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NVISION 08: The 'Expansive Ecosystem' of Visual Computing

Bill Desowitz experiences NVISION 08: the inaugural visual computing conference in San Jose sponsored by NVIDIA.

Heiko Klug's Fusion won the first NVArt Competition. All images courtesy of NVISION.

The week after SIGGRAPH may not have been the most ideal time for NVIDIA to host NVISION 08 in San Jose, but its first-ever visual computing conference served as a nice companion event and attracted around 9,200 attendees. The convergence of this "expansive ecosystem," as NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang termed visual computing during his Monday keynote, was very much on display last week, whether it pertained to entertainment, industrial design, biomedical, aerospace or any of the other cutting edge industries.

"We're on the cusp of a display revolution -- [and] it's about more dimension," Huang began. He touted parallel computing while pointing to his company's own Cuda GPU, before sharing the stage at The Center for the Performing Arts last Monday with several industry leaders, including Peter Stevenson of Realtime Technologies; Taehoon Kim, co-founder of Nurien Software; Joshua Edwards of Microsoft Live Labs; Jeff Han of Perceptive Pixel; and actress Tricia Helfer, who plays Cylon #6 on Battlestar Galactica.

Stevenson demonstrated realtime raytracing to reveal how a CG car resembles a real car. He showed a digital prototype of a new Lamborghini model and discussed the importance of rapid protyping to the design process.

Kim, who entertainmed the crowd with a 3D avatar of Huang, showed off Nurien's new MMO game with stunning graphics, comprised of noteworthy cloth and hair simulations. This next-gen game will start to blend MMO gaming with social networking functions.

With NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang (l) watching, Jeff Han of Perceptive Pixel was up next, giving a demo of his multitouch user interface technology.

Edwards showed off Microsoft Labs' new Photosynth app, which uses multiple photos of a site or object to create a 3D model and then display a 360-degree perspective of the object. Edwards revealed how a series of photographs were combined to create an interactive view of Stonehenge and the main display area of the National Archive building in Washington, DC. Photosynth can give the illusion of depth, but true dimensionalization of Huang showed the latest 3-D stereoscopic gaming technology from NVIDIA (which was also on display in the GeForce LAN area of the Convention Center's exhibition hall): the new Medusa demo as well as an existing game, Age of Empires, converted to 3-D with a GeForce GPU.

Han showed off his multitouch user interface technology. Using a 100-inch multitouch display, he gave the audience a taste of what the UI of the future might look like. The current bottleneck is the input device. The mouse and cursor are too limiting, he said, but with multi-touch technology some amazing interactions are possible.

And Helfer showed how challenging it is blocking and shooting on a greenscreen stage with CG characters in the hit series, Battlestar Galactica.

Tuesday's keynote, hosted by Scott Budman of NBC 11television, went further in discussing the everyday applications of visual computing. Eileen Collins, the first female to pilot and command the space shuttle, touted the importance of simulation, and previewed NASA's upcoming Constellation program, which will replace the shuttle and return humans back to the Moon and eventually to Mars.

Bernard Charles, CEO of Dassault Systemes, offered a glimpse into the future of 3D design and how visual computing is becoming much more collaborative. He discussed how design, whether it is the Boeing 787 or other "virtual rollouts," will one day include consumers in the design process. For instance, they will evaluate the quality of the styling of a car and driving experience.

Oddworld creator Lorne Lanning (l) talks to the crowd about the increased application of science and physics in the artistic process.

Oddworld creator Lorne Lanning offered a new vision of digital fine arts in which science and physics play a large part in the artistic process. He also touted the use of the videogame engine to create movies and to facilitate ideas much more quickly, pointing to Ubisoft's cinematic of Beyond Good and Evil 2 as an example.

And NASCAR racing star Kyle Busch discussed the importance of visual computing simulation in conveying speed, distance and the overall tactile sensation of race car driving.

In terms of other presentations, mental images' CEO Rolf Herken discussed "The Future of Rendering," in which total CPU/GPU convergence will occur within the next five years. Raytracing, for example, will find its way into: realtime game engines, interactive visualization engines, offline photorealistic rendering systems (look for mental ray 4.0 supporting GPUs next year), online interactive photorealistic rendering systems (look for RealityServer 3.0 with mental ray in 2010) and interactive photorealistic engines.

In fact, in terms of RealityServer, Herken suggested that it will be the first visual computing meta middleware server-based scalable platform for 3D web applications. He added that there is a real need for a meta shading language and that mental's MetaSL will accomplish platform independence backed by NVIDIA.

Meanwhile, on the exhibition floor, there were some 75 companies, dominated mostly by gaming, but all eyes were naturally on the NVIDIA-powered 3-D TV and gaming displays, showing off the GeForce and new 3-D glasses.

Team PGS.MYM of Poland celebrates winning the gold in the Electronic Sports World Cup tournament.

And the winners were:

NVArt Competition

Fusion by Heiko Klug

Cock and the Centipede by Jason Lynch

When Tliali Calls You by Carlos Ortega Elizalde

The Best Demoscene Demos

Stargazer by Andromeda & Orb

Into the Pink by Plastic

The Best Demoscene 4K Demos

Texas by Keyboarders

Receptor by TBC

The Machinima award went to Server Side by Cyphermind.

The NVISION 08 Judge's Award went to The Ship by Mednios.

The award for Best Application of Visual Computing went to Total Immersion for their concept of "augmented reality," which combines features of the real world with a virtual environment.

And the award for Most Promising Emerging Company went to Nurien Software for their work in combining graphics, virtual worlds and social networking.

The winners of the Electronic Sports World Cup tournaments were: Counterstrike: PGS.MYM, Poland Counterstrike Women: SK-GAMING, USA Quake 3: CYPHER, Belarus DOTA: ZENITH, Singapore Warcraft 3: WHO, Korea Trackmania: FROST BUELE, SwedenFinally, the Guinness World Record for the longest continuous LAN party with more than 100 participants was set at NVISION 08. Two hundred and three hardcore gamers kept going for 36 straight hours!

Bill Desowitz is the editor of VFXWorld.

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