Comic Chat: Research and Productization War Stories

David Kurlander, Microsoft Corporation

Seminar on People, Computers, and Design
Stanford University April 3, 1998


Comics have a rich visual vocabulary and people find them appealing. They are also an effective form of communication. We have built a system called Comic Chat, that represents on-line communications in the form of comics. Comic Chat automates numerous aspects of comics generation, including balloon construction and layout, the placement and orientation of comic characters, the default selection of character gestures and expressions, the placement of panel breaks, and the choice of zoom factor for the virtual camera. It uses techniques that we learned by working with a professional comic artist, to create comics depicting textual conversations. Comic Chat started out as a project at Microsoft Research, and now ships with the latest version of Windows '95, Internet Explorer 4, The Microsoft Network and will be included as part of Windows '98 and Windows NT 5. This talk will describe the technology behind Comic Chat and our experiences trying to bring it to market.


Dr. Kurlander joined Microsoft Research over five years ago. One of his recent projects, called Comic Chat, was a SIGGRAPH paper in 1996, and has since become an extremely successful product, shipping millions of copies. Kurlander graduated from Harvard University with an A.B. in applied mathematics. Later he received his Ph.D. in computer science from Columbia University for work in graphical editing and example-based user interfaces. He has worked at diverse places including the Pentagon and Xerox PARC.


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