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SIGGRAPH: From Make-Up To Plasma

As part of our in-depth SIGGRAPH 2006 coverage, reporter Jill Duffy checks in from the show floor, dipping into innovative Emerging Technologies shown at the Boston-based CG conference, all t
Siggraph 2006’s show floor opened this morning to a drove of eager computer graphics aficionados, professionals, and journalists. More than 75 new companies have joined the show floor this year. Siggraph is a volunteer-run and non-profit organization hosting the week-long conference, currently at the Boston Convention Center. Show Floor Wow-Factor On the show floor, Mova wasted no time in demoing for the first time to the public its new motion capture system called Contour, which requires zero dot markers. Making headlines in both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, the system captures facial animation and cloth movement like nothing that's been seen before. Instead of wearing a latex suit and dot markers, the model is dabbed with a phosphorescent makeup, the non-toxic kind found in Halloween stores, which is mixed with a skin-tone colored base (to remove some of the creepiness). Clothing can be dyed with phosphorescent ingredients as well, leaving no obvious trace of chemical. The resulting data requires no clean up, unlike more traditional motion-capture methods. Mova has not yet announced any pricing schemes for the technology. See Mova.com for further details. Emerging Technologies Sensations Tom Craven, a Disney retiree and chair of the Emerging Technologies area of Siggraph, defines emerging technologies as “technologies that aren’t quite at the product stage.” Quite true: the Emerging Technologies exhibits have the most raw feel of anything at the show, but the possibilities for future use are often completely open, since the ideas and implementations are still in their infancies. Inside the Emerging Technologies’ area of Siggraph, a crackling and buzzing commotion every 20 minutes drew small swarms of attendees to Burton Inc.’s display. Called True 3D Display: Using Laser Plasma in the Air--and surrounded by high voltage warning signs-- the presentation lasts only one or two minutes. Reminiscent of a small fireworks display, if fireworks were perpetual and did not fade upon combustion, the demo generates a series of simple objects, or rather an outline of an object in small but powerfully bright lights, in mid air. The luminosity was so intense that protective sunglasses were on hand for anyone who requested them; and one viewer’s photosensitive eyeglasses dimmed as if he were in direct sunlight, despite the conference hall’s dim lighting. The images--a butterfly, ring, square--twist, turn, move, and gyrate slowly. According to creator Burton Inc., the technology’s potential future use includes advertising in mid air. Inside The Fusion Midway Between the Emerging Technologies space and the Art Gallery lies an area dubbed Fusion Midway, for its intersection between technology and art. Here, many game-related experiments found their niche. Interactive table-tops were more common than I expected, incorporating everything from electronic music creation, to air hockey, to a heartbeat sensor-controlled interface. A rock-climbing wall game, balloon ballet, and other interactive exhibits gave the area a hands-on science museum feel where creative minds could relish in visual, aural, and tactile exploration. Location, Location, Location Some journalists and exhibitors questioned the presence of Pacific coast representatives, wondering whether the New England setting drew a more local and mid-Atlantic state crowd, while playing down Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, and Vancouver residents. But from the Boston area itself, a stronger student presence was visible in all areas of the Siggraph conference, according to John C. Finnegan, Siggraph 2006 conference chair. Technology-based experiments, papers, mixed media artwork, and other contributions originating at local campuses -- such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Boston College, and Boston University -- have demonstrated their high level of quality and innovation by being accepted at Siggraph. This strong student involvement in the computer graphics community is fairly new to 2006, says Finnegan. Julie Dorsey, papers program chair, agrees that student involvement is strong, not only in terms of number of submissions, but also in quality. The acceptance rate of papers is only about 18 percent, says Dorsey, and this year’s works were selected “based solely on merit,” as opposed to a theme. Siggraph 2006 continues in Boston until August 3. Additional product news and session reports from the show can be found at Gamasutra's official SIGGRAPH 2006 coverage page.

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