I am pretty good with words. But, I still cannot find the words to describe how excited I was about SIGGRAPH 2020. It was my 20th SIGGRAPH, I was taking the reins as chair of the organization, and it was going to be in my neighborhood; for the first time ever I would not need to get on a plane to attend. (I guess I still didn’t need to get on a plane to attend 🙂 .) I was even planning to bring my family for a day and show my five year old around the Experience Hall.
Sometime in fall 2019 I bought a bottle of bootjack rye, to bring something local to our annual special session on whisky fluids; it lived in my basement until the unthinkable happened. We all were heartbroken in the spring when we realized we would not be able to get together in person with our best friends and colleagues. I have to give a shout out to Kristy Pron, our 2020 conference chair, and her team for their grace in handling an emerging pandemic, pivoting to a virtual conference in a matter of months. It was a heavy lift for everyone involved, myself included, as every week seemed to bring new uncertainty and no one had a playbook. While it would have been easier to give up and cancel, instead our volunteers and professional partners managed to put together an expansive virtual experience.
Of course, we did not get everything right and a year+ into the pandemic we all have learned a great deal about virtual experiences. I, and everyone involved in SIGGRAPH, have been listening to feedback from the community. In fact, a big part of my job as chair is listening to folks articulate feedback. Whether that feedback has come through surveys, town halls, the FaceBook, email, or zoom calls; we have been listening. The highest order bit has always seemed to be making connections (“networking” in corporate parlance) and we have a few ideas in this direction.
I am writing now to talk about the things I am excited about for SIGGRAPH 2021, which again will be virtual. A shout out is due for Pol Jeremias, this year’s conference chair, for updating the virtual experience. I expect this to be ++Virtual_SIGGRAPH. (There is an old programming joke about how c++ was updated after it was executed and should have been called ++c.)
First, the content. Even during a pandemic, our community is doing some of the best science I know of. My research group has been reading SIGGRAPH papers for weeks. We cannot wait for the videos to start coming out. One of the upsides to working remotely is that everyone is making videos of their work and another is that there are close to zero travel costs to attend a lab meeting; anyone who wants to present at my lab meeting please feel free to reach out, that probably goes for 1000 other graphics labs across the world.
Second, our amazing new standing committee on research career development (RC⚡DC) is planning to create coffee breaks for folks to get together for informal chats in between conference events. I certainly hope I end up drinking coffee with some of my SIGGRAPH friends, though I may opt for tea.
Third, we will be using the new platform ohyay for some of our events. We experimented with this last fall during a strategy meeting and it was fun. I am forever embarrassed by my score on the SIGGRAPH Jeopardy board, but it was fun to play against our past and past-past president. We are planning to use the platform for different types of social hours every day of the conference.
Fourth, I am super excited that Grant Sanderson is going to speak. He has been on my list of people for a Frontiers talk for years, but because of the pandemic (and maybe my own shyness) I never reached out. But, this year’s team brought him in. I have heard stories of his previous talks and think this is something I would wake up at 5am for, though I do hope it is not at 5am.
Fifth, this year we will be screening short videos for the Technical Papers in “real-time” during the Q&A sessions. This approach has worked very well for our specialized conferences and I expect it will foster more vibrant and robust technical discussions during the virtual papers sessions.
As a bonus, I look forward to other, less formal, social events. My favorite is whiskey fluids; a small gathering of simulation enthusiasts that started when a bottle of bushmills black-label showed up at a talk I gave in 2006. But I also expect a chapters party, a sake party, and a Pioneers event. Maybe even the mythical tequila lounge will make an appearance (that is just a conjecture, I have heard no rumors).
Cheers everyone and I hope to see you at SIGGRAPH 2021,
P.S. The advance registration deadline for SIGGRAPH 2021 is June 28th.
P.P.S I have heard rumors of other cool stuff, but nothing I am allowed to write about publicly now.