Keram’s Siggraph 2018 Report

Siggraph 2017 saw a strong rally for a conference that had been struggling to find its footing in the wake of a surge of new tech and media conferences that had sprung up at every corner.

But boy, do they ever have their groove back. Siggraph 2018 – set in beautiful Vancouver – was a densely packed, uncompromising deep dive into the 5-seconds-from-now zeitgeist of media creation. It completely reversed any concern that may have arisen from the cautious mood at NAB 2018’s VR pavilion.

Out of all conferences I attend throughout North America, Siggraph by far introduces me to the most meaningful, deep, novel and significant new ideas and research in the media and tech space. There is no holdback. All in. I find that the Emerging Technology pavilion is often the most rewarding.

But I did really enjoy the Syd Mead gallery featuring his original paintings. Design. Design. Wow, what a difference a grand industrial designer/visionary can make.

Oh and Lightform‘s AR projection mapping solution? Game-changer. Imagine crossing your house with the Haunted Mansion, Peewee’s Playhouse and lysergic acid diethylamide. It is hard to believe when you first see it in person.
Ivan C Sutherland 50th Anniversary
Ivan C Sutherland - Siggraph 2018
Ivan C Sutherland – Siggraph 2018

Crossing another item off my bucket list – I had the pleasure of attending a 50 year retrospective of the venerable Ivan Sutherland’s work, ideas, career – accompanied by his colleagues of 50 years who developed the Ultrasonic and Sword of Damacles. They were all very modest about their work, and I almost believed them that it was no thing, until they started breaking down the many algorithms and innovations that practically came out of thin air, and rich pedigree to manifest these complex systems.

I only wish Doug Englebart was there with them to fill in an important and significant gap. But wow, what a a lineup.

Then Google showed up with their new lightfield-capture array of GoPros – a mutation of their Jump configuration, but using wholly new ideas to render lightfield/volumetric data – to capture the lineup of All-Stars.

Hp Mars Expedition VR - Siggraph 2018

HP created a leadership initiative program that invited students, hobbyists, enthusiasts, designers, scientists and beyond to imagine Mars once it has 1 million inhabitants. Over 9000 (heh) groups submitted entries and the results were cherry picked in aggregate to form a unified fly-through of an imagined future spaceport welcoming you to the Red Planet.

Powered by the little success story that are Positron chairs, I enjoyed the 15 minute ride along red carpeted museums and Star Trek-like tunnels to survey various ships and historic fictional fragments. It was like being on Disney theme part ride at Epcot. A few dropped frames here and there surprised me, especially since we are AT the HP booth AT Siggraph, but nothing another few optimization passes couldn’t fix.

But c’mon VR community – we have to stop with the glitches and dropped frames when it is proper public showtime. No excuses.

VR Arcade - Siggraph 2018

Yes there was a VR arcade and a VR Theater and even a VR museum, all of which were full and sold out all the time. They were…fine. And popular: Good pieces, many of which are currently freely available, and some of which we featured at FIVARS in previous years.

Virtual Reality Research HMD

It is a reminder that only a supremely tiny portion of the population has ever had any exposure to most of these pieces and will still wait for an hour and a half, or get to the box office at 730am just to get a look.

And when we talk about VR “games” we are talking more about interactive media, rather than a hair-raising Metroidvania-like that will have you throwing your gamepad against the cat.

Which I will use as a seque:

VR Games Are Coming into Their Own

so, as a separate packet I want to upload from my brain this week – VR games are just getting better and better. Even though some of us know that VR is going through its fourth fifth or even sixth rebirth/renaissance whatever, it is important to also remember how some things are kinda new.

Games are far richer and more visually complex than ever before, and this is exponentially amplified by the huge leaps being made in render, ray trace, AI and overall GPU technologies.

But also, we are now moving beyond the trial and error, “short quick demo of a mechanic” phase, where smaller objects, cluster with others to become more complex and evolved systems, and then those conjoin and mutate and evolve to form richer, better integrated mutlicellular experiences.

Here are some recent examples:

These are not your standard zombie shooters.

Now, with all that said, understand that we have spent a year trying to pull together a showcase of the best the Immersive media space has to offer on a global scale – so go buy your preciousFIVARS tickets and keep this thing growing.

Keram

Here are articles I thought were important from the week.

VRTO 2018 – Canada’s VR and AR Conference Year 3 – Report

Reflections, notes, stats and wrap up on the VRTO 2018 Virtual & Augmented Reality World Conference & Expo.

Facts:
95 Speakers from the following countries:
Canada, United States, Japan, Spain, Mexico, India, China.

Topics included:
The philosophical origins of experiential design, psychedelics, esoterica, blockchain, cryto assets, visual effects, augmented reality, gestural libraries, artificial intelligence, computer vision, machine learning, robotics, projection mapping, haptics, somatosensory interfaces, location based entertainment (LBE), game design, mental health and VR/AR, volumetric and lightfield capture, ambisonic and spatialized audio, avatars and chatbots, Touch Designer, DepthKit, Unity, Unreal and much more.

Coverage from:

Attendees: 600

Part 1. 
VRTO was designed to assert that art is important. Culture is important. Experimentation is important. Subversion and skepticism are important. Philosophy and creativity, collaboration and open minds and hearts can create enormous fonts of positive energy.

  • In year one we focused on defining a code of ethics for humanistic augmentation and the concern with how they are understood, adopted and exacted

[L to R] Ana Serrano (Canadian Film Centre), Danielle Perszyk (Oscillations), Glenn Cantave (Movers & Shakers), Maryam Sabour, Nyla Innuksuk on a panel “Are VR/AR ready for CHANGE?” photo by Christian Bobak

  • In year two we acknowledged and listened to our progenitors, the pioneers, our elders, attempting to extrapolate decades of existing research and experience upon which foundation we might continue to build.
  • In year three we looked towards possible futures, distant horizons, terra incognita, mysticism and esoterica, new paradigms, and the exhuming of ancient practices that may find new expressions.

VRTO is only successful if it proves to be salt-peter, Occam’s razor, and a portal. If it becomes de rigeur, it is will cede. We will burn it to the ground to enrich the soil that remains.

 

Steve "Spaz" Williams and Dave Cardwell with Keram Malicki-Sanchez at VRTO
VFX Heaven: Dave Cardwell of SPINVFX (King Kong, Lord of the Rings, The Expanse) and Steve “Spaz” Williams (Jurassic Park, The Abyss, Terminator 2, The Mask, Spawn) meet for the first time at VRTO 2018 to talk about the future of  CG and immersive tech.

Part 2. 
We start from where we are. What we are given. But that is not the end, only the beginning. The rest is up to us to create.

On the one hand, we can assure ourselves that the present is unceasingly mutable, and on the other that this unrelenting ocean of tides – ebb and flow – can provide the solace and comfort of familiarity, once we can accept it, and surrender the illusion of permanence or dominion over anything.

“Only that which can change can continue.” 
― James P. Carse, Finite and Infinite Games

Part 3.
The show is not the product. It is the catalyst. It takes minimum 365 days + years to build a VRTO schedule. It is a cauldron. The real product emerges in the days, weeks, months and years that follow. No attendance numbers or exhibitor count or media circulation will paint an honest picture in contrast to those effects.

“Gardeners slaughter no animals. They kill nothing. Fruits, seeds, vegetables, nuts, grains, grasses, roots, flowers, herbs, berries-all are collected when they have ripened, and when their collection is in the interest of the garden’s heightened and continued vitality. Harvesting respects a source, leaves it unexploited, suffers it to be as it is.” 
― James P. Carse, Finite and Infinite Games: A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility

VRTO Speakers group shot
[​L to R]: Rodrigo Contreras (Trade & Investment Commissioner, Mexico), Irena Cronin (Transformation Group), Ryan Andal (Secret Location), John Bolton (Globacore), Councillor Michael Thompson, Stefan Grambart, Charlie Fink, Stepen Shew (Battleverse), Joanna Popper (HP), Tom Emrich (SuperVentures), me!, Nathan Weir (FORREC), Helen Papagiannis, Sergio Ramirez and Joss Monzon (Virtualware and NMerso), Andrew MacDonald (CreamVR) – photo by Christian Bobak

Here are some treasures, coming out of the event:

FREE RICH MEDIA FOR YOU!

Podcast Episodes From VRTO2018 by Kent Bye – Voices of VR

Official Session Videos from VRTO2018

 

Photos by Christian Bobak

VRTO at DGP Labs at U of T

November 14th, 2017 Meetup – SideFX, Samsung VR and JanusVR’s Vesta

100 VRTO members and some curious University of Toronto students assembled for VRTO’s latest meetup at the Bahen Centre for Information Technology in downtown Toronto. Keram opened the evening and gave out a special $150 discount code for the HumanEyes Vuze camera and announced that submissions to FIVARS 2018 were now open.

He then welcomed to the podium Adam Lipper – head of Music and VR for Samsung Canada who described where Samsung VR has been and where it is going. One of the distinctions is that Samsung VR is no longer exclusively tied to Gear VR but is also a website, like YouTube, in its own right that can be accessed from any device. He also hinted that the platform will soon be offering heatmaps for better understanding of useage of content, among other significant updates.

He then unveiled a new partnership between FIVARS and Samsung VR that will showcase past selectees from the festival and offer another way for audiences to discover content that may otherwise be lost in the clamor for attention.

After a brief recess, VRTO invited to the stage Dr.s Karan Singh and James McCrae, co-founders of JanusVR and its free and hosted offshoot Vesta. An hour long workshop demonstrating the various ways to create, modify and write content for the immersive web platform followed.

Then SideFX rep Robert Magee took the floor to demonstrate how the powerful Houdini engine can be used to procedurally generate objects, environments, characters and effects for Virtual Reality applications, ensuring integrity, consistency and enormous flexibility. This was capped by sharing the free trial option or the annual Indie license for only $199 along with many resources for learning how to use this powerful node based architecture with APIs to hook into your favorite IDE or workflow.

The proceedings were followed with a social at a nearby pub where many fascinating conversations continued the night. Thanks to all who were able to attend or spread the word.