Multimedia stars at the Consumer Electronics Show. (Fast Forward) (Multimedia PC)
by David English
BY DAVID ENGLISH
With everything from remote-control watches and portable televisions to the latest in Sega and CD-ROM games, the Winter Consumer Electronics Show is nerd heaven. The star of the show was multimedia, with aisle after aisle of exciting new software and hardware.
Some of the most innovative CD-ROMs from CES are set in the future. These include Under a Killing Moon from Access (800-800-4880, price not available); Outpost CD from Sierra (800-757-7707, $69.95); Microcosm from Psygnosis (617-497-5457, $79.99); Star Trek, The Next Generation: Interactive Technical Manual from Paramount Interactive (415-812-8200, $99.95); Isaac Asimov's The Ultimate Robot from Microsoft (800-426-9400, $79.95); and Noctropolis from Electronic Arts (415-571-7171, $59.95). Under a Killing Moon features the best integration of video characters with 3-D-rendered backgrounds that I've seen so far. Outpost CD and Microcosm use their 3-D-rendered graphics for movielike sets, complete with futuristic spaceships and highly original designs. Star Trek, The Next Generation: Interactive Technical Manual includes user-controlled videos that let you quickly move from room to room aboard the Enterprise. You can even move right up to the ship's computers and operate the panels (of course, you can't do everything with the panels that the cast can do on the show). Isaac Asimov's The Ultimate Robot is an awardwinning Macintosh CD-ROM designed by Ralph McQuarrie, the production designer of Star Wars. It's now available under the Microsoft Home label, with a PC version set to ship later this year. Finally, Noctropolis is a dark and moody tale set in a surreal city of the future.
Other notable game CD-ROMs from the show include the multimedia versions of SimCity, SimAnt, and SimEarth (Interplay, 800-969-GAME, prices not available), which feature improved sound, higher-resolution graphics, and--in the case of SimAnt--incredible animation; The Lawnmower Man (Sony Electronic Publishing, 212-702-6273, $69.95), which includes original footage from the film and a 3-D-modeled world with cinematic fly-throughs; Operation Airstorm (Revell-Monogram, 708-966-3500, $69.95), which is the third installment in the Power Modeler series--this time, the CD-ROM features four advanced military jets; Star Trek: 25th Anniversary Enhanced CD-ROM (Interplay, price not available), which includes the voices of all the major cast members from the original "Star Trek" series; and The Xlth Hour (Virgin Games, 714-833-1999, price not available), the eagerly awaited sequel to the best-selling game, The 7th Guest.
Despite the emphasis on games at CES, there were plenty of educational and reference CD-ROM titles to excite the crowd, including Daring to Fly! From Icarus to the Red Baron (Arnowitz Studios, 415-383-2878, $69.95), the follow-up title from the company that developed The Animals!; Library of the Future, Third Edition (World Library, 714-748-7197, $395.00), which crams 3500 stories, novels, essays, poems, and other literary works onto a single disc; Dr. T's Sing-A-Long (Dr. T's Software, 617-455-1454, $39.95), a karaoke program for kids that features 26 classic children's songs; Dennis Miller, That's News to Me and Dennis Miller, That's Geek to Me (Sanctuary Woods Multimedia, 415-578-6340, $29.95 each), which unleash Miller's comic wit on current events and computer jargon; and Tuneland (7th Level, 214-437-4858, $49.95), a terrific interactive musical cartoon featuring the voice of Howie Mandel.
On the hardware side, Media Vision (800-845-5870) unveiled a portable CD-ROM drive called Reno ($399-$549) and a PCMCIA sound card called the Pro Audio PCMCIA ($299). Reno can plug into your computer's SCSI or parallel port and can double as a portable audio-CD player. Unlike other PCMCIA sound cards, the Pro Audio PCMCIA is full featured--it even has provisions for a joystick port and MIDI out.
Advanced Gravis showed The Gravis Personal Piano System (604-431-5020, $495), which includes a sound card with wave-table synthesis, a MIDI keyboard, powered speakers, and Musicware Piano, a Windows-based software package that offers a full year of piano lessons. And MediaMagic (800-624-8654) announced its $99 16-bit sound card, called the ISP-16 Audio Board.
Look for coverage of many of these multimedia products throughout the coming months in COMPUTE.