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Siggraph details advanced graphics plans

It lacks the live penguins and the buzz surrounding LinuxWorld, but the Siggraph trade show in Los Angeles hopes to gain notice for its hyper-real graphics and powerful chips.

It lacks the live penguins and the buzz surrounding LinuxWorld, but the Siggraph trade show that opens today in Los Angeles hopes to gain notice for its hyper-real graphics and powerful chips.

The annual Siggraph has traditionally been a forum for unveiling the latest hardware and software technology that enables advanced computer graphics, and this year's show promises more of the same. Siggraph is a sub-group of the Association for Computing Machinery, which is dedicated to computer-generated graphics and interactive techniques.

Among the announcements that came on the eve of the show's opening, Bristol, England-based PixelFusion said Number Nine, a maker of graphics cards and chips, will use the company's Fuzion 150 chip in future high-end 3D graphics accelerator cards.

PixelFusion's technology is different from graphics chips typically found in workstations because it employs a method of processing data known as "massively parallel processing." This means that the chip links together lots of smaller chips together via software, directing each to work on a separate part of the task of displaying a complex image.

The company claims the technique will double the performance of the most advanced workstations on the market today, achieving this leap in performance without requiring any changes to software programs used for video or graphics editing.

PixelFusion said that with some software enhancements, these cards could theoretically even be used to produce animated scenes for movies, similar to those found in A Bug's Life, on a sub-$10,000 Windows-Intel based workstation.

Performance claims notwithstanding, analysts say the proof lies in the product, so to speak.

"The technology is quite a bit different, and the trick is to get it ready. It is still not in a material state. Having a board partner will help that," said George Iwanyc, a senior analyst with Dataquest.

Number Nine has experience in targeting the higher-end market, which should help PixelFusion in getting the product to market. The companies expect to have products on the market by mid-2000.

Other companies making announcements at Siggraph include Dell Computer, moving to extend its lead in the workstation market. The PC manufacturer said it is offering products targeted at what it calls "content creators."

Dell workstations can now be ordered with video-capture cards from Pinnacle Systems that allow for nonlinear editing, and the production of video content that can be streamed over the Internet. Dell is also offering workstations with hardware for moving video and large files over networks, in conjunction with its PowerVault storage systems. The starting price for a Dell Precision WorkStation with a Dell PowerVault system is $34,405.

In other news:

  • Alias-Wavefront is hoping to ride a surge of interest in the Linux operating system by announcing plans to develop its image composition and rendering software for use on Intel-based Linux machines. The software is expected to be available in December for the same price as other versions.

  • 3Dlabs said it would put two of its Glint R3 chips together with a new generation of Glint Gamma G2 geometry processor and 64 MB of on-board memory on a single card. The G2 chip is capable of 5 million floating point operations per second. The board will be available in the fourth quarter of 1999 for $1,999.

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