close this bookVolume 6: No. 40
View the documentGroupware
View the documentMultimedia and VR
View the documentInternet commerce
View the documentResearch software (in our CRS digest this week)
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View the documentEducation

Want to attend conferences as a virtual-reality avatar? The first conference on "virtual humans" will start 6/19/96 in Anaheim, CA. Experimentation with avatars has been carried out in just a few Internet 3D communities, but "the market is maturing, and multimillion dollar contract awards are no longer a rarity." Silicon Graphics's InfiniteReality computer is a step toward VR on the desktop within three years. "Virtual shopping malls will have sales 'bots; historical reconstructions will have guides, sometimes taking the form of contemporary inhabitants; virtual fashion shows will have mannequins; virtual learning environments will have virtual teachers, demonstrators, and difficult customers [for training sales people]."

At the conference, Marc Raibert -- former MIT roboticist, and founder of Boston Dynamics -- will show robotic control applied to physics-based simulations to create realistic animation from minimal specifications. Jeff Kleiser's Synthespian Studios creates human animations (e.g., Judge Dredd) from 3D full body scans. Kristinn Thorisson of MIT's Media Lab will discuss gesture, facial expressions, eye tracking, speech recognition, and other multimodal dialog components. And CMU's Michael Mauldin will show Julia, a MUD "robot user" able to construct intelligent conversations from an encyclopedic database of response components. Julia can employing humor, sarcasm, politeness, impatience, and diplomacy, as appropriate.

USC's Paul Rosenbloom will demonstrate an Intelligent Forces simulation, which since 1994 has generated teams of automated pilots for operational military exercises. The pilots' behavior in simulated battlefields is nearly indistinguishable from that of humans, and includes learning while pursuing individual and collective goals -- all based on the Soar cognitive model. [Robert Jacobson , sci.virtual-worlds, 6/1/96.]

Autodesk has a Biped plug-in module for its 3D Studio Max (for Windows NT) that simulates bipedal walking or dancing -- for humans or for parsnips with legs. An animator specifies only where the feet and hands are to be; Biped solves for the rest, including head bob. A Physique module then fleshes out the stick figures with wire frames, adding detail such as biceps bulge. Silicon Graphics is reducing the price of its competing Kinemation program. [Peter Coy, BW, 4/29/96, p. 93.]

Industrial Light and Magic did such a good job of turning Sean Connery into a dragon -- sardonic, charming, introspective, melancholy -- that Newsweek's Jack Kroll prefers Dragonheart to the real Connery in The Rock. [Newsweek, 6/10/96, p. 91.]

Hollywood dialogue may not be up to the standards of its graphics. In Mission Impossible, the hacker demands a "thinking machine laptop" with a "686-based artificial intelligence RISC chip." They give him an Apple PowerBook 520c. [Deepak Kumar , 6/4/96.]