Page 19                                           March 1983

Adam Powers Heralds Age Of Electronic Juggling

By Bill Giduz, editor Davidson, NC


This juggler is among the most complex figures ever memorized in the field of computer graphics," stated a voice on NBC's "Computers Are People ,Too " television show, which aired this summer. Adam Powers stood stoicly on a grid, cascading his three objects over and over while similar objects floated through the space around him.


In the style of a salon juggler, he dressed in a black evening coat, vest, top hat and bow tie.


The sequence opened from a vantage point directly over Adam Powers' head, then panned around to show him from in front and slightly above.


The juggling sequence was replayed several times as an intro and exit segment surrounding commercials. The program in general dealt with the contributions of computers to the arts. A human interviewed during the course of the broadcast noted, "We can now give all creative artists a common language - numbers."


Two numbers to be exact, ones and zeroes, the basic binary code built upon almost infinitely to create highly sophisticated computer pro­grams, and animated jugglers!


Information International Inc. (I.I.I.) created Adam Powers in 1981, according to Art Durinski, art director. "We chose his name because of its connotations - Adam as the first man and Powers because he's so powerful, " Durinski explained.


Durinski said Adam Powers is unique because he was created totally from numbers, not as a hand-drawn character. This is the important difference between Adam Powers and Fred Flintstone . Today, Flintstone has more human expression and mobility on screen, but tomorrow Adam Powers may invent and perform juggling tricks that no human currently knows.


Durinski explained that the creation of Adam Powers is an important step on the road to artificial intelligence. When the day of artificial intelligence dawns, machines will "think" for themselves, and a human may be able to type into a computer such simple instructions as "juggle 12 clubs," while Adam Powers figures out the rest.


"It isn't possible yet, though," Durinski said, explaining that it took three people four months to create three seconds worth of three ball cascade.


They first found a real juggler, Ken Rosen­thal, and filmed his motions. He was dressed in white leotards with black dots painted at 17 bone joints. They became the reference points for plotting the human motion involved in juggling - the primal ones and zeros around which the form of Adam Powers was molded, shaded and colored. Depth coordinates were calculated through use of an overhead camera in conjunction with the frontal camera.


The film was processed and projected, frame by frame, onto a sheet of paper. The joint points were plotted on x-y-z graphs and fed into the computer.


"We wanted everything as natural as possible," said Durinski. "We did our best to reproduce Ken Rosenthal accurately in the computer. His shoulders and body weight shift slightly, and his head sways slightly from side to side. We also took care to accurately reproduce the timing of the throws."


Adam Powers was created for an I.I.I. promotional film, which includes many other examples of computer graphics. The seven-year old graphics division of the Culver City, CA, firm has created network logos, commercials and feature film effects. They first created Adam Powers head, programmed for several expressions, moving eyes and a talking mouth, for "Tron. " He played the master villain in that Walt Disney animation film. I.I.I. also recently completed a film titled "Magic Journeys" for Walt Disney World's EPCOT Center in Orlando, FL.


Durinski harkens back to the real importance of Adam Powers, the juggler. "People have been trying to simulate physical reality with computers for 20 years, and we've so far conquered all laws of physics. We can create reflection, water movement and any kind of surface, but we haven't yet found how to recreate human locomotion.


"We created Adam Powers basically to prove it was possible," Durinski continued. "Until him, computer-generated figures were basically stick figures. Adam was the first figure to be realistically shaded and mobile. "


Besides juggling, I.I.I. has bestowed other powers on Adam Powers. He can change colors, turn himself inside out, juggle his hand or foot and perform a nifty gymnastic hat trick. At the conclusion of his "Computers Are People, Too" appearance, Adam Powers did a backward flip and disappeared into his top hat, which fell to the grid and gently rocked to a stop:


As Durinski is fond of quoting, "Computer graphics reminds you of something you've never seen before." IJAers have never seen a juggler like Adam Powers before. Jugglers, as well as other humans, are likely, however, to see an increasing barrage of incredible activity from computer-generated figures in the years to come.

Adam Powers - bits and bytes of juggling motion.

Adam Powers - bits and bytes of juggling motion.

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