Report from Siggraph 2012

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Are we artists? Are we engineers? Nothing answers this question better than a visit to the annual Siggraph conference where we find that, without equivocation, we can indeed be both. Here in L.A., the 39th edition of the conference has once again brought together the best and brightest minds of computer graphics, art and animation worlds to share and celebrate their work.
It is here that, once again, the lessons are shared from the past and the future goals are laid out for everyone to strive towards. As in the past, the technology demonstrated, and the ideas and papers presented here will inevitably steer the entire industry, from courses and educational programs offered (to those entering the field) to the design of new hardware and discrete components (which will find their way into every form of multimedia device we use).

Among the favorite trends that I’m seeing this year is the focus on new ways of capturing and displaying images. True light field capture devices will soon eclipse the flat, 2d sensors we use in all of our digital cameras today. Similarly, computational displays will be engineered to provide us with increased information when compared to the flat, low color and poor contrast displays we use today. As Ramesh Raskar (one of my favorite regular presenters) put it: the focus will be shifted from resolution and megapixels to the amount of information stored within each pixel.

Jane McGonical provided a great keynote and all of the presenters I’ve seen have been inspiring. The Kinect and depth sensing cameras continue to have a strong showing in the art and technology demonstrations this year (the Kinect BOF meeting was standing room only). A new OpenGL specification was introduced, providing a whole new method of direct computation. I got to try on no less than three kinds of look through/augmented display glasses today from three different manufacturers at the exhibition. Even the host city of L.A. didn’t disappoint, with a decent ground shaking this evening.

As with past Siggraph conferences I will leave this one feeling inspired, empowered, humbled… and utterly exhausted!

—Matt Arnold, Lead Integration Engineer

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