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Editorial Pointers

By Diane Crawford

Communications of the ACM, Vol. 43 No. 7, Page 5

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I caught an interview with Tom Cruise on TV the other day, out promoting his latest box-office boon Mission Impossible 2. Clips from the film's action-packed scenes show Cruise scaling treacherous mountains thousands of feet high with nothing more than his fingernails, his megawatt smile, and a piece of chalk. Cut to Tom leaping from peak to deadly peak. Cut to Tom spinning a series of what looks like Triple Axels (sans skates). As the breathless scenes unfold, the actor is adamant about clarifying to the interviewer that he did his own stunt work. "I'm afraid the audience will think the stunts are all done with computer-generated imagery," he laments. "It's really me!"

The same day the Wall Street Journal ran a fascinating article on Walt Disney Pictures' decision to salvage its latest computer-animated film Dinosaur by promoting the technology that made it all possible. The $150 million-plus movie, scoured by critics for its lack of plot and character development, prompted Disney to attempt to save face by marketing the film's groundbreaking, photo-realistic computer animation techniques.

What statements to the mastery of computer graphics and animation when the renowned Disney resorts to touting its movie technology rather than its movie, and one of the world's most recognizable superstars fears his fans won't recognize fact from fx.

This month's special section illustrates the state-of-the-artistry of computer animation that creates visual images so real looking and so compelling that its applications are flourishing not just in the familiar entertainment domains of film, TV, video, and computer games, but in a growing number of scientific and commercial arenas.

Senior Editor Andy Rosenbloom explains that one of the key ingredients to enhancing the realism of visual illusions is the fusion of basic physics from the real world and the computational power and interactive infusion captured from the virtual world. The section he has orchestrated presents some of the latest and (visually) greatest advances in animation and graphics and the many new and potential applications they offer. These noted experts report on experiences and technologies that have had a major impact on designing computer games, creating mesmerizing simulations, producing credible weather forecasting models, and strengthening product design. We hope you find their stories (and impressive collection of images) of real value.

Diane Crawford, Editor

COMING NEXT MONTH: Two special sections that explore the businesses, enabling technologies and tools, user experiences, deep issues, and science of data mining that together paint a beautifully detailed picture of the current state of personalization.

©2000 ACM  0002-0782/00/0700  $5.00

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