaste.
You can save each morph as a Video for Windows movie, or an FLI or FLC animation, and place it on videotape or film for commercial-quality output. You can also save a single still image or series of images in a variety of common file formats including TIFF, GIF, and Targa.
MULTIMEDIA COMES HOME
Now you can generate complete multimedia productions on your home computer with VideoLabs' FlexCam, the first integrated color camera and microphone system designed for desktop video and communications.
The FlexCam incorporates a high-resolution, color CCD camera and two microphones. It outputs color NTSC video and industry-standard, line-level audio to VCRs, video conferencing systems, and any other product that accepts NTSC or PAL video. Mounted on an 18-inch flexible wand for precise camera positioning, the FlexCam is compatible with all popular video digitizing boards offered for Microsoft Video for Windows.
Because of its unique design, you can position the FlexCam directly in front of the screen for true eye-to-eye contact. With other systems, the camera is located to the side or on top of the computer, and you can only see the profile of the user. The flexible neck is also ideal for document capture and other desktop video uses.
The Presenter Video Capture, introduced by Consumer Technology Northwest, combines video transfer technology with the convenience of laptop and notebook computers. The portable unit lets you convert still images from a video-recording device into a computer-generated document.
Compatible with all DOS and Windows applications, the Presenter Video Capture can scan full-color video images with as many as 32,768 colors. You can use it with video recorders, digital cameras, camcorders, and any NTSC input device.
Weighing only 5.35 ounces, the Presenter Video Capture can be conveniently carried with your laptop or notebook computer, though it can also be used with any desktop. The unit simply plugs into a parallel port. All the required hardware and software are included in the package.
MULTIMEDIA BY SUBSCRIPTION
Newsweek InterActive, a multimedia CD-ROM magazine created by the editors of Newsweek, is now available quarterly by subscription or by single issues at leading retail stores.
Each quarterly edition will include as many as three original articles on current news topics. The format combines text, audio, video, animations, narration, and photo essays into easy-to-use multimedia presentations, including interactive simulations that let you get personally involved in the news. Three months of Newsweek print editions and hundreds of articles from the Washington Post are included and can be searched by keyword. Also in each issue are broadcast interviews from "Newsweek on Air," a coproduction of Newsweek and The Associated Press Radio Network.
Newsweek InterActive is published for IBM-compatible computers with CD-ROM drives, as well as the Sony Multimedia CD-ROM Player. Additional formats will be available in the future.
CHECK IT OUT
Your next visit to the local library could bring a few surprises. On the shelves next to the books, you may find an assortment of CD-ROM titles that you can check out and enjoy in your own home.
Compton's NewMedia, a publisher and distributor of CD-ROM titles, is offering libraries a specially marked series of reference, music, travel, business, and children's titles. Packages are available in assortments of 10, 20, and 40 titles and include display holders that make it easy for libraries to promote their new CD-ROM collections.
The library lending program is based on a similar program for video rental stores launched by Compton's NewMedia earlier this year. Following multiple reorders from the video stores, Compton's NewMedia has increased both the number of titles and the number of participating stores.
Under current law, software rental is illegal without approval from the software publisher. In this case, Compton's NewMedia has obtained the rights and will provide special discs and packaging earmarked for lending only to the participating libraries and video rental stores.
MULTIMEDIA GOES MULTIMARKET
It may be some time before pixels supplant the printed word and bookstores become disc stores, but CD encyclopedias have already made their way onto booksellers' shelves. Compton's Learning Company and Compton's NewMedia have put together The Compton's Combo, a true multimedia package to market through bookstores and software stores alike. It includes both the printed and CD-ROM versions of the 9-million-word Compton's Encyclopedia.
The package you buy in the store includes the first volume of the printed encyclopedia, as well as Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia for Windows on CD-ROM. The CD-ROM version includes the complete text of the printed version; sound, animation, and full-motion video; and SmarTrieve, for natural-language text search. A mail-in coupon is included for the other 25 printed volumes, which will be shipped to you at no additional charge.
Compton's NewMedia hopes the Combo will encourage booksellers to add additional CD-ROM titles to their shelves as CD-ROM drives become more common.
CAN YOU SAY "SUI"?
Talking to your computer might not be as futuristic as you think. IBM has announced a developer's toolkit that will allow software makers to produce Speech User Interfaces (SUI) for their Windows applications.
The IBM Continuous Speech Series (ICSS) for Windows is scheduled for release by the end of 1993. OS/2 and AIX versions are already available.
The system has an active vocabulary of 1000 words taken from a base vocabulary of 20,000. Developers can extend the vocabulary to include industry-specific terminology. Unlike many speech systems, ICSS doesn't require a pause between words or special training for users. According to IBM, number recognition will be highly accurate, so entering long lists of numbers into a spreadsheet won't be as tedious as it is with a keyboard. Typos and transpositions could be virtually eliminated.
Lotus displayed a demo program of 1-2-3 using ICSS for OS/2 in IBM's booth at the recent PC Expo in New York. WordPerfect showed its demo based on IBM's Speech Server Series (ISSS), a related technology. Neither company has committed to IBM, but it's apparently a strong contender. Future applications from these and other companies will likely use voice recognition for both navigation and dictation.
WALK SOFT RUNS HARD NEWS ONLINE
Hold the presses--in fact, forget the presses. Walk Soft has taken the paper out of newspaper and replaced it with your computer monitor, complete with sound and animation. News in Motion is the first online multimedia newspaper in the U.S. It's currently available as a weekly, but it will soon be issued as a daily (Monday through Friday).
You can download the "paper" every Saturday or have it sent to you on disk. You'll need Windows 3.1 and DOS 5.0 or higher. Its news and editorials come from agencies around the world: Reuters, The Economist, Le Monde, Asahi Shimbun, Der Spiegel, and others. Color photos, graphics, and political cartoons accompany the text, and sound and animation bring the news to life.
News in Motion also includes the soft news and fluff that so many readers find endearing in their favorite news magazines and papers. It has animated horoscopes and comics, the Frugal Gourmet, and defense coverage from Jane's Defense Weekly.
Subscriptions are available for 1, 3, 6, and 12 months. Rates are higher than for weekly news magazines or daily papers--$4.80 per issue for a 12-month subscription--but downloading is toll-free if you use a 9600-bps or faster modem.
IT'S NOT THE CARD YOU HEAR
As any audiophile will tell you, the best stereo in the world sounds only as good as its speakers. Since the same principle applies to computer sound systems, your choice of speakers is as important as your choice of a sound card.
The ACS50 amplified speaker system from Altec Lansing offers you many of the features of high-fidelity home-audio speakers and amplifiers. The two-way speakers have 2-1/2- x 1-1/4-inch midbass drivers and 3/4-inch ferrofluid-cooled dome tweeters. They're magnetically shielded so you can place them beside your monitor without interference, and they're matched with the amplifier for optimum frequency response.
The amplifier mounts onto your monitor, so the headphone jack and volume control are on the front of your computer rather than on the sound card. Circuitry for bass and treble boost are built into the amplifier.
VDECK, VISCA, AND OTHER VIDEO VERNACULAR
Sony has added a second 8-mm VCR to its Vdeck series. Like the first Vdeck (the CVD-1000 Hi8), the new Vdeck 500 was designed to be a computer peripheral rather than simply a VCR you can connect to your computer. Sony's Video System Control Architecture (VISCA) is built into the deck, so you can connect it directly to your computer and control it with your video-editing software using VISCA drivers.
The Vdeck has a number of professional features for precise editing, including time coding for highly accurate searching and dubbing, input and output jacks for communicating with other devices in a VISCA daisy-chain, and voice boost for voice enhancement and background noise reduction.
You can also expect to see more video software for Windows. Microsoft has incorporated VISCA protocol into its new Media Control Interface (MCI) drivers. Software developers can use these drivers to create video-editing software that can control your camcorder, VCR, and other video devices. The platform-independent VISCA protocol has already been used in drivers for Macintosh and other systems, but the system-level support offered by Microsoft's new MCI drivers should prompt many new PC applications. Desktop video may soon be as common as desktop publishing.
Developers can download the new drivers from Sony's Bulletin Board Service at (408) 955-5107.