Last week I attended SIGGRAPH 2010, an annual conference on computer graphics and interactive technologies. This is the place to see what's coming down the pike in terms of interface design and computer animation. As most readers know, my research interests lie at the intersection of rhetoric and technology, and recently I've been trying to learn much more about the "guts" of various technologies. As someone who writes about various technologies, I don't think I have to understand all the details of software and hardware design. But I do think I have a responsibility to understand at least some of these details, and conferences like this are a good opportunity to do so.
Attending SIGGRAPH was a really interesting experience. The main focus of the conference was probably the Exhibition - this is where companies like Pixar set up booths and show of their latest and greatest. There are also panels, though my "basic" conference registration didn't give me access to those. Beyond all of this, though, the conference included an "Emerging Technologies" exhibit and an Art Gallery. These were what interested me most.
I took a good bit of video with my fancy new phone, and I wanted to share one of these.
The video below is of Alan Price's Empire of Sleep, a 3D interactive art exhibit:
As you can tell by the end of the video, the camera sounds are coming from a device that is operated by someone viewing the piece. As the camera is clicked, the (very creepy) characters pose for a picture. Without 3D glasses, you don't get the full effect. But beyond the 3D graphics, it's extremely strange to watch these characters respond to the camera. The piece also sets up a strangely voyeuristic dynamic. We watch these characters lounge at the beach, we take pictures of them, and they look out of the screen. They meet out gaze.
I learned a great deal at SIGGRAPH, and I'm already finding myself taking notice of the prevalence 3D graphics. Television commercials, shows, movies. We don't even notice computer graphics anymore, and I'm not sure most folks understand the amount of time and effort that goes into the most (seemingly) simple effects.