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The Keynote Address

15 August 01
By Hal Newnan

As I flew to LA from Detroit I read the Christian Science Monitor's 9 August 2001 issue. It might have been the article "Cloak and dagger and a #2 pencil" that caught my eye (because I am in the role of being a reporter) and kept coming to mind as I attended SIGGRAPH 2001, or it could have been the one about '"Star Wars' lasting impact on a village far, far away," but it was actually the article "Artificial humanity" by Julia Gorin on p. 11. Her thesis is that "...it is not machines that are becoming more like us, but we who are becoming more like machines." I am heartened that both Lance Williams and our keynote speaker, Danny Hillis, spoke to our responsibility as Computer Graphic Artists during these proceedings. I see us as using our tools to bring not only our productions to life, but also to animate ourselves and our communities into action on important issues.

Lynn Pocock, this year's SIGGRAPH Chairperson led off this morning's speakers; followed by Judy Brown, President of ACM SIGGRAPH. Ms. Brown stated that the five values of the ACM SIGGRAPH Organization are Excellence in all we do, Integrity, Volunteerism, Passion for the Field, and (wonderful) Cross Disciplinary Interaction. Dr. Edwin Catmull, President of Pixar Animation Studios and, graduate of NYIT, presented the awards.

The awards were:
The Significant New Researcher Award goes to Paul Debevec for his work in Image Based Modeling and Rendering. This involves real-world illumination theory, and the use of high dynamic range photography to study the sub-surface scattering of light. Mr. Debevec credited the next a ward winner, Lance Williams, for having introduced us to much of what makes SIGGRAPH truly great.


The Computer Graphics Achievement Award went to Andrew Witkin. His work includes that on Snakes, Action Contours, Image Analysis, Modeling and Animation, Reaction Fusion Equation, and Clothing Simulation Problems. This last is used with Maya Cloth and incorporated into Monsters, Inc by Pixar. Witkin points out that most of the papers he has ever been involved with were collaborations, and he listed off many. He cites Al Barr for getting him started in CG with a graphics document concerning the optimization of swimming speed for spermatozoa. Witkin says that "Computer Graphics is more fun than Computer Science, and it is very, very, cool!"


The Steven Anson Coons Award for Outstanding Creative Contributions to Computer Graphics to Lance Williams. This awarded is considered the highest award given for computer graphic. Of Lance , Dr. Catmull stated "He has been a friend and colleague of mine for about thirty years. Mr. Williams is a leading thinker who has a very interesting way of looking at things and discussing them . He is unforgettably creative."A few of his contributions to CG stem from his work (starting in 1974 at NYIT - New York Institute of Technology) in MIP Mapping, Shadow Buffers, and a new anti-aliasing algorithim. Lance has made significant contributions to institutions he works (or has worked) for, including: Apple, Dream works, and Disney Animation Studios. Yet his contributions go much deeper as he is also famous for his artistry, humanity, vision and teaching. He is a (previously) unsung hero of the CG community.
Mr. Williams response started with: "I'm so fortunate to be standing here. I am so grateful." His parting comment was "The big picture is behind the eyes." He mentions his love for Science Fiction, pointing out: "Often the inspiration proceeds the Science." He also notes that computers today run 10,000 times faster than they did when "The Works" was produced. And he invites us to consider where this (CG) is going in its social and political context, because scientists have social responsibility. Advances in our CG tools are leading to a tremendous expansion of derivative work; but it is also leading to the visual mapping of brain activity for an artificial eye network, and for visual mapping and display of spatial descriptions and other mental events.
After the last "Paper" session of s2001, Eugene Fiume (Papers Chair) stated that he re-reads some papers every year one of them is the one Lance wrote on Pyramidal Parametrics.


Keynote Address: The Big Picture

Danny Hillis
Chairman and Chief Technology Officer Applied Minds, Inc., And Co-Chair of the Long Now Foundation

This talk is all about the key role Computer Graphics can play in this pivotal time. During this talk Mr. Hillis gives us a compelling view of Computer Graphics (CG) at this inflection point in the evolution of our species. He is fascinated with the longer-term contexts in which we live.
He introduces us to some charts about the expanding number of Internet Service providers and Population Growth. He then states that soon after the formation of our planet, organisms developed DNA as a trick to write down their structure in a separate system, and evolution sped up with the stability of change that DNA provided.
This is part of a pattern he observes in the development of human evolution. This involves there being key inflection points in the development of human life in the context of all life on this planet. In these inflection points there is a period of tremendous creativity before new standards take hold and apply until the next inflection point. An inflection point is a period of tremendous creativity before the new standards take hold. These then apply until the next inflection point. We are living in an inflection point time, and that is an exciting time when the rules of evolution change.


One such inflection point was about 65 million years ago when life developed new ways of handling information - sensory organs and brains; a time in which basic body plans (like starfish and chordates) also became established. This was a new phase transition and there was again an explosion in the diversity of life including the advent of eyeballs, tongues and limbs.
Going forward another few million years and animals are on land - including early apes that look like man. Some develop a trick they worked out for expressing ideas. This is amazing because as soon as we move the information out of the physical system and into a symbolic system good things happen. Individuals do not have to relearn basic things. Ideas got transmitted forward, and then about 4,000 years ago we started to write things down - and civilization got started.


Also noteworthy is that these phases are speeding up. This brings us to the present day, when another one of those magical moments is occurring - we've developed another magic way to express ideas and we can now have computers work them through for us. Our thoughts can now take on a life of their own. We are beginning to create what never could have been created. It is inevitable that we will design ourselves as we become more and more able to read and modify our own DNA we can create our own biological evolution. This means that we are the last of the old kind of humans, but also the first of the new.


Hillis verbally recaps the development of computer graphics as he is able to do because he has been coming to SIGGRAPH for a long time. But he also gives a compelling view on how CG is changing the world (literally effecting how we shape products and architecture) until today we can almost see the "wireframes" under the surfaces of buildings and other objects we are creating. He states that: "Our world view is constructed of CG images. ... What you all (CG people) are constructing is our future reality. It is a very important job. I hope you take it seriously, and do a good job at it."

Wednesday Morning

 

Who goes to the keynote and who does not?

It starts with some acknowledgement of the people who made the conference happen, then the awards and then the keynote.

 

 


Find out more about Danny Hillis's 10,000 year clock at the Long Now website


 

On the way to the technical session was some techno art with a NAFTA theme.

 

This page is maintained by YON - Jan C. Hardenbergh jch@siggraph.org All photos you see in the 2001 reports are due to a generous loan of Cybershot digital cameras from SONY