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SIGGRAPH brings tomorrow’s technology to Vancouver today

Vancouver hopes the SIGGRAPH 2014 conference can cement the city’s place on the world stage as a technological powerhouse.

Mayor Gregor Robertson was touring the show floor at the annual computer graphics and interactive techniques trade show on Monday, touting it as the biggest conference the city has ever hosted.

The event, held at the Vancouver Convention Centre, brings together the world’s biggest graphics, animation and visual effects companies and gives attendees first-looks at breakthroughs in emerging technologies such as virtual reality and 3D printing.

Over 15,000 attendees – artists, programmers, filmmakers, computer scientists, animators and game designers – from 75 different countries are expected to attend the five-day conference.

Vancouver became the first ever non-U.S. city to host SIGGRAPH in 2011, and this year’s return comes as tech giants such as Microsoft, Amazon and Sony Imageworks dramatically increase their presence in the city.

Robertson credits hosting the 2011 event for spurring a boom in the city’s tech sector.

“This conference is so huge for Vancouver,” he said. “The success of 2011 has led to three years of intense growth in these industries in Vancouver and 2014 will be another big boost.”

The provincial government said SIGGRAPH 2011 generated an estimated $38.5 million in direct spending for the local economy.

Robertson and Vancouver Economic Commission CEO Ian McKay were given a personal tour of the conference’s emerging technologies exhibit on Monday and marveled at vendors showing off everything from a virtual reality bird simulator to “graffiti fur” technology that can turn carpets into a computer display.

“The emerging technology displays were mind-blowing, really,” said Robertson. “You see samples or hear about it online, actually seeing the inventions and new technologies is fantastic. It’s great to see it showcased in Vancouver, too, and knowing that those will be out there in the real world and on the market in years to come.”

SIGGRAPH runs until Aug. 14.

Showstoppers at SIGGRAPH’s emerging technology exhibit

High brightness, high dynamic range projection:

A Vancouver start-up, MTT Innovation, has developed a disruptive laser projection system capable of enabling High Dynamic Range on a large screen. The team says Hollywood is able to capture incredible high fidelity images with advance cameras but current projection systems hold back the image quality in theatres. Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson heralded the team, saying it could revolutionize the industry.

Traxion:

A tactile interaction device developed by the University of Tokyo and Sony Computer Science Laboratories that uses asymmetric signals to create virtual force sensations. Vibrations make users holding the small stick-like device feel like it’s being physically pushed forward or away, even through the small, free-floating device isn’t connected to anything.

Pixie Dust

A graphic image, constructed with digital lights projected on levitated small objects, magically float suspended in the air, or at least until someone blows of the dust-like objects and sends them crashing out of the acoustic-potential field. Vancouver Economic Commission CEO Ian McKay says the Japanese-developed technology has potential to create some huge public displays.

Tangible and modular input device for character articulation

Computer animators rejoice. A modular mechanical device shaped like a stick man that can be posed by an artist like an action figure. The pose is sensed at interactive rates, so artists can animate the skeleton of a virtual character quickly by simply manipulating the physical model with their hands. New York artist Alec Jacobson said the idea came to him after getting tired of manually animating a character’s skeleton for every movement.

Birdly virtual reality demo

With virtual reality set to be the next big thing in digital media, one machine is taking the technology to new heights. Developed by a team at the Zurich University of the Arts, Birdly takes the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset (the company was recently purchased by Facebook for $2 billion) and straps a human face down on a bird-like apparatus to simulate flying above and through the streets of San Francisco.

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