Karen Moltenbrey Chief Editor
SIGGRAPH 2007, held early this month in San Diego, marked the 34th year for this international conference and expo on computer graphics and interactive techniques. Much has changed since the early days of the show, but one thing that remains constant is SIGGRAPHâ€™s focus on the future. This year, that concept remained in the forefront, as the conferences, papers, sessions, Art Gallery, Computer Animation Festival, exhibits, and more featured content that adhered to the theme â€œFace Tomorrow.â€
As you might imagine, to summarize the entire event would require far more space than I have available on this page. Yet, there is one segment of the conference that I would like to highlight: Emerging Technologies. I have been to a number of SIGGRAPHs, and in my opinion, this yearâ€™s Emerging Technologies program contained far more installations with potential for â€œreal-worldâ€ applications than ever before. Indeed, the focus of this show segment is, and has always has been, on experimental technologies that offer a look at future capabilities of computer graphics. Yet in the past, Emerging Technologies has been a showcase of interesting, but not very practical, installations. Not so this year, as the program contained a record amount of curated content.
As show-goers stepped inside the e-Tech area, the first installation they saw was Buzz, which measured and visualized conference crowds for understanding the movement of groups at trade shows. This Ambient Intelligence project at the Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories is focused on creating sensing platforms and perceptual software that will relay information to the building systems of the future. During my visit, Buzz visually displayed an extremely active area within the Emerging Technologies spaceâ€”the Microsoft Surface display.
The belle of e-Tech, Surface turns an ordinary tabletop into a vibrant, interactive surface on which users interact with digital content through touch and gesture. The device, which soon will be rolled out in restaurants, hotels, and retail establishments, allows patrons to place food orders, download music, play games, and moreâ€”think of it as a large iPhone, only in a table form. For example, guests can place a smart card on the tabletop, and up pops their favorite food and drink items from that particular establishment. And Surfaceâ€™s surface is durableâ€”drinks and food can be placed on it without fear of damage from an unfortunate spill.
Also intriguing was Texas Instrumentsâ€™ DLP 3D TV, for displaying high-def 3D stereo imagery for games and movies at home. Consumer 3D-ready HD TVs already exist, and, according to Texas Instruments, over one million 3D-ready DLP televisions are expected to be in homes by mid-2008, making stereo in the home closer than you may realize.
And while there were some novel display concepts this year, I found E Inkâ€™s technology relevant in terms of the more recent â€œgreenâ€ awareness in our society. The companyâ€™s reflective displays tout a thin, flexible form with daylight readability albeit with low power consumption. So the user still has the experience of reading from paper, with the ability to update information, but without the negative environmental impact associated with paper. The technology has many uses, such as in electronic readers, cell phones, signage, electronic books, and more.
In my opinion, the most important goal of Emerging Technologies is to inspire those in our industry to continue to seek innovative technologies so we can better face tomorrow. And what better theme could there have been for SIGGRAPH 2007?