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Vol.32 No.1 February 1998

Chuck Hansen
University of Utah

February 98 Columns
Standards Pipeline Comics from the Other Side

Conference Reports

Eurographics '97

You know you are off to a good start when the airlines upgrade you for no known reason. Perhaps Malev, one of the conference sponsors, knew I was to attend Eurographics '97, but as I headed to Hungary in unexpected comfort, I knew I was in for a treat. The organizers didn't let me down.

Eurographics '97, the 18th annual conference of the European Association for Computer Graphics, was held September 4-8, 1997 in Budapest, Hungary. This year marked a change in the conference organization. Tutorials and workshops were held before and after the conference but the conference was scheduled to span the weekend. This meant that people could attend while missing less work, and could take advantage of over-weekend airfares. Certainly this schedule allowed me to attend this year, and I enthusiastically endorse this new format. This change did not affect the technical content of the conference as there was the full schedule of technical sessions Friday through Sunday.

While I did not have a chance to attend any of the tutorials or workshops, the topics were timely, including Java APIs, virtual spaces using VR projection systems, multiresolution and level of detail issues, simplification and compression of 3D scenes and an introduction to VRML.

As usual, the technical program consisted of three tracks: STAR (state of the art reports) talks, an industrial stream and the technical paper presentations including plenary lectures. This schedule featured so many excellent talks that it was difficult to attend all the talks one would have liked. This is a feature, not a bug!

The industrial stream was quite varied with talks on global technology transfer issues, new emerging media and innovative technologies, electronic commerce and a panel on the future of the Web. For example, Y. Nir of BARCO, talked about the future of video projection technology and gave a solid overview of the current available options, candid in pointing out the pros and cons of the different technologies (don't write off those CRT projectors just yet!).

The STAR reports covered a range of topics: digital publishing, photorealistic rendering, computational requirements for virtual reality, Web design and the application of volume visualization in medicine. An example of these excellent focused talks was Frank Devai's lecture on the computational requirements of VR systems. Devai presented a complexity analysis of current polygon rendering algorithms and concluded that current rendering hardware wasn't as computationally efficient as it could be. Of course, tradeoffs sometimes make the non-optimal implementation either perform better in hardware or more cost effective. It will be interesting to see whether his ideas are adopted by computer graphics hardware vendors in the future.

The core of the Eurographics conference is the technical program and this year featured an excellent program. The proceedings serves as the written record for the presentations and there were so many excellent talks that we don't try to cover them all here ... we certainly didn't cover them all at the conference! Plenary sessions started both Friday and Saturday and closed the day Sunday. This year featured three outstanding speakers: Henry Fuchs, Jarek Rossignac and Franšois Sillion. (Editor's note: The slides of the three keynote speakers are available on-line in Adobe PDF format.) Papers sessions included such areas as surface and solid modeling, rendering and global illumination, interaction and perception and animation, continuing the Eurographics tradition of breadth of topics.

The technical program began on Friday with Henry Fuchs presenting his vision of the workplace of the future. He described this as integrating VR through large screen displays utilizing the desktop and walls. It is exciting to think about having regular eye glasses double as stereo glasses while being able to collaborate, in 3D, with colleagues throughout the world. In drawing this vision, he described early results from work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After such a lecture, one is so motivated to attack the research problems that it's difficult to stay at the conference and listen to lectures!

On Saturday, Jarek Rossignac's plenary talk presented issues and unsolved problems in polygon reduction. His observation that "triangles are the ultimate compression scheme for a 4D light field" will certainly keep image-based rendering folks talking. He eloquently described how the future of 3D graphics over the Web will benefit from, if not be held hostage by, efficient and compact representations and level of detail for modeling.

Unfortunately, my travel plans did not allow me to stay for Franšois Sillion's plenary talk on Sunday, but reports suggest that his presentation was as stimulating and challenging as the others.

The conference venue was the Hotel Agro in the hills overlooking Budapest. The hotel provided good meeting facilities but was removed from the bustle of the city, so there wasn't opportunity for a quick sojourn at a cafe with colleagues. However, the hotel had an excellent 5th floor balcony for debating a technical detail over a cup of coffee or a cool beer while watching the lights turn on in the city below. Being removed from the city allowed conference participants ample opportunity for interaction with each other.

Chuck Hansen
SIGGRAPH Director-at-Large
Department of Computer Science
University of Utah
50 S.Central Campus Dr., Rm.3190
Salt Lake City, UT 84112-9205
Tel: +1-801-581-3154
Fax: +1-801-581-5843

The copyright of articles and images printed remains with the author unless otherwise indicated.

The social events started with a Thursday evening reception on the balcony with excellent Hungarian specialties accompanied by an endless supply of beer and wine. It was a delightful evening which set the tone for the conference. The Saturday social event was an excellent traditional Hungarian meal at a restaurant in Buda. We were serenaded by musicians while waiting in the cobblestone courtyard (we Americans have far too much asphalt) sipping wine and nibbling pastries. Inside the restaurant, more music accompanied course after course of excellent food.

I was sad to see the conference end but I look forward to Portugal and Eurographics '98!

Steve Cunningham
California State University Stanislaus

Celebration at the Fraunhofer Institute

On October 28-30, 1997, the Fraunhofer Institut fŘr Graphische Datenverarbeitung (IGD) celebrated the opening of its new building in Darmstadt, Germany as well as the 10th birthday of the Institut. The celebration included a workshop -- "Agents, Assistants, Avatars," a symposium -- "Computer Graphics in the Next 50 Years of Computing," a presentation of the SIGGRAPH traveling art show and a display of the new portraits in computer graphics. Interactive demonstrations were located throughout the building.

The impact of the IGD on computer graphics, particularly in Europe, is so large that an unexpectedly large number of people -- more than 900 -- attended the official opening. The event exceeded the capacity of the IGD facility and had to be moved to a larger auditorium on the campus of the Technische Universitńt Darmstadt. SIGGRAPH was represented by Chair Steve Cunningham, who congratulated IGD on its success on behalf of all the computer graphics professional societies. Participants enjoyed professional interactions with their international colleagues and the gracious hospitality of the Director of IGD, Jose EncarnašŃo, and his staff.

The new building is the world's largest facility dedicated entirely to computer graphics. It includes four floors of laboratories, classrooms, lecture rooms and offices. Some of the rooms are named for computer graphics luminaries (including Wolfgang Gilloi and Andries van Dam), and one of the highlights of the celebration was the naming of a room for Bert Herzog, a longtime supporter of the Institut.

Steve Cunningham
Computer Science Department
California State University Stanislaus
801 W. Monte Vista
Turlock, CA 95382
Tel: +1-209-667-3176
Fax: +1-209-667-3333

The copyright of articles and images printed remains with the author unless otherwise indicated.

The workshop, "Agents, Assistants, Avatars," was chaired by Detlev Kr÷mker of the IGD, and included six sessions: Agents and Avatars in Multiuser Environments, Anthropological Avatars, Visualization Agents, User Interface Agents and Agents in Mobile and Distributed Environments I and II. The sessions included 14 presentations, in German, for the 33 workshop participants.

The symposium, "Computer Graphics in the Next 50 Years of Computing," was chaired by Bob Hopgood and Matthias Unbescheiden. The symposium included five sessions: Education & Profession, Virtual Environments, Design and Modeling, Networked Computer Graphics and User Interface. The sessions were presented in English and included 21 speakers from Europe, North America and Australia.

Joan Truckenbrod
SIGGRAPH 98 Art Show Chair

IEEE International Symposium on Wearable Computers

An interesting symposium at MIT on wearable computers offers exciting possibilities for the SIGGRAPH 98 Art Show and Emerging Technologies, as well as for panels, courses and papers. (Editor's note: Also see VisFiles by T. Todd Elvins.)

The first IEEE International Symposium on Wearable Computers, held October 13-14, 1997, was presented at the MIT Media Lab. Opening remarks were by Nicholas Negroponte and Charles Vest, president of MIT. Kazuhiko Nishi, President of ASCII Corp., gave a short history of the computer -- from the floor to the desktop, and into the pocket or onto the skin by 2000. Currently, the major applications of wearables are being developed for medical purposes, specifically preventative medicine. Alex Pentland raised the issue of contextualizing computers as tools that disappear into clothing, augmenting one's senses and memory. They can also give us and others information about how we are feeling. We can construct clothing and body accessories, such as wigs, that transform or mutate depending upon how we feel.

The VR headset has been transformed by Steve Mann into a pair of glasses called a WearCam with a small display in the lens. Wrist devices and computers on a belt are available. There also exist devices like the handheld mouse-keyboard, called the Twiddler, which can operate up to 50 feet from a computer. Pentland concluded his presentation with a picture of a fingernail keyboard from Dilbert!

Rosalind Picard discussed emotions as an active part of one's intelligence -- playing an essential role in decision making, perception, rational thinking, learning and other cognitive functions. She postulates that in order for computers to be genuinely intelligent, and to interact naturally, we must give them the ability to recognize, understand and to have and express emotions -- emotional intelligence. In 1985, Marvin Minsky wrote in his book, The Society of Mind, ..."the question is not whether intelligent machines can have any emotions, but whether machines can be intelligent without emotions." Picard has recently published an interesting book entitled Affective Computing with MIT Press, 1997.

Ted Selker, IBM Fellow, discussed intelligent fabrics that remind us how to take care of our bodies -- such as telling us when we need to drink water on a high altitude climb. Jim Page from Motorola envisions the pager as a wireless architecture that provides access to information anywhere, anytime, in fact pushed on demand -- a layered two-way transport of voice and data. Interactive paging will be self-installing, self-programming with invisible dynamic virtual local networks. For instance when you enter a city, your pager will accept a software download of maps, information about the area and current events and a local directory of your friends and contacts, etc.

John Wyatt presented his research on the use of computers inside of the body. He is developing a tiny computer to be implanted in the eye to compensate for the degeneration of the photo-receptors in the eye due to disease. He is optimistic about restoring some level of sight to these patients.

Joan Truckenbrod
Art and Technology Department
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago
112 S. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60603

The copyright of articles and images printed remains with the author unless otherwise indicated.

Clothes are a natural site for wearables as discussed by Michael Hawley. A wearable music jacket is a creation of Tod Machover. A small synthesizer is sewn into the pocket of a jeans jacket. A numeric keyboard or number pad is machine embroidered into the front of the jacket using conductive thread, and connected to the synthesizer. Touching the number pads creates sounds, chords or notes. A group of jacket musicians created a composition on stage! A violin can be a software app on the body.

For more information, access MIT's wearables web site. Another book of potential interest is The Soft Edge: A Natural History and Future of the Information Revolution by Paul Levinson, Routledge, 1997. This symposium followed a two-day IEEE conference on wearables.