Virtual Siggraph 2020 Week Two

Sep 06, 2020 at 03:15 pm by -gToon


The second week of the Virtual Siggraph 2020 was devoted to live interactive events. The on-demand events continued, but now the focus is on live, interactive panels, talks and more. Also, the virtual Exhibition Hall opened up to the virtual public. I attended several events and continued to view the on-demand conference offerings including the Animation Festival. Here are some of my highlights. 

Keynote "Invent the Impossible with Marco Tempest"

The second week of Siggraph opened with a bang. Marco Tempest gave the best keynote I have seen in 12 years of attending the conference. Marco is essentially a stage magician who has moved into augmented reality and VR technologies to continue to make magic. He did the entire session live and shared his magic skills in virtual reality along with lessons on magic and it's philosophies. He is a pixie like man who has an eternal smile and his love of live came through loud and clear. Plus the ideas he demonstrated and professed were intriguing and thought provoking. One of my favorite quotes from his keynote is "Magicians were the pioneers of Open Source technology" I enjoyed the session so much I want to share it with you right now. 



Technical Papers

I found myself again looking at the technical side of the conference. Some of this is due to the fact that each paper was presented so clearly, often with a video created by the individual or team who authored the paper. Papers were divided in to many topics like  shape modeling, artistic imaging, motion and matching and creative fabrication to name a few. I found myself enjoying the art and modeling papers. My favorite art paper was called Enhanced Family Tree: Evolving Research and Expression by
Fan Xiang, Shunshan Zhu, Zhigang Wang, Kevin Maher, Yi Liu, and Zhiqiang Liang, Tsinghua University; Yilin Zhu, Stanford University; Kaixi Chen, Beijing Yuguo Culture and Technology Ltd. Inc. It also won the Best in Show award at the conference. 

“Enhanced Family Tree” reimagines the possibilities of family trees with an evolving series of exhibits. Their new approach may reveal questionable relationships in genealogical records. Moreover, the authors’ use of an organic metaphor of a “tree” can be further extended, resulting in organic forms that stimulate the imagination.

There's a great interview on the paper with Fan Xiang here:

Real-Time Live!

This is one of my favorite events at Siggraph and this year's show did not disappoint. Hosted and organized this year by Mark Olano, there were 9 presenters who shared their ideas and innovations of real-time technology. My favorite of the sessions was "AI-Synthesized Avatars: From Real-Time Deepfakes to Photoreal AI Virtual Assistant". Their description (I can't do it justice": We introduce a real-time deep learning-based face synthesis technology for photoreal AI-avatars, and demonstrate two novel applications. We showcase the first zero-shot real-time deepfake system allowing anyone to swap their faces with another subject. Then, we demonstrate how this technology can enable an AI-based photoreal virtual assistant.

Crowd Sleuths: Solving Mysteries with Crowdsourcing, Experts, and AI

One of the most interesting live sessions was presented by Kurt Luther from Virginia Tech. The session description captures it best: "Professional investigators in fields like journalism, law enforcement, and human rights have long relied on public tips. But increasingly, amateur sleuths are launching their own online investigations with serious consequences. My lab designs social technologies that support effective, ethical investigations by combining the complementary strengths of crowdsourcing, experts, and AI."

This is a field that I think is going to explode in the future as AI and Deep Learning become more widespread outside the scientific community. Kurt's live presentation was outstanding and really left me thinking. 

Electronic Theater Director's Panel

Another great live session was with select Animation Festival directors.Panelists include: Pixar Animation Studios’ Erica Milsom (“Loop”) Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg GmbH/ Animationsinstitut’s Pascal Schelbli (“The Beauty”) DreamWorks Animation’s Taylor Meacham (“To: Gerard”) Unity Technologies’ Yibing Jiang (“Windup”) American Museum of Natural History’s Carter Emmart (“Worlds Beyond Earth")

I enjoyed their discussion (with their individual work spaces behind them in the stream) of working collaboratively and overcoming production challenges while making their films. What a great line-up of artists. 

Final Thoughts

I've only shared a fraction of the adventure and fun I had in the second week of Virtual Siggraph 2020. Again, the ease of access and the clarity of the video presentations made it much easier to understand. I think this is why I gravitated to the technical papers and away from the Exhibition Hall this year. It was a little odd to watch an on-demand presentation from last week and the catch the live Q&A the next week, but I understand why Siggraph did it that way. 

Although I missed interacting with people in the second week, I chose not to take meetings as I wanted to try something new. I could have easily set up virtual meetings with companies and individuals and I'm sure many press reps did just that. I found myself in a very studious mode at this year's Siggraph. It certainly was easier to acces the info and people I wanted to learn more from. 

And what's particularly cool is that I still have access to all of the on-demand conference offerings through most of September, so Siggraph hasn't really closed for me yet. So stay tuned for a conference wrap-up in a week or so. 

Sections: News & Features

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