Now, Multimedia Has Conquered Space

Advocates of multimedia computing often brag that they can play full-motion, color video on personal computers. But that usually requires an expensive video card and a CD-ROM drive, since high-quality video files require a massive amount of storage space. Now, Knowledge Adventure Inc., a software startup in La Crescenta, Calif., is demonstrating full-motion, color video on PCs without fancy hardware.

The trick, says President Bill Gross, involves a new, proprietary video-compression technique that substitutes redundant patterns in an image with shorthand codes to reduce the space required for storage on disk. As the computer plays back the image in an on-screen window, the video is reconstructed. The company is first using the technique in a $79 educational program called Buzz Aldrin's Space Adventure. Due out Sept. 1, it packs an entire minute of full-motion, color video--including footage of an Apollo launch and a speech by John F. Kennedy--into 1 megabyte of disk space. Normally, such footage would take up 500 megabytes. That's a significant improvement over the industry standard video-compression ratio of 150 to 1, says Gartner Group Inc. analyst William Caffery.

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