Autodesk tackles the Internet with engineers in mind

Autodesk fleshed out its Internet plans with the announcement of a new multimedia unit

called Kinetix and tools for authoring and viewing 3D engineering and design files over the Internet.

Kinetix kicked off by announcing an NT version of 3D Studio Max and Hyperwire, a tool for creating Java

applets from 2D and 3D graphics for use in Web page development. A Netscape plug-in viewer called Topper

will enable Web browsers to access the interactive 3D files on Web sites.

Autodesk has also introduced the Drawing File Format (DWF) -- for compressing and downloading design data

over the Internet -- and Whip, a Netscape plug-in viewer that decompresses and displays 2D vector data.

Analysts say that the offerings will allow engineers and architects to leverage their stock of design data on a

new platform.

"So much of the attention on the Internet and intranet has had a sales and marketing focus, and what is

intriguing about this is that it is targeted at engineering ... it is going to change the way engineering and

manufacturing is done," says Tom Greaves, vice-president of Daratech, a market research firm in

Cambridge, Massachusetts. "3D Web authoring tools have the potential to impact the engineering market. The notion

of moving data back and forth into 3D format is quite compelling."

In addition to viewing design files over the Internet, users will have pan and zoom capabilities, as well as

support for embedded URLs in DWF files to allow direct links to other locations.

3D Studio Max, rearchitected for Windows NT from its DOS version, will add multiprocessor support and

networking features that allow rendering to be farmed out over multiple machines. Users will be able to work

in a shaded, pre-rendered mode that texture maps a scene as it's created. Volumetric lighting effects and

TrackView timeline-based animation add more sophisticated images and timed components to the program.

3D Studio Max for Windows NT will ship by the end of April and cost US$3495. A beta version of Hyperwire

and the Topper viewer are available free of charge on Kinetix's Web site at http://www.ktx.com/. Shipping

versions will arrive this US summer. A prototype of the Whip plug-in is available at http://www.autodesk.com;

the beta release will add support for Microsoft's Internet Explorer.

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