Developments to Watch
A ONE-CHIP WONDER: STEREO AND 3-D FOR THE PC
TURNING YOUR PERSONAL computer into a multimedia machine can be an exercise in frustration. nVidia Corp. of Sunnyvale, Calif., hopes to make multimedia easier--and cheaper--by putting the functions of several plug-in boards onto a single chip. nVidia's chip can play three hi-fi soundtracks, rotate a 3-D computer model, and screen a movie, all at once. "That knocks the socks off everybody who sees it," boasts Robert A. Csongor, nVidia's director of strategic marketing.
The main trick is a new way of creating images. Instead of assembling them from little polygons, nVidia uses larger curved shapes that more closely resemble the contours of most real-world objects. Fitting them together takes less computer memory and processing. Look for multimedia boards with the new chip this summer--for under $200. Diamond Multimedia Systems Inc., which makes graphics-accelerator boards, says it expects the nVidia chip to "transform today's PCs." One drawback: For top performance, existing 3-D graphics programs have to be reformatted.EDITED BY PETER COY