SIGGRAPH Asia 2023 conference and exhibition in Sydney attracted 5,690 attendees from over 40 countries, making a key contribution to the computer graphics industries.
SIGGRAPH Asia 2023 conference and exhibition concluded on 15 December at the International Convention Centre Sydney. It attracted 5,690 attendees from more than 40 countries and featured 30 exhibiting companies. SIGGRAPH Asia makes a key contribution to the future of animation, virtual reality, artificial intelligence and related computer graphics and interactive techniques, and this year highlighted the dynamic nature of the industry and its rapid growth.
ACM SIGGRAPH is an international community of researchers, artists, developers, filmmakers, scientists and business professionals who identify closely with the pursuit of computer graphics and interactive techniques. As a special interest group of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), it connects, supports and recognises researchers and practitioners involved in computer graphics and interactive innovation.
SIGGRAPH Asia 2023 Conference Chair was June Kim, who said, “From keynotes by luminaries to groundbreaking showcases and awards, we're grateful for the support of computer, animation and technological visionaries. Special thanks to our partners in Sydney for being tremendous hosts.”
Connecting with SIGGRAPH
Among the keynote presentations was a talk from Jun Murai of Keio University on ‘Internet Civilization: A New Frontier for Humankind’, and another from Joe Letteri from Wētā FX who talked about ‘Innovation & Avatar: The Way of Water.
Featured sessions included speakers such as Rob Bredow of Industrial Light & Magic and Paul Debevec of Netflix whose themes ranged from the synergy of art and technology to virtual production. Panels discussions covered trends in Character Animation, VFX, Digital Humans, and the future of computer animation tools.
SIGGRAPH Asia 2023 aimed to bring emerging technologies to attendees that are set to redefine the industry. Over 900 Technical Papers were submitted to and juried by more than 180 experts and over 3,000 anonymous peer reviewers.
The Conference also took a look into how a hybrid society might emerge via extended reality through digital twin technology – replicating artifacts, space and humans in a digital form. A real-time demonstration showed how digital twins, big data visualisations and extended reality can connect from Sydney to other cities via Super Speed Connectivity.
For this presentation, Keio University Graduate School of Media Design and ACM SIGGRAPH with Boeing, Netflix, Sony AI and NVIDIA formed a Hybrid Society committee, while the Super Speed Connectivity was delivered by AARNet (Australia’s Academic and Research Network) and Japan’s WIDE Project. An Internet project in Japan started in 1985 by Keio University, Tokyo Institute of Technology and The University of Tokyo, WIDE runs a major data route of the Japanese internet. The president is Jun Murai, a professor of Keio University and the keynote speaker mentioned above.
Super Speed Connectivity
Generative AI was a topic that was not only brought up at numerous sessions, but also featured in many conversations at SIGGRAPH Asia 2023. Sessions delved into the intricacies and applications of Generative AI, presenting insights and expanding the overall understanding of this technology that may soon be unavoidable – ubiquitous and almost invisible.
Education - Talent of the Future
SIGGRAPH Asia’s theme ‘Connecting Stories’ touched a chord among participants, who described how important it was to convey how their technology was being applied in an everyday sense – whether it be to help blind people navigate, or an apparatus that uses sign language. Artists, researchers, and academics mingled with those from industry, sharing their ideas and work in progress.
Within the many papers submitted, and from those chosen to exhibit, were many technical advances and completely original ideas that were acclaimed at SIGGRAPH Asia 2023. The people’s choice for Best Demo at the Emerging Technologies Awards went to a team from the University of Queensland that worked on a project to create a smart home assistant that uses gesture controls to provide Auslan (Australian Sign Language) responses for deaf users.
Team member Maria Zelenskaya said that the opportunity to enhance deaf accessibility has been very fulfilling and that she is now inspired to continue. Her SIGGRAPH journey started as a student, and she continues as a PhD candidate, believing that their work showcases avatars' potential for the deaf community. She said, “It's great to show how avatars can be used for something truly powerful and inspiring.”
Because attracting newcomers to the industry is important, SIGGRAPH Asia always includes ways to proactively draw in younger people. A notable highlight of the conference was the Computer Animation Festival, which featured an eclectic mix of 38 films, ranging from narrative shorts to scientific visualisations, plus the inaugural Junior Computer Animation Festival, which brought to life the event's commitment to fostering new talent. See an article devoted to both of these events here.
Outstanding individuals and teams were celebrated through multiple awards programs. Among the notable honorees, Australian artist Paul Brown received the prestigious Distinguished Artist Award for Lifetime Achievement in Digital Art from SIGGRAPH ACM. Singaporean Associate Professor Yong Tsui (YT) Lee was honored with the SIGGRAPH ACM Outstanding Service Award in recognition of his nurturing and fostering of the SIGGRAPH Asia community and Conference.
Just One Chance
A special opportunity at the SIGGRAPH Asia conferences was Real-Time Live! Both a live showcase and a competition, real-time graphics and interactive techniques come to the stage. Artists from all over the world faced a real challenge in staging their projects to unfold perfectly in front of the audience within a very short time. Several featured remote elements, others included AI and machine learning aspects as well. Overseeing Real-Time Live! is Michaela Ledwidge, a director who specialises in real time and virtual production and runs Mod Studio in Sydney.
From Estonia, a team showed how their AI-based project could quickly clothe a character in original outfits inspired by prompts from the audience. An Indonesian team aligned two dance performances – one taking place on stage and another in Indonesia – to the same music. A group of Australian artists showed an interactive AI texturing project, resulting in a model they textured while discussing it on stage.
Artists from New Zealand divided the audience into two teams, and projected a live video onto the stage screen while we competed with various AR elements. A master drummer from Japan performed with the Roland Taiko-1 drum, playing the role of soloist and conductor while eliciting sounds including cats and thunder from his instrument.
Sally Coleman, currently pursuing a practice-based PhD with UTS Creativity & Cognition Studios, was the winner of both Best in Show and People's Choice awards. Her music project is Big Sand, an animated sci-fi virtual band created with Unreal Engine and brought to life through motion capture. The entire Real-Time Live! Event was live streamed on Twitch for the first time, extending its reach to a global audience.
Jellyfish and iCOLLs
The Experience Hall featured the Art Gallery, XR and Emerging Technologies to serve as a fusion of art and technology. In the Art Gallery was Thomas Marcusson’s project Aguaviva, placing the spontaneous nature of biology and the predictable properties of digital technology side by side. We saw a delicate moon jellyfish swimming around all alone in a saltwater dome. A small camera tracked its motion and turned it into xy values, expressed as digital numbers. Mapped to the corresponding digits, the shifting position of the jellyfish resulted in an ever-changing string of random numbers.
Arbitrary computer-generated values are considered too predictable for high-end encryption schemes, such as secure Internet traffic and online banking. True randomness has become a commodity and therefore unconventional sources are often sought. As part of the artwork, the numerical string created by the jellyfish was offered in real-time to encryption companies. The developers said, “The apparatus is designed to extract randomness from this simple yet ancient life form – unaware of the fact that in the arena of random sequencing, its cellular contractions can outperform even the most powerful supercomputer."
Artist Dr Nigel Llwyd Helyer, UNSW University, led a two-channel video work called ‘Sonus Maris; Strange Attractor’ developed during an ongoing collaboration between Nigel and water engineers and scientists at the UNSW Water Research Laboratory (WRL).
Working with WRL researcher Dr Tino Heimhuber, Nigel uses audio-visual media to reinterpret data charting the special dynamics of intermittently closed and open lakes and lagoons (ICOLLs). ICOLLs are the most prominent type of estuaries found on the NSW coastline and are unique in that they alternate between open and closed oceanic entrance conditions, driven by the interaction between oceanic and land-based forces. The fluctuations of water flow act as indicators responding to the world’s increasingly active weather systems.
Through data archaeology and a custom algorithm ‘Inlet Tracker’, the collaborators extract valuable information from a four-decade archive of public satellite imagery, drawing attention to long-term morphological and eco-hydrological variations in these crucial sites. Nigel interprets the data to compose musical scores translating the flow dynamics of the four ICOLLs sites as a multisensory experience. Nigel’s animations of satellite imagery and experimental music encourage people to see, feel and hear the flows and patterns of coastal environments in a new way.
SIGGRAPH Asia Exhibition
The SIGGRAPH Asia 2023 Exhibition spanned healthcare, transportation, space exploration and entertainment, showing technology as a positive force that visualises and interacts with people’s everyday lives. FORUM8, Adobe, NVIDIA, Industrial Light and Magic, MSI, Vicon and Wētā FX exhibited with a look into the future of animation & visual effects, augmented reality, cloud-based systems, computer graphics, interactive industries, gaming, imaging, virtual reality & simulation, visualisation and others.
Adding to the event were the Exhibitor Talks, featuring speakers from Adobe, Canva, DNEG, Foundry, Gigabyte, NVIDIA and Pixar Animation Studios, who inspired audiences with innovative techniques that are shaping the future.
To Tokyo and Beyond
Hosting SIGGRAPH Asia in Sydney reflects Australia’s growing importance in the global computer graphics industry. The local surge in activities in both 2D and 3D animation work is evident in the increasing demand for artists and expansion of local production companies in these fields as local companies expand their capabilities and adopt new technologies for series work.
Conference Chair June Kim said, “I am deeply grateful to all the local and international supporters for making this edition in Sydney exceptionally memorable and successful. We look forward to the next gathering in Tokyo in early December 2024.” asia.siggraph.org/2023