Interview: Nishant Kothary
Nishant Kothary, Web Program Chair
How did you become interested in interactive multimedia?
I didn't, to be honest. As an undergraduate, I wanted to study jazz guitar, so I signed up for the next logical thing - Computer Science. I decided after a year that it wasn't visual enough for me, so I transferred to the Computer Graphics department. They offered two core tracks - Computer Animation and Interactive Multimedia. As a freshman, I took a semester filled with classes from both tracks, and decided that the faculty in Animation didn't know much. So, I picked Interactive multimedia. At some point, I decided it was fun, so I immersed myself in it.
When was your first SIGGRAPH conference and why did you decide to be the Web Program Chair this year?
2002 was my first SIGGRAPH. I co-presented a course. I decided to be the Web Program Chair because I had felt I had a really good idea about where this program needed to go. I applied, interviewed, and was offered the position. The rest as they say...
What was it like jurying the content for the SIGGRAPH Art Gallery and Panels this year?
Linda and Jill set things up really well, so it was a pretty smooth process. We used the electronic submission system. Art Gallery's screen-based section had a lot of content (over 100 submissions) as compared to Panels. My strategy was to climb into a hole for an entire weekend and not come out 'til I was done. I was told later that I was the harshest juror on the Art Gallery jury. Like Simon, from American Idol.
What is your awesome monkey story?
I see that you've done your homework.
I grew up in India, and for the better part of my adolescent years, I lived in Bangalore (yes, the same one that's stealing all the tech jobs). In Bangalore, it wasn't uncommon to see monkeys running around in packs even in completely urbanized areas. We lived in this large apartment community and we shared it with a pack of around twenty monkeys. They were usually harmless. They simply hung around on trees, and went about their daily activities observing us humans from a distance. It was really a very interesting ecosystem. Every once in a while they'd run these covert and highly coordinated missions to raid refrigerators.
Anyhow, one day my mom and I were spending an evening on the roof of our apartment building and the monkeys were on the far wall going about their business. My dog was up there with us too. Fascinated by the pack, she (my dog) approached them, and it seemed like they engaged in some animal talk. She must have said something offensive because all of a sudden the king of the pack jumped onto the ground and made, from what I recall, fairly threatening gestures at our dog. Her strategy for combat was to play dead. The monkey didn't buy, and continued to stick his teeth out and hiss, and looked poised to attack. By this time, my mom had started running into the line of fire so as to rescue our coward Cocker Spaniel. This gesture simply invited trouble, and the monkey moved his attention to my mom, and proceeded to charge at her. I'd made my way to the exit by then. When I turned around, I saw my mom and my dog running in my direction with a few monkeys chasing them. What did I do? I ran into the building and latched the door behind me.
My mom still narrates this story to her friends about how her son left her and the dog to die at the hands of the apes.
What's your favorite thing at this year or last year's SIGGRAPH?
The same every year - meeting interesting people from all over the world, and strengthening existing relationships. From the vantage point of academics, I am really looking forward to the Courses program, Ze's presentation, and the George Lucas keynote.
What near/intermediate developments in interactive multimedia or web development do you look forward to?
It's really tough for me to answer this question without breaking some serious NDAs and getting deported. Without giving too much away, there has recently been a strong movement in the direction of digital media, and I am looking forward to witnessing how the next five years will change how we buy and consume all sorts of media.