INTERVIEWS

Michael BaileyMike Bailey is a Senior Principal Scientist at the San Diego Supercomputer Center and an Adjunct Professor in both the Applied Mechanics and Engineering Sciences and the Computer Science departments at the UC San Diego.Mike teaches the Introduction to Computer Graphics course that has become a fundamental at SIGGRAPH.

What first drew you to computer graphics?

My background was originally in Mechanical Engineering, where I developed an intense interest in computer-aided design methods. My senior year, I took a graphics course as a technical elective and fell in love with it! Graphics is a wonderful bridge between pure computational methods and real applications work, such as science and engineering, I have always really liked that.

Do you have any favorite CG mentors? Dr. Dave Anderson at Purdue, who taught that technical elective and later became my graduate advisor, was the one to draw me into the field. I have him to thank for that. Dick Mueller, long-time SIGGRAPH-goer, and 1984 conference co-chair, was the one to draw me into SIGGRAPH conference work.

Beyond that, I mostly have role models, whose work I have admired and whose personalities and dedication I would like to emulate. This includes people like Don Greenberg, Andy Van Dam, Jim Foley, Steve Cunningham, Jim Thomas, Tony DeRose, Maureen Stone, and a whole host of others.

What was the first time you contributed to SIGGRAPH?

I was on the courses committee in 1983. I had a poster paper accepted in 1978 and spoke in a course in 1985.

What year/city was your first SIGGRAPH? Which was most intense? Why? My first SIGGRAPH was Conference #2, Bowling Green, OH, in 1975. I was 5 years old. <laughs>

My most intense SIGGRAPH was probably 1990 in Dallas. I was co-chairing the 1991 conference. The conference before your own conference is very intense because you have just this one chance, when you can actually find everyone, to set hundreds of things in motion. My fellow co-chair, Carol Byram, and I didn’t sleep much that week. As a chair, your own conference is far less stressful than the one before it.

What contributions to SIGGRAPH are you most proud of? There are a bunch of things that I am pleased with. But, there are three things that I am especially proud of, all related to support for continuing education and educators within the SIGGRAPH conference:

My work as Courses Chair. I have been conference courses chair five times. When I first did this, the courses were an afterthought in the conference schedule. They were not well-defined, there was no official selection process, the notes were more like handouts, and the budget was out of control. I defined what the courses should be, initiated a proposal process for suggesting courses, initiated peer review for those proposals, made the notes more into something that people wanted to keep and refer to, and brought the budget under control. Along the way I also initiated the computer evaluation of the courses. At the time, the SIGGRAPH “Technical Program” meant papers and panels. I convinced the EC that the courses were important enough that “Technical Program” should also include courses, and that the appointment of the Courses Chair should require EC approval. Today the courses are an integral and technologically well-respected part of the SIGGRAPH conference. There is now definite prestige in getting a course accepted, which fuels the innovation in new courses. SIGGRAPH courses have become one of the most important ways of acquiring new information in the field in a timely manner.

Forcing the creation of a Conference Educator’s Track. When I applied to be 1991 conference co-chair, I said that I wanted to be known as the “education co-chair”. It was a term meant in jest, but the idea was serious. I wanted the conference to take more responsibility for doing things for the educators in the SIGGRAPH community. Now, I didn’t know exactly what that meant, but I walled off a section of budget and convinced Steve Cunningham to chair that venue. He invented an educator track that was both useful and affordable. More importantly, it showed how important this was and that it should be supported by the conference. It still exists to this day. The result was all Steve’s doing, but initiating the activity and picking the right person to do it was mine.

Doing the first Course Note CD-ROM experiment. As an Executive Committee member in 1990, I obtained funding for the first CD-ROM course notes experiment. I obtained the course notes, had them scanned and placed on a CD-ROM. In those days, there was no PDF, and SIGGRAPH did not require an electronic submission anyway, so scanning was the only option. The result was crude, but demonstrably useful. It showed that a CD-ROM for course notes was definitely the way to head. It also showed that it was time to move to an electronic submission format because scanning was not going to cut it in the long run.

What near/intermediate developments in CG do you look forward to?

I get a special thrill watching computer graphics become easier for everyone to accomplish. In the 1970’s, you had to be pretty hard-core serious to get anything done. This was bad because so many people, who probably had excellent applications, just gave up on it. I love it at SIGGRAPH when I see someone from a field I know almost nothing about talking about their use of graphics. The technology I am really watching now is the programmable hardware shaders. Right now, it is again just the hard-core people who can do it, but I am sure that this will follow the same pattern as before, and soon there will be some very exciting and unexpected uses for it.

What do you think is new at SIGGRAPH 2003 - technically ?

Vertex/Pixel shaders.

What do you think as the biggest challenge for the next year in your area of research?

Huge Data Sets. That is why I think that Vertex/Pixel shaders are going to be of key importance. The GPU based processing might however not play as important a role in Scientific Visualization, since we cannot afford the luxury of coarse approximations there.

 

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Last updated 8/11/03.

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