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Volume 4, Issue 436: Wednesday, December 18, 2002
- "U.S. Clears Russian Tech Firm In E-Book Copyright Case"
Washington Post (12/18/02) P. E1; Cha, Ariana Eunjung
The U.S. District Court in San Jose, Calif., ruled in favor of Russian software company ElcomSoft on Tuesday, thus dismissing a federal lawsuit alleging that the firm violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) by distributing a program that allows people to copy e-books. The controversy began last year when ElcomSoft programmer Dmitry Sklyarov was arrested in the United States after e-book format provider Adobe Systems complained to the FBI that his Advanced eBook Processor program bypassed copy controls. Sklyarov became a cause celebre and the charges against him were later dropped, on the proviso that he testify against his company. Plaintiffs that invoke the DMCA must prove that the defendants willfully made technology that infringes on copyrights, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott H. Frewing argued that ElcomSoft knowingly created a "burglar tool" that could be used to illegally copy works. Company officials countered that the Advanced eBook Processor was supposed to be used by people who already own legitimate copies and merely wanted to create backup copies. "ElcomSoft has always made its tools for a legitimate purpose for legitimate owners" of digital content, declared ElcomSoft attorney Joseph M. Burton. The jury's verdict could set a precedent that may help other parties accused of violating the DMCA, including file-trading services Grokster, Kazaa, and Morpheus. Although Frewing expressed disappointment in the ruling, he maintained that it championed the act's constitutionality and the jurisdiction of the United States.
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- "Gilmore Commission Critical of Bush Cybersecurity Plan"
Computerworld Online (12/17/02); Verton, Dan
In its fourth annual report, the Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction finds fault with President Bush's Draft National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace. The commission says the plan is overreliant on persuasion to spur the private sector into instituting policies designed to boost cybersecurity, and does not take into account industry's reluctance to implement certain security measures and shoulder the financial burden alone. Panel chair and former Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III calls for a greater emphasis on splitting the burden between government and the private sector. The government is also faulted for not holding leaders and managers responsible for breakdowns in cybersecurity. Both Gilmore and fellow commission member John Marsh, former secretary of the Army, agree that a major problem is the separation of cybersecurity from the physical security of the country's critical infrastructure. "We believe that critical infrastructure has to be looked at as one entire whole and not simply as two pieces," Gilmore explains. He also thinks that a new commission should be set up to concentrate on critical infrastructure.
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- "DMCA Critics Say Reform Still Needed"
CNet (12/17/02); McCullagh, Declan
Although a jury acquitted Russian software maker ElcomSoft of willfully violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) by distributing a program that bypassed e-book copy protections, Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) says this is no reason to get complacent. "The result of such a law remaining on the books is that companies will be more reluctant to introduce new technology that has lawful uses such as facilitating the exercise of fair use rights, but which also circumvents technological protection measures and could facilitate copyright infringement," he declares. The DMCA states that anyone who sells or distributes a product whose primary purpose is to bypass technological measures is prosecutable, with very few exceptions; such exceptions include librarians, encryption researchers, law enforcement, and people carrying out reverse engineering. People who are convicted of willfully breaking the DMCA can receive a first-offense prison sentence of five years and be fined as much as $500,000. Boucher proposed the Digital Media Consumers' Rights Act, a measure that called for a partial rescinding of the DMCA, in October, and he says he will revive the bill without any amendments when Congress reconvenes in January. The bill would allow circumvention of copy protections for "fair-use" purposes, sanction the distribution of code as long as it furthers research into technological safeguards, and make it legal to "manufacture, distribute, or make noninfringing use of a hardware or software product capable of enabling significant noninfringing use of a copyrighted work." Despite the ElcomSoft acquittal, the Business Software Alliance says the prosecution legitimized the DMCA by demonstrating that the law "has clear criminal penalties that can and should be imposed in cases of direct or attempted theft of software and other digital content."
To read more about DMCA, and ACM's arguments against it, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm.
- "Limits Sought on Net Access Without Wire"
New York Times (12/17/02) P. C1; Markoff, John
The U.S. Department of Defense is looking to curb the growth of low-power radio technology for commercial use that could interfere with military radar. Industry representatives have already met with Pentagon officials to discuss the issue, after the U.S. government presented its case to the World Administrative Radio Conference, which helps regulate radio use worldwide. The Pentagon specifically wants the conference to delay a decision concerning the 5 GHz radio spectrum, which would create many commercial opportunities. IT companies hope that wireless technology such as Wi-Fi will help boost their sector and increase business productivity. Already, there are 16 million Wi-Fi-equipped devices on the market allowing for wireless network access, and major technology firms are planning more products, such as the upcoming Banias microprocessor from Intel that will come with integrated Wi-Fi capabilities. Industry officials want the Pentagon to help work out better methods of allocating radio spectrum, such as using dynamic frequency selection and smart radio receivers, so that there is more bandwidth to go around. Proponents of such changes say that type of spectrum-sharing technology is already being used overseas, and is necessary to avoid future spectrum congestion. However, any major change in the way radio spectrum is sent and received would involve radio broadcast and cellular phone companies as well, since it would mean re-engineering infrastructure and end-user systems. The World Administrative Radio Conference added the Pentagon's comments to the agenda for the next meeting in June, at which time a decision may be agreed upon.
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- "Netherlands Court Ruling Offers Haven to File-Sharing Services"
Wall Street Journal (12/18/02) P. B3B; Grow, Brian
An Amsterdam appeals court ruling last March that local file-trading service Kazaa is not legally responsible for copyright violations committed by its users may encourage other file-trading service providers to set up operations in the Netherlands. Dutch lawyer Christian Alberdingk Thijim, who is handling the Kazaa case, reports that he has as many as five U.S.-based clients who are considering a move to the Netherlands, while business sources add that other international file-sharing providers are debating the same option. The court decided that Kazaa was not liable because it provides legitimate services by facilitating the sharing of public works and personal communications, but its legal victory against the Buma/Stemra copyright holders group may be fleeting. The plaintiff has appealed to the Dutch Supreme Court, but people familiar with the case say a final ruling may not be declared until 2005. Buma/Stemra is getting legal advice from the Recording Industry Association of America, and Buma/Stemra attorney Tobias Cohen Jehoram says he will go after whether Dutch copyright laws were properly enforced by the Amsterdam appeals court, with the goal of proving that Kazaa's operations are so similar to its users' activities that there is no question about its liability for copyright infringement. Meanwhile, Brein lawyer Tim Kuik says that a large migration of file-trading services to the Netherlands could well serve the copyright industry's plans to more aggressively pursue legal action. "Then we could tick them all off one by one," he explains.
- "Portland Lacks an E-Waste Disposal System"
Oregonian Online (12/16/02); Cole, Michelle
The mounting problem of electronic waste (e-waste) is being addressed in the United States and elsewhere, but with different approaches. The EPA estimates that up to 500 million personal computers will be discarded between 2000 and 2007 in the United States; some states, such as California and Massachusetts, have instituted a ban on the dumping of computer monitors and TVs, which are sources of toxic lead, in landfills. Efforts to recycle used electronics are also being made: Massachusetts set up an e-waste collection and recycling program in which residents either pay the state directly or give additional fees to haulers to have their e-discards disposed of properly. In Snohomish County in Washington state, monitors and TVs are no longer collected as garbage, and county officials have created a Take It Back network in which people drop off used electronics at e-waste collection centers and pay a $10 to $20 fee. Portland, Ore., traditionally a national recycling leader, is lagging behind other states' e-waste recycling initiatives, and although some officials have proposed a ban on electronics dumping, others have adopted a wait-and-see approach, arguing that a stronger recycler network needs to be established first. In the meantime, Europe and Japan are taking a more proactive approach: In the Netherlands and Belgium, consumers pay an upfront disposal fee, while electronics makers are responsible for recycling or safe disposal; in Japan, manufacturers are required to take back old electronics, while consumers are requested to pay a recycling fee. Recycling costs may be incorporated into the purchase price later on. Environmental organizations and government solid waste managers have recommended that the United States institute a similar national policy, but electronics manufacturers have balked.
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- "Regulating Cyberspace"
Financial Times (12/16/02) P. 11; Waldmeir, Patti
The so-called lawlessness of the Internet has been increasingly called into question, most recently with an Australian court's ruling that U.S.-based Dow Jones had committed libel against an Australian businessman by publishing an article accessible via a server in New Jersey. Speaking at a recent conference of lawyers in Washington, Internet law expert Michael Geist declared, "The Internet is increasingly becoming bordered and the laws are increasingly becoming borderless." However, this inevitably leads to disputes between the laws of different countries, with citizens of one country being threatened with penalties outlined by legislation in the other. Such is the case with the Australian incident, but experts such as Geist and leading Internet theorist Lawrence Lessig agree that the U.S. is just as culpable when it comes to imposing its own values against foreign interests who have allegedly violated U.S. laws in their own countries. A similar case involved a Virginia prison warden who charged a pair of Connecticut newspapers with libel for publishing an article online that allegedly hurt his reputation, but a federal appeals court rejected his suit last week, ruling that the articles did not target a Virginia audience; however, Geist says that although the decision may seem like a reversal of the Australian court ruling, it is really a matter of targeting: Dow Jones has many overseas assets and the Connecticut newspapers do not, thus the former has more chances of being sued by foreign courts than the latter. Internet theorist James Boyle says an even greater threat is the tendency for governments or business interests to enforce policy through private intermediaries who can disregard laws, constitutions, or democratic ideals. The entertainment industry's attempt to curtail piracy through ISPs and others is one example.
- "Fastest Computer Spawns High-Tech Race"
Associated Press (12/16/02); Pearson, Natalie Obiko
NEC's $350 million Earth Simulator in Japan has raised the bar for other supercomputing efforts and has taken away the U.S.'s lead in the supercomputing race; it is now the world's fastest supercomputer, capable of running 35.6 trillion calculations per second and forecasting climate with unprecedented precision. The government of Japan believes that the Earth Simulator will justify its high costs by helping people better prepare for earthquakes and potentially saving billions of dollars, but researchers say its resources could be applied to projects such as predicting the path of a pandemic, accelerating new drug discoveries, and modeling chemical interactions in the human body. However, the U.S. Department of Energy reports that the Earth Simulator has effectively ended the United States' dominance in the field of weather studies, a development that could have "potentially grave" ramifications for other computation-heavy efforts such as the DOE's national security and energy initiatives. The American government has responded by funding domestic supercomputing initiatives that intend to wrest the lead back from Japan, including a $90 million contract with Cray to develop a machine for nuclear weapons modeling based at Sandia National Laboratories. Meanwhile, IBM is working on a 100-teraflop machine that will be the world's fastest when it is introduced in 2004, while another Cray project, a petaflop computer, is expected by the end of the decade.
- "Philanthropy Meets Technology in Global Stanford Program"
SiliconValley.com (12/17/02); Lee, Dan
The goal of the Reuters Foundation's Digital Vision Fellowship Program at Stanford University is to bring information technology to far-flung regions of developing countries by creating usable initiatives. Fellows covering a wide range of disciplines convene in a "prototyping environment" where they can tap into the university's resources to flesh out philanthropic concepts, explains program director Stuart Gannes. IT use is chiefly concentrated in the areas of health care, commerce, literacy, and agriculture. The task of implementing these initiatives is a joint effort between the fellows and nonprofit organizations and foundations. A typical project costs about $10,000; the Reuters Foundation has allocated funding through at least 2003, while participating fellows are either self-funded or bring in money donated by the companies or nonprofits they represent. Fellow Arnon Kohavi, whose work at Stanford involves voice and data communications and the application of such technology in rural Brazil and Laos, saw the program as an opportunity to take a break from the materialism of Silicon Valley. Projects he and other fellows have developed or are working on include a mobile telecenter that consists of a motorcycle with a solar-powered laptop that is used to spread literacy and information to Indian villagers; a business model to supply wireless phone service for a Brazil-based pilot; and the linkage of Laotian villages via a wireless network that supports email and basic communications in local languages. Stephen Ruth of George Mason University notes that such philanthropic gestures will have to overcome many challenges typical of developing nations, including poor communications infrastructure, a dearth of fundamental freedoms, and government corruption.
- "Does Moore's Law Still Hold True?"
Business 2.0 Online (12/13/02); Tweney, Dylan
A recent academic paper from Ilkka Tuomi, a visiting scholar at the European Commission's Joint Research Center, argues that there is a disparity between the doctrine of Moore's Law, which states that computing power doubles every 18 to 24 months, and chip technology's actual progress. Tuomi studies Moore's Law in its many iterations, and concludes that, in reality, it takes closer to three years for processing power to double. Furthermore, elevated processing power does not always translate into greater computing power: Current operating systems consume a lot of memory and processing, while most hardware upgrades of the past 10 years have been governed by the demands of the Microsoft operating system, rather than consumers' hunger for additional power. The importance of processor power in the technology sector is shrinking--for example, most corporations' tech concerns revolve around the storage, management, organization, retrieval, and security of huge data volumes. This in turn has led to great interest and investments in storage, customer relationship management, knowledge management, data mining, and business intelligence systems, which require a greater focus on employee training and business process restructuring rather than installment. In the face of such findings, Moore's Law generates the falsehood that supply and demand do not drive semiconductor advancements. Moore's Second Law, which aligns more closely with the real world, states that there is an exponential increase in the cost of chip plants with each new generation of chips. Tuomi points out that, "Sometimes we perhaps invest disproportionately in technology, believing that technology, as such, solves our problem."
- "Software, Security, and Ethnicity"
Business Week Online (12/17/02); Salkever, Alex
As the U.S. and its allies and foes worldwide ramp up their ability to make war on the digital front, U.S. organizations need to improve their software security without casting suspicion on IT workers of foreign descent. The threat of digital warfare is real, and governments are readying plans to exploit their enemies' system vulnerabilities. Because these systems play an increasingly crucial role in national security and economic success, there are legitimate worries that some code could be sabotaged. However, recent allegations against software vendor Ptech, which sells its products to several U.S. agencies, including the Navy, have not been proven despite thorough audits. Suspicion of foreigners in high-security technical positions is not new, and put nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee in jail for eight months in 1998. However, as both these cases imply, security based on ethnic distrust is not an effective defense. Organizations should instead work to develop better automated code-checking systems, according to Dartmouth College IT security expert Michael Vatis. Carl Landwehr, director of the National Science Foundation's Trusted Computing Program, adds that organizations should not house all their security applications on one machine for the sake of saving money. These measures will become necessary in order to fairly and effectively protect software integrity, especially as major IT firms such as Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and others move their software development operations overseas, where they will inevitably have a more difficult time monitoring workers.
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- "Sandia 'Be There Now' Hardware Enhances Long-Distance Collaborations"
Sandia National Laboratories has devised interactive remote-visualization hardware that will allow people to view and manipulate computer-generated images from remote locations with no significant lag time. "The niche for this product is when the data set you're trying to visualize is so large you can't move it, and yet you want to be collaborative, to share it without sending copies to separate locations," explains Sandia team leader Lyndon Pierson. The patented hardware consists of two boards--which respectively handle compression and expansion--equipped with SDRAM memory, while the lion's share of the work is carried out by a quartet of reprogrammable logic chips. Supervisor operations are conducted by a single-board PC running Linux, which Sandia project engineer Ron Olsberg cites for its simplicity and its networking support. The hardware, which takes advantage of 3D commercial rendering technology, compresses video data coming in at almost 2.5 Gbps so that it can fit inside a network pipe with less than 0.5 Gbps capacity. This technique keeps data loss to a minimum in order to guarantee image fidelity. The system was used in an October demonstration where images were transmitted between Chicago and the Amsterdam Technology Center in the Netherlands, while a November demo involved Sandia facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., and the Supercomputing 2002 convention in Baltimore, Md. Prospective users of the hardware include medical personnel, engineers, oil companies, universities, and the military, according to Pierson.
- "The Semantic Web Gets Real"
Tech Update (12/13/02); Knorr, Eric
The development and future of the Semantic Web is debatable--there are those who argue it is a waste of time that will never get past the drawing board stage, while others claim it could facilitate seamless communication between computers and support intelligent agents that follow plain-English instructions from users. Conceived in 1998 by World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) head Tim Berners-Lee, the Semantic Web is designed to set up sophisticated machine-to-machine communications protocols by building a metadata architecture atop the existing Web, allowing documents and services to be marked by machine-readable descriptors that are not open to misinterpretation. The rules of data descriptor usage are stored within documents called ontologies, but constructing such ontologies requires a concerted effort from the IT sector. Unfortunately, most IT sector members do not have the time or resources to support such an initiative, which threatens Semantic Web development. However, Semantic Web technology is being used practically in enterprises, thanks to the efforts of companies such as the Celcorp startup. Celcorp's Celware product helps companies build meta-applications that tap into their existing application infrastructure; Celware records and deconstructs business processes into distinct operations via a "semantic learner," and employs a reasoning engine to automatically integrate those operations into processes that can boost productivity and meet other abstract business goals. The hardship of ontology development could also be lessened with the W3C's summer release of a working draft for Web Ontology Language. Also in Semantic Web development's favor is support from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and others.
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- "Cool Runnings"
ABCNews.com (12/16/02); Eng, Paul
Sandia National Laboratories researchers have created a device that cools down computer chips without heat sinks and fans, using 7-micron-thick channels that convey liquid methanol through capillary action. These "smart heat pipes" are contained in a flat copper plate attached to the microprocessor. The methanol comes into contact with hot spots, is converted into gas, and distributed to cooler areas, then condenses back into liquid and is drawn back to the hot spots to repeat the process. Tests have demonstrated that the pipe boasts twice the thermal conductivity of standard copper plates of comparable size, according to Sandia researcher Michael Rightley, who adds that the device can be built using existing tools and photolithographic equipment, and can be modified for any design restrictions. Over the next year, the device will undergo additional testing to better determine its efficiency. The project was developed to cool military gear such as portable battlefield computers and radars, and Rightley says its ultimate use is as a cooling system for computers worn by soldiers. He also notes that Sandia is negotiating with a private company to license the technology, which could be incorporated into commercial computers within a year. "In terms of passive heat solutions, this is the next step," declares Transmeta director John Heinlein.
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- "ACM Extends Deadline for Awards Nominees"
In an effort to expand the net of qualified contenders, ACM has extended the deadline for nominations to four of its annual awards. The deadline is now February 28 for nominees to the ACM-IEEE CS Eckert Mauchly Award; the Grace Murray Hopper Award; and the Paris Kanellakis Theory and Practice Award. A deadline of March 15 is now set for the new SIAM/ACM Award in Computational Science and Engineering. The Eckert Mauchley Award honors contributions to computer and digital systems architecture. The Hopper awards recognized the outstanding achievements of young (35 years old or less) computing professionals. The Kannellakis award celebrates theoretical accomplishments that have had a significant effect on the practice of computing. And the SIAM/ACM Award recognizes outstanding research contributions to the field of computational science and engineering.
For information on the nomination submission procedures, visit http://www.acm.org/awards/award_nominations.html.
For more information on the specific awards, visit http://www.acm.org/awards.
- "Links Adding Up for Grid Computing"
Chicago Tribune Online (12/18/02); Van, Jon
Grid computing is taking hold outside of the academic community, according to Argonne National Laboratory researcher and University of Chicago computer science professor Ian Foster. He and colleagues around the country continue to develop the software and standards needed to make computing a commodity that users can take for granted. Foster says that rudimentary grid networks, such as the defunct Napster service, did not provide people with reliable service like they would receive from a traditional utility, such as gas, electricity, or water. IBM grid computing chief Tom Hawk says grid technology will make computing much more effective and at the same time easier to access and use. He notes that when automobiles first came about, people had to prepare for breakdowns when traveling long distances, but today they take their vehicle's reliability for granted. The analogy applies to computing, which is moving into a "post-technology phase," according to Hawk. IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems, and a host of other IT vendors aim to push grid computing into the enterprise, making high-end applications available on demand, even to smaller businesses that do not have their own sophisticated infrastructure. Meanwhile, grid computing continues to be refined among researchers, who use it to collaborate and perform complex computing tasks via shared resources. University of California at San Diego computer scientist Larry Smarr, for example, is working with peers around the country to build the OptIPuter grid, which is a super-fast optical network connecting different computer nodes nationwide. OptIPuter researchers recently purchased an advanced optical-switching router from network equipment manufacturer Chiaro Networks.
- "CCR Using Larger-Than-Life Technology"
University at Buffalo Reporter (12/05/02) Vol. 34, No. 8; Goldbaum, Ellen
The University at Buffalo's Center for Computational Research (CCR) has built a relatively low-cost facility enabling real-time communication, remote collaboration, and high-definition displays of large images. The room has a 12-foot tiled-display wall and is connected to the Access Grid, a high-speed network with about 120 nodes worldwide. CCR Director Russ Miller says the huge display is helpful for analyzing the fine details generated by today's computing-intensive research, such as in the areas of bioinformatics and fluid dynamics. Doctors at the university already use the display, which has a resolution of over 15 million pixels, to get a closer look at MRI and CT images. Because the tiled-display wall is linked to the Access Grid, it allows researchers to view the same images at each end of the node. In addition, a bevy of cameras and microphones allow for real-time sensory immersion during collaborative sessions. Miller says the experience is just like being in the same room with those on the other end, and that such immersive teleconferencing technology is being investigated for government use. He notes that federal officials could collaborate with colleagues in state governments nationwide through such facilities, and adds that the display is so bright that it obviates the need to work in a darkened room. The tiled-display wall is powered by 20 PCs and 20 commodity NEC projectors, and supplies 20 times the resolution of traditional large-format display screens.
- "The High Cost of Handhelds"
Computerworld (12/16/02) Vol. 36, No. 51, P. 30; Hamblen, Matt
Gartner says that handheld computers can be more expensive than most people think: Whereas the average store-bought handheld can cost as little as $300, Gartner estimates that hidden costs--training, support, etc.--can drive up the total cost of ownership (TCO) to $3,000 per user per year, or $4,554 with the addition of a wireless modem. The costs fall into four general categories--capital costs, operations, administration, and end-user functionalities. Gartner notes that TCO for desktops and laptops is much higher than handheld TCO, but Gartner and other research firms agree that many mobile professionals will still need to use laptops, handhelds, and cell phones or smart phones for several years. Meanwhile, Shoreline Research analyst Tim Scannell reports that overall costs for handhelds could rise significantly if a business links them wirelessly to a back-end system. Some IT managers who have implemented company-wide handheld deployments dispute Gartner's findings, but most admit that they do not take costs outside of hardware, software, and wireless airtime into account. Meta Group analyst Jack Gold warns that "IT organizations are not planning effectively for PDAs and for getting data to pervasive devices, and that's a substantial cost." To cut the TCO of handhelds, managers can follow a number of strategies, such as aligning devices to end user needs, standardizing on infrastructure and hardware, supporting mobile end users only, setting up training programs upfront, and using a middleware gateway.
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- "Getting Real"
Scientific American (12/02) Vol. 287, No. 6, P. 124; Alpert, Mark
Researchers are developing new 3D display technologies that do away with headpieces, such as the classic blue and red cellophane glasses used decades ago. At New York University's Media Research Laboratory, director Ken Perlin is developing an autostereoscopic display that cleverly allows a person's two eyes to see the two different images needed for 3D effects. The technology involves using cameras and infrared lights to track the placement of a viewer's eyes in relation to the image (only one person can view the 3D image at a time). A computer monitor turned on its side projects the image, which is filtered by a large liquid-crystal screen three inches in front. Normally horizontal lines scanned by the computer monitor are now vertical, and are divided into lines meant for the left eye and ones meant for the right eye. The liquid-crystal screen has very thin vertical black strips that move from left to right--too quickly to be noticeable--that work as a screen, preventing the left eye from seeing the vertical strips projected from the monitor meant for the right eye. As a result, a 3D image can be viewed from nearly every angle from the front, since the cameras track where the viewer's eyes are. At the Columbia Automated Vision Environment (CAVE) laboratory, also in New York, researchers have developed a scheme that allows computer display images to have shadows corresponding to real-life light sources. A camera near the display senses light sources so that the computer can place appropriate images on the screen. Instead of using the computationally intensive ray-tracing approach used by computer animators, the CAVE researchers stored hundreds of photos of the image in pieces under different lighting circumstances. The computer calls up only the pieces needed to simulate the appropriate shadows and reflections.
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