Credit: Courtesy of SIGGPRAH

As it turns 45, the annual computer graphics conference pays tribute to art and Canada’s First Nations

For the third time, Vancouver is lucky to welcome SIGGRAPH.

The influential conference, hosted by ACM SIGGRAPH (the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques), celebrates its 45th anniversary this year. At the Vancouver Convention Centre until August 16, the five-day event covers innovations in everything from computer graphics and virtual reality to video games and digital art. The theme of SIGGRAPH 2018 is Generations—celebrating past, present and future.

Roy C. Anthony, Toronto-based vice-president, creative development and operations, with graphics software developer Ventuz Technology Group, is chair of this year’s gathering. “We’re really excited to be back in Vancouver,” Anthony said at an August 13 press conference. “Vancouver is an incredible city—it’s on the grow. There’s a lot of investment into digital and interactive industries here.”

Digital arts and entertainment is a big sector that’s only continuing to grow and fragment into other sub-areas, Anthony said. He cited investment in VR, augmented reality (AR), and gaming and interactive media, plus “a rich standing artist population that are encouraging new thinking about ways to deal with screens that aren’t flat.”

For the benefit of out-of-town guests, Anthony also pointed out that film and television production is a huge industry in Vancouver. The region is home to six major studios and several smaller players, he said.

“Vancouver is a nice, walkable, close-knit community that we just love to visit,” Anthony added. “Potentially 20,000 jobs in the industry for digital arts and entertainment, 8,000 of which might be in the film-oriented area. So Vancouver is a really, really good fit for SIGGRAPH. We’re all about production, we’re all about VR here in 2018, and we’re all about arts.”

The conference, which Vancouver also hosted in 2014 and 2011, is a big boost for the local economy. “SIGGRAPH 2018 organizers are expecting between 14,000 and 15,000 attendees from over 30 countries,” said spokesperson Dan Harary. 

For the full SIGGRAPH 2018 program, click here. Among the highlights:

Immersive Pavilion 
New for 2018, the Pavilion houses virtual, augmented and mixed reality projects. It includes the Vrcade, featuring games and experiences (check out the Vacation Simulator); the Village, for large-scale projects; and the VR Theatre, part of the conference’s Computer Animation Festival. Don’t miss the debut of "Cycles", the first VR short film from Walt Disney Animation Studios.

Art Gallery
This special exhibit, which draws inspiration from Indigenous communities in the Vancouver area and across Canada, includes pieces such as Transformation Mask. Created by Heiltsuk artist Shawn Hunt with the Microsoft Garage team, the interactive installation features the Microsoft HoloLens.

Technical Papers
A nerd’s dream come true since SIGGRAPH launched back in 1973, this portion of the conference is one of the most prestigious venues for researchers in computer graphics and interactive techniques. Technical papers accepted for presentation and publication at SIGGRAPH have helped advance fields such as medical imaging and supercomputing. Trending this year: artificial intelligence, sound simulation and fabrication (think 3D printing).

Production Gallery
Part of the Experience Hall, this gallery showcases costumes and other memorabilia from films like Black Panther and Solo: A Star Wars Story. It also displays a retrospective of 50 original artworks by futurist and industrial designer Syd Mead, known for his work on Aliens and both Blade Runner movies.

Emerging Technologies
The focus of this year’s Emerging Technologies program is Home, Health and Entertainment. Among the projects on view: augmented reality that allows virtual extension of film sets; an interactive system that lets users scoop up an image of water from mid-air; and a device that uses electric current to change how things taste.