Anomaly: Consumer Play Finds Itself Well-Financed

There's something a little different about Applied Science Fiction. Not only did the company manage to complete a fifth round of venture funding last week, it did so based on the promise of its consumer-targeted digital imaging technology.

A business-to-consumer venture raising $55 million? What is this, 1999?

By early next year, Applied intends to have kiosks in malls, hotel lobbies, airport concourses, grocery stores and anywhere else people might want to develop their film and burn 35-mm prints onto a CD. The Web-enabled kiosks will let users E-mail their favorite snapshots and even digitally restore color or remove defects from old photos, says Applied CEO Dan Sullivan.

Applied says its digital film processing yields high-resolution images in just six minutes, effectively converting the 100 million cameras in use in the United States into 20-pixel digital cameras, says Sullivan. For processing power, the company designed a graphics analysis board that fits into the normal PCI slot. Every kiosk will contain two boards, each equipped with four G4 Power PC chips.

The technology was originally developed and patented by IBM, from which Applied was born at the end of 1995. Sullivan, a 25-year IBM veteran who signed the papers making Applied a separate company, says his relationships with IBM engineers and researchers played a role in his being offered the helm. One of the reasons he accepted the job was the wealth of experience driving Applied. "It's not the average startup," Sullivan says. "I refer to it as geezer startup. None of us are green boys."

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