SIGGRAPH 2016 – A closer look at the relationship between computer graphics and space exploration

For the last 43 years, professionals in the field of computer graphics and animation have come together to share, learn, and discover at the annual SIGGRAPH (Special Interest Group on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques) Conference.

This year was no different than the rest, as SIGGRAPH 2016 attracted over 14,000 artists ranging from game developers to Hollywood professionals. This year’s conference, held July 24-28th, focused on providing an interdisciplinary educational experience on the latest computer graphics and interactive strategies. In addition, SIGGRAPH 2016 also included a Computer Animation Festival, which showcased work from the world’s most innovative digital film and video creators. As technology has evolved over the years, SIGGRAPH has the golden opportunity to bring something new and revolutionizing each year not only to conference goers, but to the digital world as a whole.

SIGGRAPH 2016 attracted over 14,000 artists, game developers and Hollywood professionals. Photo credit: Jim Hagarty Photography

SIGGRAPH 2016 got off to an interplanetary start right from day one when keynote speaker Z. Nagin Cox, a spacecraft operations engineer from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA kicked off the proceedings by talking about robots, planetary exploration, and how computer graphics make the work NASA does possible. As a member of the digital graphics tidal wave that has taken over the workforce, this particular disquisition was quite intriguing. Many times, when an individual thinks of NASA they immediately jump to space shuttles, planets, or satellites. As an EA firm with roots in aerospace tracing back to the early days of NASA space exploration, we have a unique vantage point at BRPH. What the everyday person doesn’t often think about is all of the computer-assisted design that goes into creating a shuttle, launch pad, or high-level space technology. Computer graphics in space technology can compare to the foundation of a home. Without it, the final product would not stand.

NASA’s technology is a perfect example of how often individuals can lose sight of what is holding something together. We see this same pattern here at BRPH. When one may hear that we worked on a launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, many of them assume that we are behind the launch of rockets, or new planetary discoveries. While that is somewhat accurate, our role here at BRPH is to provide solutions and state-of -the art designs to make the bigger and better things possible. When working with a client, we are the foundation. We are the catalysts of ideas that hold so much potential, just as computer graphics and visualization are in space technology today.

SIGGRAPH 2016 Keynote speaker, Z. Nagin Cox, a spacecraft operations engineer from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA, tests a prototype game-engine-based application that facilitates visualization and analysis of 3D terrain generated from several cameras, including MSL and MRO HiRISE. Photo Credit:

This year, 26 categories were discussed at SIGGRAPH 2016, but Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Real-Time Graphics attracted the largest crowds. AEC firms will benefit from all three of these rapidly advancing forms of visualization as the use of technology to build these virtual environments continues to evolve and a new spectrum of tools for architects, artists, and designers can come into play. With clients demanding more for less, real-time visualization solutions demonstrated at this year’s SIGGRAPH couldn’t be more welcome. The convergence of the gaming industry and architectural visualization has brought forth many new exciting visualization technologies, such as GPU based interactive ray-tracers and game engines that have bridged the gap between expensive high end visualization and real-time user experiences.

Virtual and Augmented Reality are increasingly becoming the sought-after technology for artists, architects and designers alike.

The advances of real-time computer graphics exhibited at SIGGRAPH have allowed architects and engineers to visualize their designs earlier in the design process. With technologies like augmented/virtual reality and real-time rendering making headlines at SIGGRAPH this year, architects and engineers benefit from research being done by the computer scientists pioneering the algorithms that power our computer assisted design and visualization.

Posted In: Integrated Design, Technology, Trends
Tagged In: technology, design, conference
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Todd is in charge of researching and developing new visualization technologies at BRPH . He has done 3D visualization for Boeing, Alaska Aerospace, Army Corps of Engineers and major school districts throughout the Southeastern United States.


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