Because I apparently don’t know how to read a calendar, I booked my SIGGRAPH 2010 travel to start one day before SIGGRAPH began, and end on the last day of SIGGRAPH, meaning I missed everything that happened on the last day. Having been to SIGGRAPH several times, I have learned the hard way several times that you definitely want to arrive on the first day (when the technical papers “fast-forward” ultra-lightning talks session is held) and leave after the last day, so you can attend whatever technical papers sessions and courses might be held on that day. (At minimum, take the red-eye out on the last day, but I don’t do that because red eyes are for suckers.
Even so, I learned a lot this year. It’s pretty amazing what gradient-domain filtering can do to images and video. GPU techniques continue, but from my point of view, they are less focused on the pattern of past years: “precompute for 17 hours and you can play with this in real time!” In the past, there was a lot of “we have this hammer and by God are we going to use it for every nail”; people are more realistic now.
There was also a lot more research focusing on fully automatic results. I saw a paper presented that offered a way of automatically figuring out how a set of gears worked just from the geometric model; all the user had to do was select the part that drove the system (like a drive shaft or hand crank). In past years, I suspect that system would have required the user to specify what each type of gear was, and maybe even how it turned. This is really the holy grail for people like me who are passionate about things that Just Work; we have all sorts of research that makes automatic solutions possible, and using it is immensely satisfying.
There was a lot of focus on validating research results with user study. Of course, most of these user studies comprise very small groups — around 20 people, from what I saw — but they provided a lot of good input on the applicability of the methods these researchers discovered.
Overall, I was very impressed with this year’s SIGGRAPH. A lot of researchers have spent a lot of time combining several years’ worth of work on various topics, and created some very compelling user experiences out of it. I highly recommend searching for “SIGGRAPH 2010″ on YouTube or the like; there is guaranteed to be something that’s up your alley there. (For example, Sony’s 360° 3D display, or automatically generated sound from rigid body fractures, or perhaps best of all, what I’d like to call “Photosynth for video,” except it gives you 3D animation from one pose to another. Seriously, check this out.)
I’ve enjoyed summarizing some of the interesting things I saw at SIGGRAPH, and I hope that people on Planet Mozilla have found it interesting and useful. There’s a lot of fantastic research out there; SIGGRAPH is just the tip of the iceberg. The ACM hosts many conferences on many different topics, and it’s one of many international bodies dedicated to research in computer science. I highly recommend people interested in computer science find a field they’re interested in and attend a conference on it. Research is great!