SIGGRAPH Showcases Breakthroughs in Graphics, Interactivity
Human taste simulations, gesture-controlled devices, and a volumetric 3D display are just a few of the “Emerging Technologies” being presented at the SIGGRAPH 2010 conference on computer graphics and interactive techniques.
Although they sound like they are straight from a futuristic sci-fi movie, the new technologies have real-world applications.
“I don’t think the technologies were ever intended to be unpractical and pie-in-the-sky things,” explains Warren Wake, academic department director of Game Art & Design at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh. “If you see something at the conference in prototype form and in its first demonstration, you can expect to see it in use or even in stores about a year to two after that.”
The “Emerging Technologies” venue is just one of the highlights of the annual conference organized by ACM SIGGRAPH. Thousands of technical and creative professionals as well as students from around the world attend the conference, which also features exhibitions, panel discussions, demonstrations, a computer animation festival, and a student research competition.
“Emerging Technologies” include a variety of innovations invited by organizers and selected from juried submissions. The technologies represent a broad range of applications, including displays, robotics, input devices, and interaction techniques.
Wake is attending this year’s conference. He started attending SIGGRAPH 30 years ago when he was a student and has seen many of the new technologies presented at the conference become a part of everyday life.
“Thirty years ago, we were thinking about how to make serious animation on computers and now computer animation tools are very accessible,” he tells. “I’ve seen the emergence of printers and cutting machines that we now use every day in the classroom.”
Attendees at this year’s event will not only have the opportunity to meet the people behind the new technologies, but visualize how those technologies can be of practical use.
“Conference-wide there is a real focus on production technologies, techniques, and best practices,” says Mk Haley, who sits on the SIGGRAPH 2011 Vision and Strategy Committee on Interaction. She also served on the “Emerging Technologies” jury this year.
“The focus allows for the excellent range of content we see every year to be truly hands on, and for the presenters to speak directly with our attendees, to not just show and tell, but to engage and discuss their work with the attendees in a truly personal and interactive manner,” Haley continues. “We also had each presenter include in their submission some verbiage related to potential future applications of their technology to help the attendee visualize the potential of the installations beyond the beginnings they see on-site.”
Among the many innovations being showcased this year is an in-air typing interface for mobile devices. This is a vision-based 3D input interface that does not require space on the surface of the device. Based on a camera with a wide-angle lens, the system detects the 3D position of a fingertip and a keystroke action is defined as a gesture in which the fingertip moves slightly. The interface could potentially replace the need for physical keyboards across hardware.
Then there’s the 360-degree autostereoscopic display that allows viewers to see, without 3D glasses, full-color volumetric objects from all angles as if they were real. This futuristic technology’s potential applications include amusement, digital signage, video games, and 3D telecommunication.
“Recently, there’s been a lot of the cutting-edge work on 3D displays,” Wake says. “They have been steadily improving and we’ve now started to see displays come on the market for the home gaming and movie experience.”
Another technology is the “Meta Cookie,” a pseudo-gustation system that changes the perceived taste of a cookie when people eat it by overlaying visual and olfactory information onto a real cookie. So, users can feel they are eating a flavored cookie even though they are really eating a plain cookie with an augmented reality marker.
According to Haley, some of these developments are exciting because they explore non-traditional problem sets.
“Rather then interface devices for gaming or other mainstream applications, [the creators] are looking at manufacturing and physical therapy challenges and aiming to solve them with high-tech simulations and solutions.”
Some of the technologies offer solutions in areas ranging from health care to business productivity. “For example, as everyone strives to work smarter, not harder, tools that allow mobile workers to access repositories of data and interact with them in intuitive ways on the fly are becoming critical to the success of industries.”
Wake looks forward to discovering all of the new technologies being presented this year and meeting those who created them.
"It is very rewarding to meet like-minded individuals and become inspired by everything that is going on at SIGGRAPH," he offers.
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