Most of the Siggraph 2002 articles on the web have spent a great deal of time discussing consumer graphics hardware. Here I'll give you a few of my impressions of the conference and focus on other areas of interest besides consumer graphics hardware. On to the show ...
Our first stop is the Stereographics booth where they were showing off autostereoscopic displays they call SynthaGram Monitors. The display produced a 3D effect, but it would likely lead to eyestrain after prolonged use. However, Stereographics is currently targeting the SynthaGram monitors for display in public places, instead of as desktop replacements, so people won't really be looking at them for prolonged periods of time. The demo images didn't jump out at me like they would have using LCD shutter glasses. Unfortunately there weren't any other displays in this class at the show. When you look at the image remember that a normal camera can't accurately show what the image looks like to the naked eye.
Actuality's 3D display, called Perspecta, was definitely eye catching to passers by. My camera wasn't fast enough to take a sharp picture in the low light environment at the Actuality booth, but if you click on the picture to the right you can still get an idea of what the display looks like. The Perspecta display looks great, but a low refresh rate causes some flickering. The flickering reduced the image quality, but didn't cause any noticeable eye strain. Future models will increase the refresh rate to reduce this problem. You can read more about the display in this article.
Crowd animation technology seems to be improving. The upcoming Character Studio 4 from Discreet will feature improved crowd controls and other products were impressive as well. Character Studio 4 is still in alpha so it is not listed on Discreet's web site yet.
AI.implant from BioGraphic Technologies, inc. is a crowd simulation plugin. It is possible to create sophisticated animations with AI.implant and a few examples can be viewed here. One demo shows two armies charging and engaging each other in battle. Each type of combatant is assigned specific behaviors and it results in both sides fighting until the chieftain is dead. Another demo shows a shark chasing and eating a school of fish. And the greedy shark catches and eats every one. Currently AI.implant is only available for Maya, but versions for 3ds max and Lightwave will soon be available.
The final crowd software package is called Massive and it has been used on one very high profile movie. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Massive was actually developed by Weta Digital for the movie and a new company has been created to commercialize Massive. To quote Massive's marketing literature: "Unique vision, sound and touch based artificial intelligence allows for realistic individual behaviour." It appeared that Massive can actually use vision processing to help agents decide where to attack, walk, etc. Some other features include rigid body dynamics, motion blending, and a GUI for controlling agents.