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Web3D RoundUp: Looking Backwards and Forwards

Vol.34 No.2 May 2000
ACM SIGGRAPH


Streaming 3D Over the Web



Samanth Pinney
Pulse Entertainment



Figure 1: Virtual Jay, courtesy of NBC.

Figure 2: Fozzie Bear, courtesy of The Jim Henson Company.

San Francisco-based Pulse Entertainment has developed a rich media platform designed to stream interactive 2D and 3D animation to the web, with a client list that includes Time Warner, Microsoft, MTV, Mattel, Intel, Electronic Arts and 3dfx. The company presented its technology at the Web3D RoundUP in Monterey this past February with a demonstration of the popular Virtual Jay character that appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and on NBC.com. In addition, they previewed a new line of 3D cards that later debuted at Egreetings.com. Their claim that the Pulse platform is unsurpassed for character animation was lent some support with demonstrations from DotComix and Infoplasm, who both use Pulse’s technology on their websites.

Pulse Entertainment’s character animation technology (which you can see in action when you view their work for Barbie, NBC, Time Warner or the Muppets) supports bone deformation, facial animation and lip synching that enable a user to create realistic-looking and realistic-moving characters. In addition, unlimited interactivity and streaming audio and animation allow for almost limitless content creation. At the same time they’re also building an impressive list of clients who have used the Pulse platform to launch their products with interactive 3D presentations.

Pulse’s technology consists of Pulse Creator™, authoring software that lets you create interactive, scalable 3D content, and the Pulse Player™, a self-installing player for streaming Pulse-powered content to the web. The small (330K) player supports real-time 3D rendering and interactivity while keeping file sizes – and thus, download times - to a minimum. Pulse also supports the most basic hardware configurations (28.8K modem, 16MB RAM, Pentium 166 or Mac equivalent) and browsers (IE, Netscape, AOL) making the rich-media experience available to almost anyone.

Pulse content begins with any DXF, VRML 2.0 or 3D Studio MAX file. Once a file is imported into Pulse Creator, a user has access to a library of manipulation tools including bone deformation, lip synching, target morphing, adaptive smoothing, texture mapping, rendering, lighting, animation and scripting. Real-time bone deformation and lip synching, in particular, allow for extremely realistic characters with bending joints and pliable skin.

Pulse Creator is compatible with MAX R2.5 and R3.0 files via Pulse’s 3D Studio MAX exporter plug-in, Pulse Producer, and this shareware plug-in enables 3D Studio MAX files to easily be exported as Pulse Creator files, allowing MAX models and animations to be readily published on the web. Virtually all geometry types from 3D Studio MAX can be exported, as Pulse will automatically convert any geometry types into triangle-based poly objects. In addition to geometry export, the Pulse plug-in will also export UV texture coordinates, object color, hierarchy, bone deformation, cameras, target morphs and animation as keyframes or samples.

One of the distinguishing features of Pulse’s technology is the powerful yet compact Player that supports real-time 3D rendering, reflection mapping, antialiasing, interactivity and playback of http-streamed audio and animation files. Once a Pulse-created object or character is downloaded onto a viewer’s computer, that piece of content is cached while the behaviors stream via the transparent Player.

You can visit Pulse’s web site at www.pulse3d.com for a look at some of the content that’s been created with their platform - from Kermit the Frog to Alice in Wonderland to Marvin the Martian to 3dfx’s Voodoo5 chip and beyond!

Samanth Pinney
Pulse Entertainment



The copyright of articles and images printed remains with the author unless otherwise indicated.