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What game is Computer Graphics playing?
by Juan C. Dürsteler [message nº 29]

Computer Graphics are more interlaced in our lives than we think.

It is present in almost all the TV news introductions, it's hidden behind the windows of all the modern operating systems and it's the engine of the video games with which our children (and ourselves) escape from the day to day routine. A not so insignificant part of the movies incorporate computer rendered scenes with a high level of realism and many TV commercials use computer generated images as well.

Computer Graphics is the foundation on which whatever intends to present synthetic images stands. Hence there is an important business built both on it and around it.

Architects and engineers have swapped pen and paper for the computer in order to create 2D plans and 3D representations. The drawing board is already part of history for the majority of architects and engineers. One of the most important Computer Aided Design firms, Autodesk had revenues worth $820 Million in the fiscal year 2000.

In the world of movies, Pixar, the 'other' job of Steve Jobs with nearly 500 employees earned only in the last quarter of 2000 $75 Million and got an after tax net margin of 46%!. Its association with Disney is not alien to these outstanding results, obtained mainly thanks to the sales of Toy Story II.

But not everything in life is the movies. Every computer nowadays has a graphic card able to do, by way of hardware, many of the basic operations that computer graphics require. Nvidia the current market leader of graphic processors had revenues of 198 million dollars in Q3 of last year.

But what is probably boosting the business and the quest for new technology is videogames, both in the hardware and software sides. A market worth 20 billion dollars is the cake for which software giants like Electronic Arts, Eidos  or Microsoft are fighting. In the videoconsole hardware arena you can find  Sony, Nintendo, Sega and next fall even the ubiquitous Microsoft with its new Xbox console.

40 years have passed by since the creation by Ivan Sutherland of SketchPad, the first computer program able to draw in a computer. Since then the mathematical and technological foundations of Computer Graphics have settled down solidly. Nowadays it's possible to create images with a high degree of realism, although interactivity is obtained through the use of large oversimplification.

But Computer Graphics is also progressing among the artists allowing the creation of innovative effects and new artistic endeavours, as you can see by cyber-walking through the Museum of Computer Art (MOCA).

Before the end of the decade (possibly around the middle of it) you will have images in a domestic computer with the quality of Jurassic Park with an acceptable degree of interactivity. Computer Graphics still have many surprises to offer.

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