SIGGRAPH 2021 Takeaways

By: Dave Zabloudil


The first SIGGRAPH I attended was in Chicago in 1992, I was then a young applications engineer working for Alias Research (now Autodesk). Alias had a large booth, and I was helping with the booth setup when suddenly, an executive swooped in on me and asked me (demanded) “Do you know what G2 curvature continuity is?!” I was like a deer in the headlights. But! I knew the answer having prepared for the show and proceeded to tell him. (Alias had new auto viz tools and surface continuity is important for auto/transportation designers. Whew!) With this and seeing the scale of conference setup for the first time I realized being at SIGGRAPH was being at the mecca of computer graphics conferences.

Interesting Papers

Mechdyne has partnered with many universities around the world helping them with hardware and software solutions to enable research and discovery. It was great to see several our partners participating at SIGGRAPH 2021.

The University of Chicago demonstrated a novel untethered finger worn haptic actuator for rendering touch in mixed reality. University of Wyoming’s Emma-Jane Alexander presented some interesting applications for workforce development/teaching for the U. S. Department of Agriculture on soil biomes. Users can navigate a virtual outdoor landscape and see 3D soil sample cores annotated with text and audio. KAUST had a fascinating 3D visualization of COVID -19 virus derived from cryo-electron microscopy tomography data which was part of the SIGGRAPH’s Computer Animation Festival Electronic Theater.

The Turing Award and Beyond

Fast forward almost 30 years to this year’s virtual conference, SIGGRAPH continues to be the world’s best. If you attended SIGGRAPH but missed this, you must watch The Turing Award and Beyond: Conversation with Ed Catmull and Pat Hanrahan.

This was inspiring and insightful, especially for young people. There were lots of words of wisdom from Ed and Pat, the founders of Pixar, who talk about how important the relationship/equality is between artists/designers and scientists/technologists. Also, about the rich history of computer graphics and where it is today, shaped by exponential forces at play. How the gaming industry funded GPU development, then academia’s freely published algorithms for creating imagery on these GPUs came out of SIGGRAPH, and then how access to information (internet) fueled this cycle.

Pat spoke about creativity, diversity, and innovation. How if you want to stay active, alive and be an “educated soul, …is to stay with the students”. SIGGRAPH certainly has some of the best technical papers and presentations from universities around the world, and its always fascinating to see new ideas and developments in computer graphics. As my colleague and senior software architect Chris Scharver calls it – brain candy, it certainly is!

Looking forward to next year’s SIGGRAPH, and as much as I love virtual mediums, I am hoping it’s an in person conference, nothing like it!

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