Wednesday, December 17, 2008

How to write an InfoWorld article

While browsing Hacker News I came across a submission that read like a press release, but was presented as a story. It didn't take much searching to find the associated press release.

Here's a breakdown of the original article (in blue) and the similar text from the press release (in red).

SensAble Technologies, provider of haptic devices, applications, and toolkits, is offering OpenHaptics 3.0, a software development kit to simplify touch-enabling of computer applications.

SensAble Technologies, the leading provider of haptic devices, applications and toolkits, announced the immediate availability of OpenHaptics® version 3.0, a software development toolkit that dramatically simplifies and speeds the touch-enabling of computer applications.

New categories of developers such as scientists and simulation and training providers can add a sense of touch to their applications, the company said. The product works with SensAble Phantom force-feedback haptic devices, which simulate, for example, the feeling of tissues in a human body by pushing back on a user's hand.

SensAble’s enhanced toolkit opens the door to entirely new categories of developers, such as scientists and simulation and training providers, who want to add a realistic sense of touch to their applications, but lack the years of advanced programming and haptics expertise previously required to do so.

The upgraded kit features the QuickHaptics micro API, enabling users with a basic familiarity of C++ to add kinesthetic feedback to what is seen or heard on a computer screen.

Designed to work with SensAble’s PHANTOM® force-feedback haptic devices, the release includes the new QuickHaptics™ micro API, which enables any professional with even passing familiarity with C++ to quickly and easily add kinesthetic feedback to what users see and/or hear on a computer screen.

(Earlier this year, Samsung launched a haptic cell phone.)

The API streamlines three types of complex programming, including operating system-specific windowing, scene graph management, and force rendering in haptics threads, SensAble said. An application to touch and manipulate a 3-D model can be written with 8 lines of programming code instead of 300 lines, the company said.

The new QuickHaptics micro API in OpenHaptics 3.0 greatly streamlines the three distinct types of complex programming typically required when writing a haptics application: operating system-specific windowing, scene graph management, and force rendering in haptics threads. For example, with QuickHaptics, a simple application to touch and manipulate a 3D model can be written with just 8 lines of programming code – instead of 300.

For medical, scientific, and training applications, Version 3.0 supports faster addition of exceptional realism, which is a virtual environment in which users can add touch to applications.

Faster and easier addition of exceptional realism, which is vital to medical, scientific, and training applications.

As an example of how the product works, a developer with no graphics or haptics experience could use QuickHaptics to prototype a training application for veterinary students, SensAble said. The developer could import 3-D models of an animal's anatomy and assign haptic material properties allowing a trainee to use the Phantom device to feel the difference between healthy and diseased organs.

For example, a developer without any graphics or haptics experience could use QuickHaptics to prototype a training application for veterinary students. Using QuickHaptics, the developer could easily import all the necessary 3D models of an animal’s anatomy and then quickly assign haptic material properties, allowing the trainee to use the PHANTOM device to literally “feel” the differences between healthy and diseased internal organs.

"Haptics experts will find QuickHaptics to be invaluable in helping them add virtual touch to their applications in innovative ways. On the other hand, developers who have no experience with haptics programming can easily get to work and be productive quickly," said David Chen, chief technology officer of SensAble, in a statement released by the company.

“Haptics experts will find QuickHaptics to be invaluable in helping them add virtual touch to their applications in innovative ways. On the other hand, developers who have no experience with haptics programming can easily get to work and be productive quickly.”

Version 3.0 also features the ability to build mashups, which combine programming code from various sources into existing applications. Reuse of source code is enabled.

Perform mash-ups – combining programming code from various sources into existing applications

Users also can load 3-D models with textures in standard formats using a single command. There is no need to convert models into specialized file formats before haptic programming.

For example, users can load 3D models with textures in a variety of widely adopted, standard file formats using a single command – eliminating the need to convert models into specialized file formats prior to haptic programming.

OpenHaptics 3.0 is available for 32-bit Windows XP and Vista for $950 per seat for commercial developers. It is free for academic developers. Current OpenHaptics commercial customers on software maintenance contracts get the software at no additional charge.

OpenHaptics v3.0 for Microsoft Windows® 32-bit XP and Vista is available now and is priced at $950 (USD) per seat for commercial developers, and is available at no charge to academic developers and SensAble’s OpenHaptics commercial customers with active software maintenance contracts.

Linux and 64-bit versions will be available early next year.

Linux® as well as 64-bit versions will be available in early 2009.

So the entire article is a small diff from the press release. To be fair to the article's author he did repeatedly add "the company said".

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