- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 5, 2007

Each week the Browser features some pop-culture places on the World Wide Web offering the coolest in free, interactive sounds and action.

‘Next’ cyber-stop

Actor Nicolas Cage mystifies audiences and critics with his latest performance as Las Vegas magician Cris Johnson, a man who can see just a few minutes into the future, in Paramount Pictures’ “Next.” The film’s Web site (www.nextmovie.com) clearly highlights the film’s fun, frenetic style in a dynamic design.

Composer Mark Isham’s intense musical score greatly enhances the site’s abundance of visual collages and will cause visitors to bite their nails as they work through three multimedia packages tied to the movie’s locations — Los Angeles; Flagstaff, Ariz.; and Las Vegas — to learn about Johnson’s abilities and his current predicaments.

However, the games that embellish the film’s action are slightly more worthwhile.

First, the ESP Test enables visitors to hone their sixth sense as they tap into their unknown brainpower and predict the symbols hidden on five cards. The simulation keeps track of correct and incorrect guesses and allows mentalists to change answers in what amounts to more of a “Price Is Right” challenge than a pseudoscientific experiment.

In Nuclear Threat, the player has two minutes to find the film’s lead female character, Liz, who just happens to have explosives strapped to her body. The multilevel action, presented in an over-the-top perspective, involves moving a cartoon version of Mr. Cage’s character around a giant maze to find the one of four rooms where she is hidden.

NOAA in virtual 3D

I do not equate the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) with being hip, but its latest initiative immediately propelled it before the eyes of the most immersive and to-the-minute of online communities.

NOAA now offers an island to visit in the Second Life universe dubbed Meteora, and in and around its Earth System Research Lab, visitors can experience earth sciences in a theme-park atmosphere.

For those unfamiliar, Second Life (www.second life.com) gives humans free entrance into a three-dimensional virtual world populated by more than 5 million inhabitants. They exist in an avatar form and live, down to the most detailed economic and social levels, with other computer-generated life forms.

Second Life citizens who visit Meteora can ride through a hurricane, explore an underwater cavern via a submarine, watch a tsunami and enjoy Science on a Sphere, a real-world projection presentation compacted for online viewing that highlights planetary data visuals.

Developers hope eventually to hold virtual meetings with other scientists, give public presentations in the island’s auditorium and build upon its Sphere with content on Mars and global warming.

IQuizmaster

Aspyr Studios (www.aspyr.com), the home of Mac gaming, offers a cerebral extension to the IPod’s multimedia capabilities with a piece of software to create and share trivia challenges.

Its free IQuiz Maker (http://iquiz maker.com) expands upon the IPod’s released IQuiz by offering a quick and easy way to design exams of up to 1,000 questions.

Once downloaded, the program uses an easy-to-manipulate interface with areas to type in multiple-choice or true/false questions, present correct answers (with short explanations), integrate background art themes and even display win and lose messages.

Best of all, developers can test their quiz through a simulator (which looks like an IPod on the computer) before syncing up with a real IPod or sending the finished design to friends.

Lazy quizmasters also can grab question packages from Aspyr’s site with current categories such as “human anatomy,” “beer” and “TV sayings.”

The IQuiz Maker is compatible only with Mac OS X 10.4. However, the PC version is scheduled for release this month.

Have a cool site for the online multimedia masses? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at the Browser, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message (jszadkowski@ washingtontimes.com).

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