Thursday, September 6, 2012


Los Angeles Convention Center

August 7, 2012

Downtown L.A.:

My primary reason for going to Los Angeles was to attend the SIGGraph conference. I had a basic day pass plus another pass to the computer animation festival happening concurrently at the convention center. $95 total cost for fees.

An unexpected high-light, home 3D printers that retail on-line for $1299.

The car is a booth prop. Here's a close-up of the printer. This is an additive printer whereby plastic is formed into a shape, one layer at a time.

Your kids can "print" their own toys. Engineers can "print" cheap prototypes quickly. The final product can be complete like this chess piece, or a component for assembly. I saw a full clutch and gear system rendered this way and assembled. Not for production use, but for a test and proof of concept.

This is a subtractive Computer Numerical Control (CNC) 3D printer: a Dremel tool is programmed to precisely cut away at the plastic block. The first cut is rough followed by a smooth finishing cut.

Another theme was immersive desktops using 3 or more LCD's. This is a demo game: look for a briefcase in an Italian town.

Another immersive setup.

And the same on a large-scale with the user wearing virtual reality goggles.

This ad reminds me of the new monument to Nelson Mandela in South Africa.


Marking 50 years since the arrest of Mr Nelson Mandela, South Africa unveiled a striking memorial at the site of the arrest in the KwaZulu Natal town of Howick, 90km from Durban.
The monument takes the form of a large sculpture made from 50 steel rods of between five and 10 metres high. When viewed from a certain angle, Mr Mandela's image comes into focus.
The monument's designer Marco Cianfanelli explains: "The front of the sculpture is a portrait of Mandela; it has vertical bars which represent his imprisonment. When you walk through the structure it radiates like a burst of light, which symbolises the political uprising of many people and solidarity."
The former president, Nobel laureate and freedom fighter, who recently celebrated his 94th birthday, was arrested on 5 August 1962 while travelling illegally to Johannesburg from Durban, where he had visited with ANC leader Albert Luthuli.
Police found him disguised as a driver under the false name of David Motsamayi, in the car of the theatre director Cecil Williams.
His arrest led to 27 years of incarceration, until his release on February 11, 1990.
Mr Mandela became South Africa's first black president in 1994, ending decades of white minority rule.
Current president Mr Jacob Zuma referred to the monument at its unveiling as ‘a sacred shrine’ that should be treated with ‘utmost respect’ by all.

Facial expression rendering for developing game avatars.

Full body avatar development.

If you put on the virtual reality goggles, which I did, the motor scooter appears to be fully rendered in 3D. If you bend down, the scooter retains its location and is fixed to your perspective courtesy of the goggles.

Next time I feel like doing a driving vacation, I'm not leaving my rec room. :-) See the goggles? That's my new Halloween costume. Maybe I can collect virtual candy from virtual neighbors or else virtually toilet-paper their virtual trees!

With the virtual reality goggles, you see the inside and outside of the car. The monitors behind and above show the audience what the subject is seeing.

Another highlight: a representative of Pixar vendor, RenderMan, explaining how the movie, "The Avengers" was made.

The FAA does not allow any helicopters or flying craft to fly less than 500 feet above the tallest buildings in Manhattan. Therefore, a movie, like the Avengers, that features characters flying through the cavernous streets of New York must be completely rendered in Computer Generated Imagery (CGI). 150,000 photos of New York were taken, and then applied to a database. Still there were misses and some buildings had to be drawn in. You don't get parallax from a still photo, so many Pixar offices were filmed from the outside and then replicated throughout the CGI Manhattan. When you see an office through a window in the movie, that is a Pixar office. Then, extra objects are added like cars, police cars, mail boxes, etc. Then, the headlights and tail lights are exaggerated. Then, a reflection of the lights is added to the CGI buildings. Then, the characters are overlaid. Exhaustive and exhausting!

They spent months getting the 2.5 seconds where Bruce Banner, played by Mark Ruffalo, transforms himself into the Hulk smooth and realistic. It is like magic: nobody notices when it goes right.

Outside, an innovative chalk drawing on the sidewalk.

I went for lunch near the Staples Center where they have this statue of Magic Johnson who conquered many on and off the basketball court until his lifestyle set him back. He has successfully contained his HIV and is now a partner in the LA Dodgers Baseball Club's new ownership.

Naturally, whenever greatness is the subject of the conversation, Canadians are there. Wayne Gretzky, who among his other achievements, took the LA Kings to their first Stanley Cup Final in 1993 where they lost to the Montreal Canadiens. Ironically, it was the last time a Canadian team has won the Stanley Cup. As you likely know, the LA Kings won the Stanley Cup for the first time in their franchise history this year.

Back at the show, there was an Emerging Technologies section with some whimsical ideas. My mood metered as neutral. I'm on the far right.

This was the most interesting display. Think of a kid's phone with two tin cans, or in this case, two Dixie cups. Both have sensors connected to a processor running an application. You hold one empty cup, the scientist pours metal ball into the other cup. If you close your eyes, you can feel the metal balls filling up the cup. If he changes to rubber balls, you can feel the difference.

There is a target suggested by a laser pointed at a bed of styro chips. You toss small styro blocks at the bed. If you hit the target, the chips "erupt" in brilliant color propelled by an air jet below.

In the mirror, you can see a set of drums. If you hold the drum sticks so that your reflection appears to be hitting the drums, you hear the drums being hit.

Behind the screen is a simple cylinder like the green one on the table top to the left of the display. Your hand goes behind the screen where a different shaped object appears like a small, curved flower vase. With one finger stroking the side of the vase, which makes an avatar of your hand touch the shape on the screen, you can fool yourself into believing that the real-life cylinder behind the screen has a curved edge. The point is how people often are fooled by their eyes to believe what they see and not what they feel.

A sensor is embedded into the orchid's pot that is also attached to the mirror. No other wires are attached to the flower or stem. When you rub any part of the flower or stem, the stimulus is transformed into an image of an energy field on the mirror.

Here is a close up on another plant taken a second or two after I rubbed the leaf.

The fun part of emerging technologies is that the commercial or scientific application, if any, may not emerge right away. I got a few ideas from some of these that are fun to think about. I'm planning to return to SIGGraph next July in Anaheim, CA.

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