Monday, August 15, 2011

Impressions of SIGGRAPH 2011

Last week I was in Vancouver for this year's SIGGRAPH conference - not presenting, but as a lab trip.  As the website says, the "conference and exhibition is a five-day interdisciplinary educational experience including a three-day commercial exhibition that attracts hundreds of exhibitors from around the world. SIGGRAPH is widely recognized as the most prestigious forum for the publication of computer graphics research."  These are some of general impressions of my first SIGGRAPH experience.

 Fellow lab member Jamie and I outside the convention center.

Location. Being able to stay in Canada was nice for us (especially since we could use our cell phones and data plans).  Getting from the airport to downtown was a matter of taking one train for just half an hour - very convenient!

The convention center was split into two buildings - east and west - but it was no
problem getting between them for what I wanted to do.

Venue. I thought the convention center was amazing.  The rooms were well equipped, the decor was appropriate, there were plenty of washrooms and water fountains, and the views of the water were wonderful.

Exhibition.  I wasn't a huge fan of the exhibition as I personally found it overwhelming and overly commercial; however, for those that like seeing all the newest products and services, and don't mind the scale, it was probably quite good.  It was obvious that much money was spent on the booths there.

SCVNGR. The Google booth at the exhibition advertised  a SCVNGR opportunity to get some Google swag.  I figured it might include actually looking more carefully at some of the other booths there, but that definitely wasn't the case.  In the end I found it to be unclear (I could only win one prize even though there were two rewards listed in the app for SIGGRAPH), and mostly disconnected from the actual location (some of the challenges were just math puzzles).  It didn't enhance my experience at all.

Animation Festival.  One day when I was too tired to take in any more talks, I spent the afternoon watching animated shorts.  I enjoyed this way more than I anticipated! The quality was spectacular and there was much variety in the animation styles and the stories.

Courses.  I took in a couple of courses throughout the week.  I was a little surprised by how little they resembled actual courses.  Instead, they were pretty much a series of lectures on a particular topic.  Huge audiences, no interaction, and not much practicality (though this may have just been what the ones I attended were like).  I still learned a few things, but feel like I could have learned a lot more if the format was closer to a workshop.

Technical paper presentations.  I actually didn't end up seeing a huge number of paper talks since I figured I could read papers later more easily.  The presentations I did see were like most that occur at conferences: not very good.  The expected standard of talks involve text on PowerPoint slides and presenters who forget that oral communication is a very different thing from written communication.  There was one great presentation that I saw, but I will save writing about that for when I do another post about the game papers.

Emerging Technologies.  This was one of my favorite parts of the conference.  There were so many interesting or just plain fun exhibits.  I particularly enjoyed the pregnancy simulator vest that gave the wearer an idea of what a kicking baby and a growing belly and breasts would feel like.  Being that I'm almost five months pregnant myself, I wish my husband could have tried this out. ;)

While the pregnancy simulator suit grows, you see information on the screen that
explains baby's current status each week of the pregnancy.

Art Gallery. This was with the Emerging Technologies.  Some of it was pretty neat, but some of it I didn't really "get."  Art can be like that.  I was most taken by the remote wind exhibit.  The idea was interesting and the result was relaxing to watch.

These wispy grass-like metal structures moved according to how the wind blows in some remote location.

Overall, I liked SIGGRAPH.  I was regretting going at first because we had to leave for our big east coast vacation only 30 hours after I got home from Vancouver, but I'm glad I got to experience it.  Whether I end up back again to present one day or not, it was well worth experiencing this conference at least once.


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