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by Rick Smith (August 1994)

Good-bye to an Old Friend
About a month ago, we all said good-bye to an old friend as the final Summer Consumer Electronics Show was held in Chicago from June 23rd through 25th, 1994. I have personally attended this show regularly since 1980. I have seen hundreds of electronic consumer products begin and end at this show. Some of major ones that come to mind are digital audio tape recorders, compact disks, talking microwaves, HD (high definition) TV, stereo and close-captioned TV, the last of the "record players", portable computers, palmcorders, home video games and cellular telephones.

In these past fourteen years since the first time I attended the Summer CES, the consumer electronics world has progressed a great deal and interactive multimedia was no exception. In fact in 1980, the word multimedia meant a presentation using multiple synchronized Carousel slide projectors, with a dynamic sound system. Although many current multimedia authoring packages still use this same slide show analogy, current multimedia titles are heading off in different directions with new children's and educational titles. CD-ROM based games are becoming more intellectual and many are moving away from the usual arcade style hunter/tracker games. Many new simulation games were announced at the show.

This show is to be replaced by the CES Interactive Show which will be held in Philadelphia next year and will concentrate exclusively on interactive games and related products.

Autodesk into Interactive
Autodesk (makers of AutoCAD, 3D Studio, Animator Pro, etc.) is now into interactive multimedia authoring. They have recently acquired the full rights to MediaShare's technology. This will result in a state of the art object-oriented Windows authoring package which provides the flexibility and capability of a programming language and the accessibility and productivity of a presentation tool.

Multimedia Office
Creative Labs has announced a new Multimedia kit, the Multimedia Office ($749.95) specifically for the corporate market. It features a Creative double speed CD-ROM drive, Sound BlasterTM 16 and the complete Office Professional suite 4.3 (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Access and a Mail workstation license), Encarta and Creative's own unique applications and utilities, a hands-free microphone and stereo headphones. This provides an easy method to truly utilize multimedia in the corporate environment. Available now.

Clint Eastwood CD-ROM announced
Scheduled for release in 1995, Starwave Corporation, established by Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen in 1993, has formed a creative partnership with the popular actor and director Clint Eastwood to develop a new multimedia CD-ROM title that takes a fun, in-depth look at Eastwood's career in television and film. The product is expected to include film and audio clips, photographs and behind the scenes footage along with an exclusive Eastwood interview specifically created for the CD-ROM.

Low Cost Video Compression
Creative Labs has announced the Video Blaster RT300 card which can digitize and compress video data in real time in one step, unlike other products. The on-board Intel 82750PE video processor provides the power to capture 320 x 240 video clips at 30 frames per second and can compress this huge 200 megabyte per minute data stream into a compact 30 megabyte per minute stream. This captured data can be further optimized and compressed off line for even greater storage economy.

Rumor Mill
Looks like the first casualty of the proprietary CD-ROM format wars will be the VIS format from Radio Shack.

Interactive Anatomy
Titles are going off in all different directions as new children's and educational titles abound, much like today's printed book industry. A.D.A.M. (Animated Dissection of Anatomy for Medicine) Software demonstrated their program, The Inside Story, which helps children and adults to learn about and explore the inner workings of the human body. It has a dynamic user interface similar to the clear plastic-sheet inserts found in printed encyclopedias. The user can change the skin types from Caucasian, to black or even Oriental in the male and female forms. For modesty, adults allow fig leaves to be strategically placed on the body.

High Performance Gaming and Simulation
CD-ROM games are becoming more intellectual and are moving away from the usual arcade-style hunter/tracker games. Many new simulations were announced at the show. The Psychotron is an interactive detective mystery which will be available in both Windows AVI format and ReelMagic MPEG format. Fighter Wing is an ultra-realistic (up to 800 x 600 resolution) flight combat simulation game which supports up to 16 players over a local area network! I can just see the local teenagers setting up a block-wide network in order to play this game. Kids have come a long way from the toy phone consisting of a taut string and the two Dixie cups. CyberJudas, the sequel to Shadow President is a role playing simulation game that lets you control the most powerful nation on Earth. Harvester is a graphically violent nightmarish experience in terror which combines traditional arcade combat, role playing action with a cinematic story line. It allows different levels of violence depending on which weapon is used.

Proprietary Formats
Sega was noticeably absent from the show, but the Atari Jaguar was prominently displayed. Nintendo had the largest booth at the show decorated like a huge steamy jungle ( Donkey Kong Returns ). Nintendo's president, in the keynote address, felt that people are buying entertainment for content, not just high technology. 3D0 was very present, but they were on the other side of McCormick Place, well away from the other interactive and Multimedia exhibits.

Portable Multimedia
At the PPC (Personal Communications and Computing) Show, held concurrently during Summer CES, IBM demonstrated their new 755 line of laptop computers with 486 performance and up to an 810 megabyte hard disk drive capacity that rival desktop systems. The entire line can connect to an optional portable docking station which contains a double speed CD player, SCSI port, an audio system complete with speakers and room for a full length ISA card. While watching a demonstration of a children's educational title about the ocean, the full screen video clip was so impressive that made me feel like I was really diving in the Caribbean. A true multimedia experience in a portable package.

Copyright 1994 Rick Smith All rights reserved.

   
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