Dictation program a huge hit
By DANYLL WILLS
A TRADITION is evolving that the first week of November belongs to Apple.
Every year Apple tries to attract converts with innovative ideas displayed at the annual MacWorld Expo.
And this year was no exception.
The attraction this year was the introduction of the Apple Chinese Dictation Kit (ACDK).
It surprised even the sceptics.
The demonstration was executed with the confidence that showed that this was a technology Apple took seriously and expected others to as well.
The demonstration showed how a machine could convert spoken Mandarin into the written form.
The Chinese characters would appear immediately on the machine's screen.
The outstanding feature of the ACDK was how well it managed to recognise subtle tonal variations in Mandarin.
The ACDK system recognises tones as well as tone-sandhi, which refers to how some tones change when combined with another tone. In Mandarin, if two third tones come together, the first tone will change to sound much like a second tone.
It is quite an achievement for a voice-recognition system on a personal computer to be able to make this distinction.
The ACDK almost overshadowed some other products that were interesting if not perhaps quite so innovative.
The demonstration of QuickTime VR was quite outstanding.
With a minimum of 12 still photographs you can create a 360-degree scene and then move anywhere within it simply by moving the mouse.
You can move to the left, right, zoom in, and zoom out. All of this takes up little space.
You can fit 1,000 of them on a typical CD-ROM.
A 3D object can also be created. Instead of moving round a room or garden, you can move an object so that you can see it from the back, side, top, or other angles.
QuickTime VR will work on a Windows machine only with Macromedia's Director. (Microsoft will not support it because it has its own rival technology.) The implications of this new technology for games and various virtual reality engines are quite clear.
Another technology demonstrated was QuickDraw 3D. This will be available only on Macintosh machines.
QuickDraw 3D makes it possible to handle 3D objects much more easily than it has been up to now.
Because it works at the system level, it means that you can even use a 3D object in an application that handles only 2D objects.
You can move the 3D object around on the screen until you like the angle and then 'freeze' it as a 2D object.
QuickDraw 3D is a wonderful thing, but add to it the new PCI-based Apple QuickDraw 3D Accelerator Card and you have something terrific.
During the demonstration, 3D objects were moved about the screen with ease and speed.
The normal way this is done is with a bounding box, or an outline box that is easy to move around the screen.
When you decide you like the new position of the object, you release the mouse and the object will jump to that position.
Because you are moving a bounding box and not the object itself, it is quick but you cannot see what you are doing.
The acceleration card changes all this.
According to an Apple spokesman, it is possible to add more than one card, thereby increasing the speed of QuickDraw 3D.
This is also something radically new.
For dedicated Macintosh lovers, MacWorld was no doubt a success.
Macintosh novices would have had enough reason to be inspired, while Mac buffs could learn enough about the latest products and advances in technology. For those interested in ground-breaking technology in the areas of multimedia, graphics and desktop publishing, the MacWorld exhibition was the place to be last week.