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Apple eyeing 3D technology

A small multimedia start-up company, ThinkFish Productions, is in the final stages of negotiations with Apple Computer which wants to license its 3D-rendering technology.

A small multimedia start-up company that is trying to recast the look and feel of 3D worlds may get a big boost from Apple Computer (AAPL) in the coming weeks.

ThinkFish Productions is in the final stages of negotiations to license Apple its unique 3D-rendering technology that makes virtual spaces appear more like an artist's sketch or painting than the traditional photorealistic look of 3D worlds. Apple is considering bundling the ThinkFish technology with its QuickDraw 3D graphics engine, according to Ben Calica, director of creative development at ThinkFish.

Most 3D worlds today resemble the highly polished, sterile look of Toy Story, a feature film created entirely with computers. ThinkFish's approach to 3D allows designers to create spaces with a more artistic, rougher appearance. With the company's LiveStyle technology, a designer could build a 3D field of sunflowers in the style of Van Gogh, through which users could navigate.

"ThinkFish's filter is an interesting way to introduce some dirt into cyberspace," said Adam Gould, project manager at Construct, a 3D design company. "It lends a very warm, dynamic, alive feeling to VRML that you don't get right now."

LiveStyle can be used to spruce up 3D spaces on CD-ROMs or the Internet. The technology will work with spaces developed in the virtual reality modeling language (VRML), a 3D Web standard, Calica said. However, ThinkFish first needs to cut deals with VRML browser vendors for its technology to become popular on the Net.

The bundling deal with Apple's QuickDraw 3D, a Windows and Macintosh technology for displaying 3D spaces, could greatly improve LiveStyle's chances of being accepted by users and developers. The company received another significant endorsement last month from Fractal Design, which agreed to bundle LiveStyle with its Ray Dream Designer and Ray Dream Studio.