Interview with Maureen Stone
by Wendy Ju
July 22, 2002
What first drew you to computer graphics?
I just liked making the programming, the algorithms and the math visible--being able to make pictures with it made it all worthwhile. I first started drawing pictures on the screen back in the early 70's, on the playdoh Plato project at the University of Illinois... I remember writing my first line-drawing algorithm and being so proud of myself.
Do you have any favorite CG mentors?
When I was first getting started in computer graphics I actually learned my first hardcore graphics from Jim Blinn, who is also a friend. He took me to my first SIGGRAPH, and I trailed around in his wake and met everyone, which is a wonderful way of getting involved in SIGGRAPH. John Beatty and Kelly Booth, back when they were affectionately known as the "Killer B's" from the University of Waterloo-- these people got me involved in computer graphics and also in SIGGRAPH the organization.
What was the first time you contributed to SIGGRAPH?
1980. I had a paper on 2-D illustration and graphics, and so I got up and gave a paper. I was really excited. It was in Seattle. W, and we all went out on a boat and ate salmon. .
It was a huge hassle getting the lawyers at Xerox to let me say that this was part of a system named Griffin that, which was a predecessor to program something like Adobe Illustrator. I was not officially working at Xerox, although I was shortly after wards.(this isn?t actually true?not sure what I said) That was back when you could actually get papers about 2D graphics published at SIGGRAPH.
What year/city was your first SIGGRAPH? Which was most intense? Why?
I think my first year was 78, and I'm pretty sure it was in Atlanta. It was the year where two days before SIGGRAPH I stepped on a beer can at a ball game and had to go around on with a cane...
The most intense SIGGRAPH was probably '87, because I was the Papers chair. We worked so hard... both 86 and 87 were I was working hard to learn about the conference--how it all ran and how it would make a difference.
The other funny thing from '87 is that it was the year we got the ray-tracing jello paper. I got to be papers chair for the ray-tracing jello paper. It was at the top of the ranking list
What contributions to SIGGRAPH are you most proud of?
I think when I was Papers chair, we got more fair about how the papers were reviewed. We extended the papers reviewer sessions to a day and half to give us a little more time to think more carefully. I was the first one who wrote up for the community, as part of the instructions for authors feedback from the committee, how the process works to give people an idea why their papers might not be getting in more often. This hopefully dispelled some of the mythos about how to get your paper accepted.
What's your favorite thing at this year or last year's SIGGRAPH?
More and more I've been enjoying the Emerging Technologies interactive exhibits, which have always been about graphics and user interface. I'm very interested in how graphics and interaction is moving off the desktop and onto the wall and into your hand and everywhere else. You see most of that, at least at SIGGRAPH, in E Tech....
I still enjoying going to see all the papers, various papers from the classic rendering and NPR. I love seeing the papers that acknowledge that there's some perception to these RGB pixels.
What near/intermediate developments in CG do you look forward to?
The domain I'm working is off-the-desktop graphics. All Much of that work is more about sensing the environment and trying to feed that back to the user. I'm actually more interested in what kind of tools the users are going to use when they get to wall-size displays or different kinds of graphics. Also, I'm really interested in the way that perception and imagery interact... in understanding how our brains work and how that's going to impact making graphics more effective.
Do you see these things making their way into the papers ?
Yeah. Last year, Jack Tumblin had a paper on perceptual tone mapping, and there was a session on it at SIGGRAPH this year. Tone mapping people are starting to pay attention to it. It's interesting because all the people in the special effect houses know about this, but the graphics community hasn't gotten very far along. I've been trying to teach about it in my course.
I would love to get a project started applying colors ideas for visualization. I've been listening to Pat Hanrahan talk about visualization and illustration as a medium. Really I believe that visualization and illustration are the same thing. There's more or less data behind it but both are so similar. So much of it is still a craft.
We have all these lovely illustrative techniques that we need to be able to use in the construction of the drawing, in the adaptation of the drawing -- they could be so much more effective than they are now.
You have been involved in so many projects over the years... do you have any favorites?
The work that I'm most happy with is the my color work. SIGGRAPH has never published any of my color work--it's all in Transactions on Graphics, but the work in device independent color and gamut mapping. Probably the paper I have which is a seminal paper is the one in Transactions on GraphicsTOG from the eighties with Bill Cowan and John Beatty on digital color reproduction, device independent color and gamut mapping.
How do you think SIGGRAPH fits in with the other communities?
Well, there's there're a lot of us who have cross-over in graphics and interaction. Graphics has undergone a huge transformation since I first started going to SIGGRAPH from being something that only done by scientists for science, to things that's being practiced by all sorts of people who don't have much of a clue of how it all works -- and they don't need to know. Applications are very important and useful now. In that area, when it shows applications, SIGGRAPH speaks to those people. It generally does not speak to them very loudly or very directly, but that's the next generation.
It's been said that there's a divide between the computer graphics and interaction techniques. How do thing that's going to come out?
That's an interesting tar pit. SIGGRAPH doesn't meet the needs of the interaction community completely, but SIGGRAPH is already too big. I feel very conflicted about it because I know there are people who say you need to have more of everything in SIGGRAPH.
There are little conferences like UIST about interaction -- in some ways they are a lot more fun than SIGGRAPH if that's UI is what you're seriously doing. SIGGRAPH is a really difficult and stressful venue to publish in unless you are really working in the core areas. It would be crazy for people to give up on trying to keep the two communities in contact, but it doesn't offend me that there are two communities. In any case, it is growing.
I think that the interaction and the whole human experience of working with graphics cycles between interaction and viewing, and interaction and viewing and interaction and viewing. It would be nice if there were conferences that encompassed the whole circle, but it would beis a huge circle. Maybe what SIGGRAPH should try to do is look for the applications that have the whole circle, emphasizing a heavily visual component but also including interaction. I think that's actually what's happening.