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Industry applications of compact disc interactive (CD-I)

Neil Shaw, Graham Standfield and Simon Kardash
Victoria University of Technology


The technology of Compact Disc Interactive (CD-I) is emerging as a new and important way of delivering multimedia information, particularly in education, training and in a variety of industry applications. This paper outlines the features of CD-I with emphasis on those special attributes which make the system so relevant and suitable to the needs of industry. We describe the results of our applied research, illustrated with examples of products developed for selected industries. Samples include industry based training, company promotions, marketing, point of sale displays, product catalogues, and home entertainment.

The Computer Aided Learning Centre at Victoria University of Technology has established a complete CD-I studio and has gained first hand experience in the design and production of CD-I titles. This investment in tools, facilities and human resources has been complemented by our association with industry partners, including CD-Images, and is driven by our genuine desire to seek appropriate applications of CD-I in industry.

The technology

CD-I can be considered as a major enhancement to the successful companion technologies of CD-audio and CD- ROM. Developed again by Philips and Sony, this new style of CD technology can store audio and visual data in such a way that a CD-I replay machine can deliver full multimedia to a normal television monitor and stereo system. In addition to the many special visual effects possible with CD-I, the system can now deliver excellent quality full screen full motion video, up to 30 frames/second. Icons, menu items and other "hot spots" defined by the control program provide a means of interacting with the system, and the interface tool is usually a hand held remote controller (or mouse) which enables a cursor to be moved around the screen.

The capabilities of CD-I and the quality of its digital motion video are central to the claims and thrust of this paper. Demonstration of these attributes is therefore an integral part of the presentation of this paper in order to establish that CD-I will have a major role to play in delivering multimedia.

Of additional importance is the fact that CD-I players are a completely "closed" system, meaning that the controlling computer is built in, and there is no need for an external machine, such as a PC or Mac. This simple and compact design of the CD-I player, and its relatively low cost, emphasises that this technology is clearly targeting the home consumer market, businesses and industries. Delivery costs of interactive multimedia are especially relevant when mass distribution of products and players is the central objective. CD-I is one of the leading technologies in this field, with competition coming from other closed systems like Nintendo, 3DO, CDTV and CD-32, all of which are primarily multimedia machines dedicated to games and targeting the home consumer.

Industry applications of CD-I

A key factor in the effectiveness of CD-I in industry is the versatility of the technology to service a range of industry needs, including training, marketing, AW the promotion of companies and their products. Coupled with this feature is the fact that CD-I builds on the reliability and performance of other CD technologies, with a low cost delivery system capable of being used in training rooms, on the factory floor, in show rooms, public exhibitions, as well as in the home. The following paragraphs describe some examples of our CD-I products made for industry.

The effective use of CD-I for presenting a company profile and for point of sale marketing is clearly demonstrated by our CD-I program developed for the multinational agricultural company, Debco Pty Ltd. This program was designed to inform the public about the company, its location, and range of products. Using colourful photographic images and a voice over description of the company, the opening scene presents a favourable impression of the company profile. The program then offers a range of products which can be selected for detailed information as a point of sale tool or simply as an interactive product guide. Note that the beginning scene enables the user to select one of three languages (English, Mandarin and Afrikaans), and this feature has contributed to the successful use of the program by the company in Australia, America, Asia and Africa.

Other examples showing the use of CD-I for promoting a company, its products and services have been developed for clients in the Banking, Building and Defence industries. In some of these cases existing video tapes were used as the primary source of content, including the visuals, sound track and basic storyboard. Developing an interactive version required the design of menu screens, a reorganisation of the storyboard and additional script. Our experience in converting existing audio visual materials into CD-I formats shows the versatility of CD-I technology and this aspect should be of special interest to those industries seeking to enhance their promotional or training materials within existing budgets.

One of our latest CD-I projects is a promotional and marketing disc featuring Victoria University of Technology, its courses and campus features. When our staff members travel overseas, particularly to Asia, they will be able to present an "interactive" profile of our University in multiple languages. Although CD-I players are available at most destinations, a small portable player which supports large screen displays will be used. This disc will also be available for use in exhibitions and other public places where information about education in Australia is being presented.

Open Learning and the flexible delivery of industry based training means that workers can access a variety of training materials at appropriate times, with minimal disruption to the production process. Work place facilities have been installed by some companies to enable training to occur on site, at convenient times, and usually at reduced cost to the company. CD-I can be used as one of the techniques of delivering interactive multimedia training programs as part of an overall strategy of in house training.

To illustrate the use of CD-I in industry based training, we have developed a short sequence for a client in the mining industry. This unit depicts a worker going through the procedure of taking a sample of ore from the mill feed and depositing the sample in a scaled bucket. A voice over explains each step of the process and, at the end of the sequence, there is a question answer session with appropriate feedback. All of the visual data used in this program were obtained from existing video stock, and therefore production of the CD-I version did not require expensive site visits with camera crews.

Training in the Health industry is illustrated by our CD-I program on blood groups. In this example computer generated graphics and animations are used to portray a microscopic view of blood corpuscles moving through a vein, and models of the various blood groups are used to explain their differences.

The animation was originally produced with a commercial animation package and individual frames were later converted to CD-I format. At the end of this training module, students are required to identify certain structures, such as the platelets, by moving the cursor to the correct image.

Foreign language learning for business purposes is another field of training in which CD-I is applicable. We have recently produced a CD-I disc containing 10 modules of Learning Vietnamese, based on materials taken from a 14 week course developed at Victoria University. The program enables students to select a sentence or conversation in Vietnamese, listen to the dialogue, or hear the English translation. Text is presented in both English and Vietnamese characters. Another feature of the design is a facility for obtaining in context information about the selected conversation. This option allows students to see and hear a description of the characters involved in the conversation, and helps convey a sense of meaning and action to the program.

In the Tourism industry CD-I can be used like an interactive brochure to promote a location or tourist facility. So far we have explored two products in the field of tourism, one selling the features of Melbourne and the other offering an adventure tour of Australia. The first example uses images and promotional material acquired from tourism authorities, and the disc contains items such as scenes of Melbourne, its restaurants, hotels and fashion houses. The other CD-I disc contains an interactive four wheel drive tour of Australia along the pathways taken by Peter Wherrett, the TV motoring personality. Most of the visual information used in this project came from 35 mm slides taken by four wheel drive enthusiasts, and was supplemented by materials supplied by tourism authorities.

Home entertainment, arcade games and interactive exhibitions in museums represent another aspect of the computer industry which is well served by CD-I technology. One of our products in this field, called "Guess the Future", is currently on exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney. This program displays a window of motion video (depicting the host who presents questions in a dynamic way) and is surrounded by a group of animated characters who represent the members of the public who participate in the game. When a question is asked, the players in the game use special buttons to compete with each other and answer the multichoice questions. Curators at the museum have indicated that the game is very popular with visitors to the museum, particularly amongst school aged children.

Apart from our own experiences in making CD-I discs for industry, we are aware of products being made in other countries for use in industry. For example CD-I training programs are being produced for topics like management skills, quality, finance and customer service. In the manufacturing industry there are training programs available on CD-I for teaching machine operators how to control major items of equipment. For example a UK packaging company offers a CD-I training disc as part of its support and equipment maintenance. The disc teaches workers how to operate a large computer controlled welding machine used in the mass production of steel cans. A CD-I player is used on the factory floor beside the welding machine, and in this way the workers can use the disc either as an interactive guide to operations (like a manual) or as a training tool when time permits.

CD-I production facilities

The Victoria University of Technology has invested in a CD-I authoring station (CDI-605 Development System) with a companion suite of software tools, including Media Mogul. PC and Mac based graphics workstations have been installed, together with a CD-I emulating and disc burning system. Image capture, audio and video production is supported by the Media Services Unit of the University as well by CD-Images, a company which collaborates with the University on CD and video productions.


CD-I is an effective and versatile multimedia system which has many applications for use in industry. This paper has described some attributes of CD-I technology, and has used some specific cam studies to describe possible applications of CD-I in industry. Examples of our work with the mining, building, banking, agricultural, defence, tourism, foreign language learning and health industries have been used to illustrate the potential for CD-I in these industries.

With the experiences gained and the facilities installed, Victoria University is now able to offer a range of multimedia services to industry, including the design and production of CD-I discs for tasks like training, marketing, point of sale, entertainment, information services and company promotions.

Authors: Assoc. Prof. Neil Shaw, Director, Computer Aided Learning Centre, Faculty of Human Development, Victoria University of Technology, 6 Geelong Rd, Footscray Vic 3011. Tel. 03 688 4710 Fax. 03 687 2089
Graham Standfield, Victoria University of Technology, 6 Geelong Rd, Footscray Vic 3011
Simon Kardash, Victoria University of Technology, 6 Geelong Rd, Footscray Vic 3011

Please cite as: Shaw, N., Standfield, G. and Kardash, S. (1994). Industry applications of compact disc interactive (CD-I). In C. McBeath and R. Atkinson (Eds), Proceedings of the Second International Interactive Multimedia Symposium, 501-503. Perth, Western Australia, 23-28 January. Promaco Conventions. http://www.aset.org.au/confs/iims/1994/qz/shaw.html

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