Are we there yet? Technology at SIGGRAPH
30 July 2003
The paper presentations at
SIGGRAPH are no doubt an indicator of bleeding-edge research
in Computer Graphics. With extremely
clever techniques and creative application of math, some of the
presentations belong to the "How in the world did they think
of that" category. After attending paper presentations and
courses that are so overwhelmingly technical, a natural question
to ask is "So does all this get out there, into the real
Technology at SIGGRAPH
Imagine that the words following this sentence were on different
flash cards- a penny for the images flashing through that brain.
Belt. Chick. Wine. Cow. Playstation. Now the last
one is quite unclear. One might ask "What am I supposed
to see- papers, art technology?" and just like you
probably guessed, there is no one correct answer to that.
The average technical
researcher might see paper abstracts, the artists- abstractions,
some others- innovative technology that might cater to their
needs and the first timers- just the SIGGRAPH logo. Of these,
the third is especially interesting. Especially at a time like
now, with almost everyone developing a theory about when the
economy is going to see those great times again, Is the industry
is pulling up its socks or just being overwhelmed by the high
amounts of quality research? Is the industry contributing to
a significant bit of the current research? Is the research
contribution from the industry more practicable? The questions
are many. In
my hope to kindle the reader to think about answers to them,
I will try to provide candid reports of some of the technological
attractions at SIGGRAPH 2004.
Technology? Too vague for me
I use the term technology for those research ideas that have "arrived." Oh!
No! If only the modern dictionary was not polluted by such
convenient words. Those that few can define, but aid in
or should I say miscommunication. To clarify, "technology" in
this article will mean research that has culminated in a
practicable implementation that affects graphics users(digital
gamers, engineers, educators, students, etc). Oops! Has this
word just been "overloaded" in the modern dictionary?
Too late to worry about it.
Thermo-key- Image Segmentation using
University of Tokyo
Human segmentation is applied in a variety
of fields, from the weather channel (to overlay the weatherman)
communication. Using thermal information apart from regular
color information from a separate infra red camera, the
folks at University of Tokyo managed to segment the human
in a given environment. Since the effective of the method
on the temperature of the environment, it can be done at
real time and eliminates the need for "Chrome-Key" methods. "What
is that?", you ask? If you've seen Jim Carrey perform
his antics in front of a Blue-Screen, you have the answer
already. If you haven't- chrome-key methods are based on
that any occurrence of a certain color may be assumed to
be background. This assumption is used to segment the human
City University of Hong Kong
"Why don't we capture body motion and render paintings in
3D using computers?", said Horace Ip from the City University
of Hong Kong. That is exactly what their product does. Once complete,
can navigate through the 3D painting on a computer. The artist
moves around in a cubical volume of space, with a rectangular
color strip that runs along the perimeter on the floor. The paint
color depends on the color on the strip at the point where the
artist entered and stroke thicknesses depends on how outstretched
the artists hands are. The intensity and hue saturation are varied
according to speed and acceleration of the artist. The result
of all of the above variations, generates stunning 3D paintings.
system also works in an audio mode, where the frequency of sound
being generated varies with the above actions.
To summarize, the
Body Brush generates refreshingly different looking paintings,
and opens the doors to a whole new world of art. Also,
IP claimed that this product can be used for psychological
Real-Time Motion Capture
Sony Computer Entertainment U.S. R&D
Current motion capture is good, however users are encumbered,
the systems are costly, complicated and not easy to relocate.
okay if we want to use it in the movies because millions
of people go to view what is done just once," says Richard
Marks from Sony Computer Entertainment U.S. Research and
Development. Richard said that their goal was to to try to
problems with the
addition constraint of achieving interactive output. After
a clear explanation of the current technology used in motion
he explained the pros and cons for each. One particularly
interesting method was using the "Clam." The clam
consisted of two colored grippers with the front rectangular
coated with a special reflective coating. Much to the amusement
audience, he played around with a rubber model stretching
Richard concluded his talk by saying "3D motion capture
is what we're truly interested in." Rishi Deshpande,
the next speaker, spoke about how Sony is using a Z mini
additionally captures grayscale images with the intensity
to the depth. Using this, coupled with some image processing,
the head, trunk and hands of the subject can be identified.
Arc Science Simulations Inc
Arc Science Simulations Inc claims that this is the
first truly spherical display. The idea behind the
omniglobe evokes a "And
nobody has done this before?" response. Using a projector
that throws the image from the bottom of the sphere vertically
upwards onto a convex mirror that distributes the image,
the omniglobe produces images without intensity variation
the surface. Of course the convex mirror on top, yields in
spot at the top, apart from the one from where the projected
image enters the globe.
The applications for the Omniglobe are in History, Education
and military applications. One point to note was
that all applications used the spherical device to display
planetS. It should be interesting to see how creatively
display devices can be used.
The Dimension book
The Dimension Book
University of Tokyo
Imagine reading out bedtime stories from flat LCD displays.
Well it doesn't require too much imagination for those
that visited the Dimension Book exhibit at Emerging technologies.
So why would somebody want to read off an LCD display that
can be held pretty much like a book? Yes it is almost the
experience, except that you can see embedded video, change
viewpoint in the pictures by changing the orientation of
the device, blow out torches in the book and flip pages by
This innovative device was designed at the University of Tokyo
and with some refining it should have great potential in
Evans and Sutherland
The ATI FireGL booth at the exhibition
was far from inconspicuous. However few people paid attention
to this screen on one
side of their booth with a rotating yellow Volkswagen
Engineering Visualization exhibit by Evans and Sutherland(E&S).
They were showing off their RenderBeast- a system that
consisted of multiple processors, each doing its bit to
the final visualization.
Design centers, scientific laboratories and research centers
of all sites are constantly searching for ways to improve
their processes and make better decisions while they reduce
This requires a computing "Hulk" that can do some
serious rendering and the E&S RenderBeast does just
that. The RenderBeast is a powerful visualization solution
currently available in 4, 8 or 16 chassis configurations.
It achieves scalability with mechanisms built into the
system. The scalability modes of operation include super
antialiasing, temporal interleaving and spatial tiling.
These can be dynamically
reconfigured without hardware modifications.
The RenderBeast is built with the muscle of their own PC-image
Overall the RenderBeast seems impressive especially to customers
who can afford it.
Qualisys Motion Capture System
What is it with the Volkswagens and
the Suzuki's this SIGGRAPH at the exhibition? A Suzuki sports
bike is all
needed to show off their VR system. Well not quite "all" but
you get the idea. With a hi-resolution head tracking
device, and head active stereo, they allowed adding fancy
to the bike. With environments to choose from for the
bike to be in, and different accessories, it is heartening
see that after all these years of reading about various
VR techniques somebody is actually trying to sell this kind
of stuff. Another product, one Magnus Berlander claimed
their "main product", was the Qualisys Track
Manager(QTM) a windows based data acquisition software.
Planar Manipulator display- Using physical objects
as bi-directional user interface elements
NYU Media Research Lab(MRL)
"We have become so habituated
to standard computer interfaces- a monitor, a mouse and
a keyboard- that it is difficult
to notice their shortcomings."
And so what did they do?
In one corner of the Emerging technologies section, MRL
had set up their Planar Manipulator Display(PMD), a
novel input/output device that can sense the movement
physical objects on a table surface while simultaneously
controlling their motion. Their work extends research
on the use of physical objects as input elements by
providing a practical method for the use of bi-directional
elements and their architecture incorporates the use
inexpensive, dumb mobile platforms, high-speed sensing
and centralized computation. Adding components is inexpensive
since they have a centralized computational resource.
They demonstrated a design support architecture scheme
architecture as an application of the PMD. Users could
arrange and view furniture in an interior space according
to preferred layout methods. Each user-selectable layout
method defined a set of soft constraints which were
employed in computing new configurations. Using a "selector
puck", the user could select the arrangement desired.