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Jeff Rowe
Jeff Rowe
Jeffrey Rowe has more than 40 years of experience in all aspects of industrial design, mechanical engineering, and manufacturing. On the publishing side, he has written well over 1,000 articles for CAD, CAM, CAE, and other technical publications, as well as consulting in many capacities in the … More »

The (Possible) Future of MCAD CG and Interaction Innovation Showcased at SIGGRAPH 2014

August 20th, 2014 by Jeff Rowe

We just returned from one of the most interesting events of the year for us and one that we always look forward to – SIGGRAPH 2014. SIGGRAPH (short for Special Interest Group on GRAPHics and Interactive Techniques) is the name of the annual conference on computer graphics (CG) convened by the ACM SIGGRAPH organization.

The first SIGGRAPH conference was in 1974, and this year’s event was held in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia.

As usual, we found the most interesting aspects of the conference to be the SIGGRAPH Emerging Technologies program and the exhibit floor.

SIGGRAPH 2014 Emerging Technologies Preview

The Emerging Technologies program showcases the latest graphics and interactive technologies before they fully make it to the marketplace. Emerging Technologies presented demonstrations of research from several fields, including displays, input devices, collaborative environments, computer vision, biometrics, wearable computing, scientific visualization, design, medicine, robotics, and, of course, gaming.

The Emerging Technologies that particularly caught our eye included:

  • IM3D: Magnetic Motion Tracking System for Dexterous 3D Interactions. IM3D is a novel real-time magnetic motion tracking system with multiple tiny, identifiable, wireless, occlusion-free markers that provides accuracy, a reasonable update rate, and an appropriate working space for dexterous 3D interaction. The system is based on the electromagnetic-induction principle and externally excites wireless markers and tracks with a pick-up coil array for each of their 3D positions and orientations with FFT and inverse problem solving. Based on this principle, the relationship between tracking performance and the parameters of the hardware components is simulated to determine the best configuration and its scalability for dexterous 3D motion.
  • Traxion: A Tactile Interaction Device With Virtual Force Sensation. Introduced was a new mechanism for inducing a virtual force based on human illusory sensations. An asymmetric signal is applied to a tactile actuator so that the user feels that the device is being pulled (or pushed) in a particular direction, although it is not supported by any mechanical connection to other objects or the ground. The tactile device is smaller and lighter than any previous force- feedback devices. This small form factor allows the device to be implemented in several novel interactive applications, such as a pedestrian guide system that includes a finger-mounted tactile device or an (untethered) input device that features virtual force. Experimental results indicate that this illusory sensation actually exists, and the proposed device can quickly switch the virtual force direction.
  • Spheree: A 3D Perspective-Corrected Interactive Spherical Scalable Display. Spheree is a personal spherical display that arranges multiple blended and calibrated mini-projectors to transform a translucent globe into a high-resolution perspective-corrected 3D interactive display. It tracks both the user and Spheree to render user-targeted views onto the surface of the sphere. This provides motion parallax, occlusion, shading, and perspective depth cues to the user. One of the emerging technologies that makes Spheree unique is that it uses multiple mini-projectors, calibrated and blended automatically to create a uniform pixel space on the surface of the sphere. Spheree does not have any seams or blind spots, so rendered scenes are not occluded, and the display can support stereo 3D experiences. Using touch and gesture, it supports tangible interactions such as moving, rotating, sculpting, and painting objects, in addition to object manipulation.
  • Physical Painting With a Digital Airbrush. This augmented airbrush device acts both as a physical spraying device and an intelligent digital guiding tool that maintains manual and computerized control. Custom-designed hardware and numerous control algorithms support a human-computer collaborative for a physical painting effort. The system uses a pistol-style airbrush relieved of its paint-volume control knob and fashioned with a custom-made augmentation. A 6-degree-of-freedom magnetic tracker is integrated with a mechanical actuation system composed of a servo and multiple gears, a potentiometer, an LED, and a two-state switch. The GPU-implemented control algorithms determine if the painter is at risk of spraying in the wrong direction and location, as calculated from the information from the tool, and issues control commands to the tool at ∼100Hz. The demonstration included live painting with the airbrush and a portfolio of artwork created with the tool.

I thought the names of some of the emerging technologies projects were as clever as the projects themselves. Of course, not all of the emerging technologies will ever make it to market, in fact, few probably will, but the possibilities presented here are fascinating and encouraging for their potential applicability to design and engineering.

We hit the exhibit floor running because there was a lot to see with both formal appointments and by accident (actually good fortune).

Some of the things that we found of great interest to us and our readers included:

  • Acute 3D – high-performance photogrammetric scanning.
  • AMD – new FirePro graphics cards.
  • Autodesk – new image capture and visualization technologies.
  • Blender – an open source 3D modeler.
  • –online 3D modeling and rendering.
  • Dell – new workstations and relationship with Teradici.
  • Fuel3D – innovative 3D scanner.
  • Formlabs – new Form 1+ desktop 3D scanner.
  • NVIDIA – new Quadro graphics cards.
  • Sketchfab – platform for publishing and sharing interactive 3D content.
  • Teradici – workstation virtualization.

In the coming weeks, we’ll cover in greater detail all of the products and services these and other prominent companies were demonstrating at SIGGRAPH 2014.

For the next three years, SIGGRAPH will be held in and around Los Angeles, and for good reason – it’s the center of media and entertainment production for much of this part of the world. Based on this year’s experience, I’m sure we’ll be back to the next several SIGGRAPH events.

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