SIGGRAPH 09: Day 3

Day 3 was long, quite possibly because Evenings 1 and 2 were long, so I’m taking it easy in the room tonight. Here’s the recap:

  • Information Aesthetics Showcase
  • Another Super Secret Meeting!
  • Emerging Technologies
  • Efficient Substitutes for Subdivision Surfaces
  • Creating Natural Variation
  • Dinner with Interesting Folk


I took some time this morning to swing through the Information Aesthetics Showcase. Overall, it was pretty thin. However, there was a very cool installation that visualized stock market data as a solar system. Distance from the center was volume. Size of the planets represented market capitalization, and orbital velocity represented percentage change on yesterday’s price. It really got me thinking about visualization. I had never though of using velocity or distance that way, but it’s quite compelling. Once the metaphor was explained, it was really easy to pick out “planets” with high velocities for example. I’m not really sure how it might apply to games or graphics dev tools, but it definitely served the purpose of provoking thought.

Not Emergent, Emerging

The Emerging Technologies section at SIGGRAPH always has a mix of interesting and utterly crazy stuff. Here’s my rundown from this year:

  • There was a sleighing simulator that tried to give an enhanced sense of speed by running a noise pattern in your peripheral view. It scores points for getting me to climb into a sled at a professional conference. Not much else.
  • A project called Twinkle projected a fairy onto a whiteboard with a little handheld projector. The projector also had a camera that read values back allowing the fairy to collide with the world and catch on fire. Overall, a really cool little project. You could fly around and bump into things which were just whiteboard scribbles.
  • There was an installation using night vision goggles called the Post Global Warming Survial Kit or something. Here’s the artist’s site. I was underwhlemed. It was a tent and a screen with an empty landscape. The backstory has potential.
  • There was a totally cool cabinet in the Generative Fabrication exhibit by this group/person. Unfortunately, there’s nothing even close to information on this site, so I can’t point to an image of the cabinet in question there. Mabye here.
  • One of the coolest things was a haptic pen called Pen De Touch from this group. It used a set of motors to vary the feedback. If you pushed down on a virtual surface, the feedback felt distinctly than if you brushed it sideways. Very cool to play with. I have no idea what one might use it for.

Efficient Substitutes for Subdivision Surfaces

This course was a pretty solid overview of things. You can find the course notes here. I’ve got some reading to do after the show to really digest all this. One of the more interesting notes was a pair of samples from NVIDIA showing how to simulate tessellation on D3D10 using multipass techniques and stream out. They are linked from the course notes page if you want to play. I ducked out after a couple of hours to hit the next talk on my list, so I didn’t get to hear Valve talk about their implementation.

Mixing It Up

I went to the papers session on creating natural variation to hear this talk on saliency-based variation for crowd rendering. That talk was pretty cool. In summary, people fixate on the upper body and face. Therefore, variation in locomotion of the hips or changing lower body color is a waste of time and effort. The best bang for your buck is upper-body texture or palette swaps and facial variation. There’s more data in the paper, it’s worth a quick scan.

The preceding talk on producing noise with a sparse Gabor kernel turned out to be much cooloer though. I saw a video on this a few weeks back and didn’t get that excited mostly because I don’t have a huge use for noise. However, this talk was very compelling. It got me thinking about what I could use noise for in the engine.


I grabbed dinner after the show with Timothy Farrar of Human Head Software or, more interestingly, this blog where he puts his mental spew.  Tim is really sharp, and he’s great dinner conversation. If you aren’t reading his stuff, you should. I emailed him cold on a suggestion from a colleague, and it turned out to be an interesting, pleasant evening. I figured I’d thank him publically.

Tomorrow’s post may well be late. dba


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