The graphics industry swingers were out in force at the annual jamboree of the Computer Graphic Industry. With a temperature of 113F, 42C outside the hall it took an announcement of the magnitude of the Microsoft $140m investment in Apple to heat those inside the hall.
New standards for JAVA applications were launched by Sun Microsystems in its effort to tempt the users away from the Microsoft standards for video and audio transmission. The API's announced by Sun include JAVA 3D and JAVA media and communications interfaces.
Joining the JAVA throng, UK supplier Quantel announced that its range of products could be programmed in JAVA and its partners would be able to get Web training to implement JAVA routines through the Quantel product range.
Silicon Graphics with a mountain of O2 machines displayed on their stand fought a lonely battle against the flood of NT machines from many famous and a number of new names.
Intergraph displayed its new 300MHertz single and dual Pentium II machine with its proprietary RealiZm graphics cards and was also able to announce an agreement with Sony, where Intergraph computers will be sold under the Sony brand name for professional and business system applications including non-liner editing, visual effect and computer graphics creation.
Mitsubishi of America announced its own entry of graphic accelerator cards. However the enthusiasm of the large number of graphic accelerator card manufacturers was severely tempered by the first showing of the Intel i740 chip set which Intel are destined to introduce on their mother boards in the near future.
With Intel as the prime supplier of mother boards to a significant majority of the PC manufactures, this looks like a killer product, since PC manufacturers will be reluctant to pay high prices for add-on cards which only match the on board performance of the i740. This is a development which is likely to shape the future of the main stream PC industry for the remainder of this century.
The trio of CSF software vendors had stands at SIGGRAPH with Kinetix/ Autodesk announcing its upgraded 3D studio MAX2, a product which stole a large proportion of the audience for its presentations, especially the new Character 2 plug in software.
Softimage was demonstrating its new Mental Ray software along with the Twister software for interactive rendering with material and texture editing. Alias/Wavefront had a range of developments to the Mayer content creation software.
In the input arena the old timers like Wacom introduced a new three button digitizer pen with tilt and pressure sensitive plugins available by download from the Wacom web site for any Wacom user. The Pentools software can be used as standard with Photoshop, Fractal Paint, Corel Draw and many others.
For those interested in CAD, all the major vendors showed CAD products. Most were demonstrating remote connection between different databases to allow the user to create a collaborative design which can then be analysed against its design goals. The Internet and Intranet has opened the world of the CAD designer to allow design team members to obtain parts descriptions from suppliers and seamlessly integrate them into their own design. Silicon Graphics were one of the first companies to pioneer this approach and have successfully used these techniques in their own engineering projects for a number of years. The rest of the industry is finally catching up with SGI and presenting the designer with an effective collaborative tool for design.
For the presentation folks, Barco announced the new 'REALITY' projectors; the latest LCD projector from the range has a 1,800 watt metal halide lamp to give an amazing light output of 6,000 lumens on screens up to 50 feet wide. Viewsonic and Sony also showed projection systems.
Away from the main show floor a number of companies new to SIGGRAPH were showing in StartUp park, an area whose aim was to allow for start-ups which aim be big in 2005. Unfortunately this area left a lot to be desired as the majority of the companies here were those who could not get into the main arena. CGI magazine had a booth along with Harlequin, a UK RIP and intelligent agent company whose turn over already exceeds £30 million and Autologic International a $250 million printing and information distribution company. The concept was good but the organisers could have been more selective with those showing in this area especially as the extra space in the main hall could have easily accommodated companies like these.
For the old timers, the Pioneers Reception on the Wednesday evening is a must. This year prizes were given to a number of promising students from around the world. One student from Sheffield University was the recipient of a Pioneer's prize and had found the show a major stimulant.
After these prizes, John Forbes of Visio gave a presentation on the history of the development of CAD through the last twenty-five years, and a look at the future particularly from a Visio perspective. The power currently being developed for 3D models using the Visio approach links neatly with the web database concept currently enjoying a rapid growth in the CAD industry. If John Forbes is to be believed, the result will be as dramatic as when Autodesk introduced their first CAD system 15 years ago.
Equally thought-provoking were his comments, repeated by a number of other industry commentators, that to succeed today the successful company gives its product away in the first instance and only when it has a large customer base does it start to charge to improve the product. A truly dynamic company has to have another innovative freebie in the wings ready to upstage any company who may be about to enter the market place in competition with their business. Traditional business thinking is being turned on its head by these marketing concepts.
SIGGRAPH once again came up with the biggest and the best in most areas! Much to think about as we chart the course towards next year and the next millennium. The most favourite words in the heat and humidity of Los Angeles were 'cool', 'wow' and 'surf'! 'Cool' was to go with the weather (or the technology), 'wow' was the response to the latest picture or special effect, and 'surf' was to go with the Web (as well as the ocean outside). The long queues at the two Internet Centres demonstrated that many people wished to keep in touch with the virtual world of the Internet, or the real world of their ever increasing email queues at home as they took time out to visit SIGGRAPH!
We look forward to next year's event in Orlando, 19-24 July 1998.
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University of Bradford
Computing Suppliers Federation, UK