View from the Top
Issue: Volume: 27 Issue: 7 (July 2004)

View from the Top

Q. What are the main themes of the SIGGRAPH 2004 conference?
One of the most striking aspects of this year's content is the incredible diversity of uses for the technical advances in computer graphics and interactive techniques. Researchers are looking at areas ranging from perception to geoinformatics to preserving cultural heritage. This broad range of applications for research creates new problems and new challenges. Perhaps it is the reason why submissions to several of our technical programs continues to increase, this year at rates of 10 to 25 percent.
Dena Slothower

We are also seeing a stunning breadth in the submissions to areas such as the Art Gallery and the Computer Animation Festival. The accessibility of advanced technologies is making it possible for more and more people to realize their personal visions. The pool of creators of these animations, images, and experiences represents a wider range of professional and educational institutions and includes a greater number of international artists. For example, the SIGGRAPH 2004 Art Gallery: Synaesthesia received nearly 1000 submissions from dozens of countries, and the Computer Animation Festival jury selected a student piece from Australia for one of our two Festival awards.

Q. What technological advances do you think stand out this year?
Programming on GPUs is definitely a hot topic this year. There's a course on "General-Purpose Computation on Graphics Hardware," Papers on "Large Meshes and GPU Programming," Sketches on topics such as GPU1 and GPU 2, an Exhibitor Workshop on the topic of "Faster GPU Computations Using Adaptive Refinement," and a co-located conference on "General-Purpose Computing on Graphics Processors."

Another area coming into its own at SIGGRAPH 2004 is display technologies. Some examples include 3D TV—a system for real-time acquisition, transmission, and 3D display of high-definition, dynamic content—and High-Dynamic Range Display, a project which addresses the brightness, contrast, and color accuracy needs for applications such as film editing, medical imaging, and satellite imagery. I am particularly pleased to see that a number of these projects are exhibiting in our Emerging Technologies venue. You will really need to experience them to understand their potential, because they are pushing past the boundaries of what is possible with our current display technologies.

Q. What new applications of graphics technology are emerging?
From year to year, SIGGRAPH has always been the place to see how advances in computer graphics expand the narrative possibilities of film, TV, and games. This year, the Computer Animation Festival includes a wide range of artistry from The Parthenon to Shrek 2. And I know attendees will be interested to hear about the inner workings of the production of Van Helsing and Everquest II, to name just a few of the talks in the Sketches program.

A great deal of interesting work is being done in interactive techniques, particularly for image manipulation and geometric modeling. This is evident in both the Papers and Sketches sessions.

Q. How will such new applications affect the lives of end users?The theme of this year's Emerging Technologies venue, about enhancing everyday life, is actually quite descriptive of the conference theme at large. The pervasiveness of these technologies in our everyday lives affects the developer, the end-user, and ultimately, the shape of our professional (and sometimes personal) reality.

The new standards explored by the developers and designers in our Web Graphics program will potentially find their way onto everyone's desktop or handheld device as they surf the Web or use other types of network applications. Projects from this year's Emerging Technologies venue, like CirculaFloor, a locomotion interface, which allows the user to remain stationary while walking in a virtual environment, and Lumisight Table, an interactive, view-dependent display table, are examples of how we might work, play, and learn in the near future.

Our keynote speaker, science-fiction author Bruce Sterling, will be addressing some of these issues in his address, "When Blobjects Rule the Earth." Personally, this is one of the sessions I'm most excited about.

Q. What else are you most looking forward to at the conference?
The return of Panels to the SIGGRAPH conference is a definite highlight for me. We have selected seven panel topics for SIGGRAPH 2004, at which experts will debate such topics as "Next-Generation User Interface Technology for Consumer Electronics," "Custom Software Development in Post-Production," and "Games Development: How Will You Feed the Next Generation of Hardware?" Attendees, as well as the panelists, will have some divergent views on the paradigms and the present and future states in these areas. I am looking forward to the conversations that will unfold at the conference as a result of these sessions.

Another area that we expect will generate a great deal of interest is our new Posters program. For this, we encouraged the submission of nascent research as well as incremental—but noteworthy—research results, to help us see even further into the future of graphics and interactive techniques. This program will show us the new paths people are taking and will provide fruitful topics for conversation. A Posters program is a natural fit for a conference that is all about what can be accomplished when attendees have the opportunity to freely exchange information face-to-face. And these ideas, when shared, spark the community to achieve even greater technical and creative breakthroughs.