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  Reports from SIGGRAPH 2001

SIGGRAPH: The Exhibition

by Wendy Ju

July 23, 2002

It's 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 wheel."

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 showroom floor.





SIGGRAPH 2002 Exhibitors page



225 exhibitors in 2002.



2002 Conference Panels Page



Photos from SIGGRAPH 2002


This page is maintained by
Jan Hardenbergh
All photos you see in the 2002 reports are due to a generous loan of Cybershot digital cameras from SONY