Issue: Volume: 26 Issue: 7 (July 2003)


For years, SIGGRAPH (the International Conference on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques) has tended to focus more on graphics—specifically, realism in graphics and, even more specifically, realism in graphics in film—than on interactive techniques. And Computer Graphics World has certainly followed suit. A search of our online archives turned up countless references, not simply to realism, but to all it variations as well, including photorealism, enhanced realism, ultrarealism, and hyperrealism—from vendor sources and contributors alike.

It's not that there's anything wrong with that. In retrospect, I'd be hard-pressed to differentiate between terms like ultrarealism and hyperrealism, but it's understandable that a technological quest as vibrant as graphics realism would generate this kind of diversity and hyperbole. In fact, this year's conference will continue to showcase advances in realistic film graphics (see "Scoping out SIGGRAPH," at www.cgw.com under Web Exclusives for a preview of film-related presentations and "Art Studio," pg. 50, for highlights of the state-of-the-art films in SIGGRAPH's.Computer Animation Festival).

But the show will also place more emphasis on the forgotten half of the industry, largely in the Emerging Technologies venue. "The conference has had a bias toward CG, particularly in film," says Emerging Technologies chair, Joshua Strickon (see "Bonding Experiences," pg. 12). "I took my goal to be that of bringing as broad a perspective as possible to what interactive techniques are." To that end, the 21 exhibits look at a full spectrum of interactive tools and techniques. Here are a few highlights:

Context-aware objects: The Smart-Its project aims to make the concept of ubiquitous computing a reality. This approach integrates tiny, "context-aware" computers—equipped with sensors and wireless communications capabilities—into everyday objects. This way, for example, tables could be aware of objects placed on them, and objects could let you know when they have been misplaced (see "Smart Environments," pg. 10).

Sight-enabled devices: Unlike sensors in digital cameras that view the world as flat images, Electronic Perception Technology recognizes images of objects moving in three dimensions. Image-processing software computes the distance of every pixel in an image from the unit's sensor. The devices could be implanted in products ranging from cell phones to game consoles to security equipment. A "sight-enabled" baby monitor, for example, could detect if a child leaves its crib or a third party enters the room.

Always-on networks: While GPS and cellular networks can provide position data and high-speed communications for people in outdoor environments, the ElectAura-Net system can locate people and connect them to networks when they're indoors. This system enables broadband communications using electric fields as a transmission medium and the human body and wired carpets or floor tiles as an Ethernet cable. With such a system, people could receive specific data or video feeds on their handheld or body-worn devices, according to where they are standing.

"These new technologies are on the forefront to change the way we live," says Strickon. They could also be the jolt needed to jump-start this industry. What's needed now is for entrepreneurs to bring interactive techniques to market. Of course, as when entering any new market, the key will be to create applications compelling enough to make them worth commercializing. If developers take up the challenge, perhaps a year from now we'll be trying to sort out the differences between terms like "ultrainteractive" and "hyperinteractive"—and there definitely wouldn't be anything wrong with that.