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Wednesday, August 03, 2005

 

SIGGRAPH 05: LEARNING, LAUGHS, A BLAST AND A HALF

World's Leading Computer Graphics Conference Continues to Impress by Delivering Plenty of "Wow" Factor, Showcasing Emerging Technologies, Digital Art, and Excellent 'Entech' Exhibitors

by Don Rose, TRR Technology Editor

By "Entech", I mean Entertainment and Technology, two fields straddled for years by Siggraph, taking place once again this year at the LA Convention Center. Where can I begin? There was so much to see, do, hear, feel, touch, and play with! Let's start with the exhibits which began Tuesday, and run through Thursday, featuring all the leading players related to computer graphics, computer games, computer power/speed/storage (needed to get the pixel processing power required for today's animation/SFX-laden projects), and great books related to computers in general and animation/graphics in particular (Charles River Media has a great book surveying Artificial Intelligence Techniques, among other fine titles; Morgan Kaufman was also present in full force, touting their excellent tech-oriented books as well). If you want a break from the exhibits, the Animation Theatre was excellent and inspiring as always, rivaling the Electronic Theatre (which now costs $50, while the A.T.'s free).

There was also collaborative music in the Access Grid area -- people from cities worldwide jamming, and somehow in sync (with, I was told, the help of the aptly named Netronome). Speaking of music, the E-Tech area (short for Emerging Technology, my annual fave at Sigg) had an ultra cool musical device designed to let your natural intuiton, visual skill and button-pushing prowess make music without learning an instrument. Actually, the little handheld device -- about the size, shape and thickness of four mousepads -- really IS an instrument, just a new and different kind, something you might have expected a sci-fi movie set in '05 to have had if made back in '75. This gizmo encourages you to experiment and play and discover how to best make music with it; within a minute I was making basic rhythm loops and experimenting with various built-in instrument voices. I am guessing it will cost around 250-500 bucks when it comes out, most likely next year; the inventor only said it will probably run "a few hundred dollars".

Also cool in E-Tech: a virtual hanggliding rig where you can fly virtually over Rio, with wind and all (well, twas a fan generating the wind, but when you have the goggle on and headphones, that fan IS wind, baby!)... a virtual canoe-rowing trip down a sim river... Microsoft's cool gesture-driven display screen that had the presenter looking VERY much like Tom Cruise's character at the start of MINORITY REPORT (remember when he was searching through visual data using hand and arm gestures? This Microsoft dude was doin' the dang same thing, practically!)... and the ART GALLERY was also cool, a crowd fave being the little moving ball that generates mesmerizing patterns in sand that erase each previous one slowly but surely, the most Zen section of Siggraph hands down.

If you can go, GO to Siggraph, it runs through this Thursday. LA Convention Center (park there for ten bucks, it's the cheapest and most convenient, unless you go for meter-feeding a few blocks away or some cheaper lots many blocks away). Also make sure to see the Star Wars X-wing ship as you enter South Hall from Figeroa, and the Guerrila Studio upstairs (where you can see cyberfashion, draw on PCs, experiment with audio or video or collaborative art, get a free "ticket" into the virtual worlds project called Second Life, print art on megahuge color printers, and even 'print' 3-D objects with a $50grand-or-so Rapid Prototyping/Fabrication machine). Oh, and don't forget all the free magazines (Variety, Hollywd Reporter, Animation mag, Computer Graphics mag, and more), piled up on your left as you enter South Hall's plethora of exhibits, fill up and make the most of your Sigg pass!

If you can't make it THIS year, there is always Beantown next year (or, as they are billing it, 2B0ST0N6).

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