The trade show floor opened this morning, and the show got into full swing. The trade show seemed a bit bigger and more fleshed out this year, perhaps indicating that travel budgets are getting healthier. As usual, the show floor was a mix of software and hardware companies, publishers, production studios, and animation schools.
It was nice to see a Side Effects Software booth at this year's show. The company is celebrating 25 years in the business, and in that time, they've created a number of ground breaking technologies. Side Effects recently announced a major price cut to Houdini, their high end animation and visual effects software, which is used at a number of top studios. The base version is $1995, which includes modeling, rendering, and animation tools. For $4495, you can upgrade to the VFX package, which has some of the best particle, fluid, and cloth tools available.
Luxology was exhibiting right behind the Unity booth, and Luxology's new version of Modo, surprisingly enough, has a number of tools that connect it to Unity. Modo 601's new character tools go a long way towards making Modo a full-fledged animation solution.
Speaking of Unity, the company is previewing the upcoming 4.0 release, which is promising more realistic rendering, particularly for mobile games. The new Mecanim character tool will also make adding characters to games a lot easier. The game engine has become quite popular, partly because it has so many different ways to publish games. The current version allows games to be distributed on up to 10 different types of platforms.
Canon doesn't normally attend Siggraph, but this year they had a large booth where they were showing off the Canon MR (Mixed Reality) technology. This is a form of virtual reality where 3D objects and animation are combined with real time video images. This allows you to see an augmented reality. One demo showed consisted of some car seats in the middle of a blank floor. When you put on Canon's MR goggles, you see a virtual rendering of the car surrounding you. This technology shows promise for all sorts of visualization needs.
A number of studios were also exhibiting. Pixar had a large booth where they were showing off some scenes from Brave as well as other projects that use Renderman rendering technology. One fairly new feature is Pixar's on-demand render cloud for Renderman. This allows studios to scale up their renderman renderings by using Pixar servers to do the heavy lifting.
Stepping off of the trade show floor, the emerging technologies exhibit is always a way to get a peek into the virtual future. Some of the more interesting projects on display was MIT's Moodmeter, which took a video image of the crowd standing in front of it, and placed smiley, frowny, or neutral faces over each person's head, depending on their facial expression. Standing in the crowd, you kind of wanted to smile for the MIT cameras. Another cool little display was called SpalshDisplay, which used LED lights and foam beads to simulate the action of splashing water. Finally, Disney's interactive plants created a virtual flower behind a real one. Touching the real flower caused the virtual one to react. It was a simple idea, but quite addicting.