Those of us with arrows in our backs (Carl Machover's term for pioneers) can appreciate the irony of how apparently obvious trends like virtual reality, and the "who knew?!" surprises like the Internet turned many of our predictions into humorous historical footnotes.
VR and the 'Net were both misdiagnosed because of the unpredictable complications of synergy. We knew of ARPAnet morphing into the Internet, but didn't consider how a user-friendly interface would make it popular, thereby stimulating exponential rounds of in vestment and increased bandwidth, which attracted more users, which attracted more money....
In the case of virtual reality, negative synergy has been responsible for its glacial advance. The real-world difficulties of making lightweight, cost-effective headgear and easy-to-wear motion-tracking interfaces resulted in an apathetic market response-which caused a diminishing spiral of money, advances, and responses.
I wondered how accurate I had been at prognostication, and so I dusted off my earliest articles for a read. Beginning in 1980, I consistently predicted that the motion-picture industry would "quickly" adopt computer animation for special effects, and for virtual sets soon after that. I also discussed the importance of compositing with digital film printers, motion tracking, and the enhancement of live action with digital darkroom techniques.
But I had no idea how conservative Hollywood was. The reality was that, except for Tron, there was no starring use of computer graphics in a film until Terminator 2-but that movie did get the film moguls' attention at last. Today we are about where I thought we'd be at the end of the 1980s!
As the subject of a recent article, "Dead Man Walking," on pg. 41 of the December 1999 issue, I hasten to correct the omission of recognition due the facility at which all our company's R&D is performed.
The Virtual Environments Research Institute at the Uni versity of Houston is directed by Bowen Loftin, Ph.D. Other key personnel on this project in clude Pat Hyde and Hector Garcia. Without the support and professional expertise of this world-class resource and its personnel, the Virtual Inter active Anatomy project would not exist.
Also, in the sidebar on pg. 42 entitled "NASA's New Clothes," credit should have been given to Eye tronics of Heverlee, Belgium, for the contribution of its excellent new 3D imaging technology, ShapeSnatcher, which was used in the acquisition of the NASA spacesuit models.
Robert W. Rice, Ph.D.
President and CEO
The Woodlands, TX
In an article I wrote for the Vision 2000 issue for IEEE Computer Graphics & Applications on Scientific Visual ization, I said "Com monplace visualization-in terms of geographic data (maps, roads, streets, buildings) will be child's play by 2025-young people will develop such visualizations for their school science projects."
I want to point out that the same thing can be said about CAD as well.
US EPA Scientific
Research Triangle Park, NC
The Insight image (below, inset) featuring "cosmological pancakes" that ap peared on pg. 76 of the February 2000 issue of Computer Graphics World was from the dataset described in the caption on that page, but appeared in a front-on view, which is why the blue surface mentioned in the caption isn't visible. The "white" isocontour actually is visible, except that it appears as yellow on the printed page. The larger image directly below represents the dataset viewpoint described in the caption.
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