SIGGRAPH: The Exhibition
hard to make out the rings on the floor of the Henry B. Gonzales
convention floor, but make no mistake: the SIGGRAPH exhibition's
circus has come to town.
Outside the main halls, eager conference goers
were lined up. As the doors opened, visitors rushed out to be the
first ones out on the floor for day one of the exhibition.
"It's completely mad," one visitor is
overheard to exclaim."There's too much to see."
The exhibitor companies were eager to get the
attention. Smiling folks in matching t-shirts offered passed out
flyers, herded people into the live presentations, and answered
questions about their products. Overhead, the airspace was dominated
by the towering structures of the behemoths of computer graphics:
SGI, Sun, Intel, Softimage, Discreet. Many a visitor stood agog
in the carpeted aisles, overwhelmed by the techno beats, flashing
lights and unending spectacles.
The Immersion booth is dwarfed by the Intel booth
next door, but there's something arresting about the mechanical
contraption which looks like a torture device out of Terry Gilliam's
Brazil. The CyberGlove's placement is obviously no accident.
"We get a lot of return business, and a chance to interact
with partners, but this is also about new people walking up and
trying out our stuff."" says Immersion's Greg Belaus,
"We have a demo with a virtual cockpit from our partner Peugeot,
you can feel your way around--even rest your arm on the steering
Dancers outfitted with sensors wiggled their butts
to show off motion capture devices. Large boxes whirred to produce
colorful three-dimensional models in real time. Massive screens
spool rapid-fire clips from Spiderman, Minority
Report, Men in Black II, and Stuart Little 2.
It's a tough atmosphere in which to capture people's
attentions, which is why gimmicks and giveaways are such an elemental
part of SIGGRAPH's exhibitions. "Our customers know that we're
about innovation, but first timers are drawn in by pizazz,"
says Viewpoint's Anil Sabharwal. In the Viewpoint booth, an Austin
Powers look-a-like enthusastically cries "Yeah, baby!"
whilst detailing product features and visitors are tossed mints,
lip balm and bubble clocks. Many companies are offering promotional
product and demo CDs to those willing to have their ID cards scanned.
At the Intel booth, tall cool blondes armed with baskets of light-up
ice cubes exhort passersby to view their six minute promotional
program. In the ATI area, they are passing out fans and bottles
of water in a coy reference to their product's blazing performance--and
San Antonio's heat.
Meanwhile, staffers at the Pixar, ILM, Big Idea,
PDI/Dreamworks, Sony Pictures and Rhythm and Hues booths are valiantly
managing the innundation of tapes and resumes being presented by
eager animation and special effects afficianados. Despite the deluge,
the firms still proffer postcards, posters, and stickers. Big Idea
had trading cards with cucumber, tomato and asparagus creatures
from their soon-to-be released feature film. In light of the current
economy, do they need to attract more attention? "I can see
what you're saying," says Susan Paul of Big Idea Productions.
"But we're looking for a needle in a haystack."
Those looking for a moment of respite from the
hubbub of the exhibits might stop off at the Imageworks corner.
There, they have forgone flashy demos and funny giveaways for a
series of studio classes in drawing and sculpting. Similar lessons
are underway across the hall at the Art Instututes site. Would-be-artists
are busy sculpting hands out of flesh-colored clay, and seem a million
miles away from the gawking bystanders only two feet away. Here,
amidst the chaos and craze of SIGGRAPH, they are in their own worlds.
This may be the most compelling example of virtual reality on the