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A New Palette For The Digitaliste


Developments to Watch

A NEW PALETTE FOR THE DIGITALISTE

ARTISTS WHO LIKE TO PUT their whole arm into their creations will welcome a concept called Digital Artist's System, from Stuart Karten Design in Marina del Rey, Calif. Instead of sitting in front of a computer and moving a mouse, the artist stands in front of a familiar-looking but novel easel, chooses an electronic pencil, pen, or brush, and "paints" on a touch-sensitive screen laid over a large plasma or liquid-crystal display. Colors are mixed on an electronic palette--a separate handheld LCD that communicates with the easel over a wireless link.

Don't look for this easel in stores anytime soon. Just to create a 35-inch display and touch-screen for the canvas would cost upwards of $10,000. On the other hand, says designer Dennis Schroeder, prices for flat screens are coming down quickly, and the rest of the electronics "really aren't such a big stretch." Stuart Karten Design is looking for a manufacturing partner to help build a prototype.EDITED BY OTIS PORT By Neil GrossReturn to top

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WEB GRAPHICS AT MACH SPEED

WHAT'S OFTEN CALLED the World Wide Wait may soon turn into the World Wide Whiz, if something called Rush makes good on its promise. It's a way to chop the size of digital images and graphics by 85% to 95%, so the shrunken data almost fly over the Internet.

Despite the extreme reduction, there's no loss of image quality, boasts Robert J. Moran, president of RMX Technologies Inc. in Ottawa, Ont. Rush, he explains, isn't one of those super-duper compression tricks, which inevitably strip away a certain amount of detail. Instead, it's a special software language--one expressly designed to gobble fat graphics files and recompile them. Once an image is processed, Rush spits out a slim stream of codes containing all the details for reconstructing the original. Then, special plug-in modules for Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer instantly reverse the process. These modules are already available for free at http://www.rmx.com.

Rush is the brainchild of software guru Tapio Vocadlo, who is currently head of research at RMX. In 1995, he showed it to Moran, who ponied up the seed money for a SWAT team of programmers to polish the technology. He then coaxed most of the $3 million invested so far from Bell Canada's venture arm and Telesoft Ventures Inc., a Montreal venture-capital company. Moran is hoping that content producers and Webmasters will rush to Rush.EDITED BY OTIS PORTReturn to top

LET'S GO TO THE VIDEOTAPE--VIA LASER

SPORTS FANS KNOW HOW THE GLARE OF ARENA LIGHTS--or sunshine--can reduce the replays on giant video screens to a pale flicker. But a new system from the Corporation for Laser Optics Research (COLOR), a 28-person company in Portsmouth, N.H., promises to end the squinting. It uses red, green, and blue lasers to produce vivid, contrast-rich images on 9-by-12-foot screens.

The laser projection system caps a nine-year effort involving scientists at Princeton University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. One big hurdle was developing a blue-laser crystal with enough power--five watts or more--to match the output of existing red and green lasers. COLOR also had to develop new projection technology. Its system harnesses a rapidly spinning mirror to steer the three laser beams, which scan images onto the screen line by line.

A 17,000-seat arena in Cincinnati is now installing four of the COLOR systems to flash replays during professional hockey and indoor soccer games. "It gives a good, strong, clear picture whether you're below it or to the side," says Douglas Kirchhofer, president of Cincinnati Entertainment Associates Ltd. COLOR plans to sell its system for $1.2 million--about half the price of other big arena screens. And as laser components come down in price, COLOR hopes to scale the technology down to fit inside ordinary television sets.EDITED BY OTIS PORT By Paul JudgeReturn to top


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