Thursday, March 01, 2007


Sophie is new open source Squeak Smalltalk-based software application for creating digital multimedia books that are easy to build. A product of the Institute for the Future of the Book, It is in essence a multimedia authoring system. Sophie-generated books can resemble regular books containing text and pictures, or they may also contain video, audio clips, images in a slide show, other books, links out to the web, and allow for reader interaction.

Sound a lot like what the web was supposed to be? You bet. The difference is that Sophie has been developed as a tool to enable non-technical people to assemble digital documents without needing to learn complex computer languages or to rely on programmers. Still, Sophie uses a human-readable distributed XML format to ensure that a user's content remain accessible for decades to come. Should a particular title need features beyond those provided by Sophie (such as performance or databasing) there is little in the way of preventing those systems from being plugged in on a per book or per distribution basis.

The intent of Sophie is to facilitate the shift from page to screen as a means of scholarly communication. Many academics find it difficult to move to the digital medium because of the technical barriers to doing so in a sophisticated manner. That has a lot to do with why the Research in Information Technology Program of the the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts chose to fund this project.

Sophie is device and OS independent - and best of all, because of its implementation in Squeak, it is fundamentally compatible as a powerful tool within Croquet-based immersive environments. In fact, we are currently exploring what it might take to combine these powerful technologies into a single application and in so doing, bring to bear the power of distributed multimedia authoring directly into late-binding and device-independent collaborative immersive environments - kind of like a powerful open source groupware solution with 3D capabilities. To bring these technologies together would be of great value to education and beyond - and would represent an excellent choice for our developing communities. :)

Sophie is available here, and a video demo is here (the demo starts at: 23:32).


Spincycle said...

Hey Julian. So, I just discovered you today, and I've been listening to you for the past hour and a half -- your Madison lecture re; Croquet--incredible! I was a CS major a long time ago (wrote an LL1 compiler on a Cyber CDC1160 :-)

Anyway, I kept reading more about Croquet and the team which led me to your blog.

Sophie sounds cool too. BTW, have you invented a time machine too? Your blog entry is dated March 1, 2007!? :-)

Would love to follow up with you more about Croquet. All the Best.

Julian Lombardi said...

Looking forward to hearing from you by email!