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Muppets in cyberspace

A San Francisco-based animation developer teams with The Jim Henson Co. to bring Kermit the Frog, Fozzie Bear and friends to life on the Web.

A San Francisco-based animation developer has teamed with The Jim Henson Co. to bring Kermit the Frog, Fozzie Bear and friends to life on the Web.

The Jim Henson Co. has licensed software from privately held Pulse Entertainment to produce seven episodes of a new "MuppeToons" 3D animated series on the Muppet World Web site. The first episode features Fozzie Bear in a stand-up comedy routine. A new short, interactive episode will debut on the site every three weeks.

By downloading the Pulse Player, whose technology requires less bandwidth than traditional streaming media, Net users can view MuppeToons whether they're connecting to the Net via 28.8-kbps dial-up modems or high-speed cable lines, according to company executives.

Young Harvill, Pulse's chief technology officer, said that the company's technology could be a precursor to greater convergence between TV and Internet programming.

"Right now the issue in TV and Net convergence is that even though DSL and cable modems are providing better bandwidth, it's still not clear that streaming video is going to be the solution," said Young Harvill, Pulse's chief technology officer. "In many cases the server bandwidth is too small...What people are finding is that their experience on the TV is much different than it is on the Net--even with higher bandwidth."

Pulse's technology also is behind Time Warner-owned Entertaindom's "Marvin the Martian" online cartoon series. The company, whose products compete with Macromedia's Flash and Shockwave animation tools, has struck licensing deals with entertainment and high-tech giants including Intel, NBC, Mattel, MTV and Excite@Home, among others.