Siggraph 2016 – Render the Possibilities

Here at M2 Advisory we specialize in helping our clients understand the challenges they may face before they can successfully enter any new market. There is a booming interest in VR and AR right now, and we don’t see that tidal wave trend slowing down any day soon. Siggraph, without fail, annually provides on-trend discoveries and solutions we need to be aware of. It was no surprise VR got a lot of attention at Siggraph this year, for VR presents so many interesting technical and artistic challenges to all aspects of the experience.

The theme for this year’s Siggraph, Render the Possibilities was germane to the latest graphics and imaging technologies now taking the visual entertainment and enterprise worlds by storm. While already the 43rd annual Siggraph, we discovered that many folks, including scientists, artists and engineers who attended this year’s Siggraph, are working hard to meet the well-known and long identified demanding visual experience requirements for both VR and AR. We witnessed a plethora of compelling virtual and augmented reality installations holding high court this year in the exhibits and experience areas such as in the Emerging Technologies and VR Village arenas, as well as in the technical courses, papers and presentations peppered throughout the week.

Siggraph sessions are broken down by focus areas, but in the interest of our business, and with the two of us having limited time, this year we focused on three main themes – with all three circling the interactive media (aka: gaming) discipline: virtual / augmented reality, games, and mobile.

img_4399The common thread throughout each of these themes this year was, not surprisingly, VR focused. Even the annual “JPR Luncheon held a moderated panel called “Games Engines Rising” with a heavy focus on the VR gaming experience and business opportunities. On the business side of the equation, there was a general consensus that even though some may be wont to start a standardization process for VR technologies and techniques, the majority of people involved in this discussion thought it too early to standardize anything for VR. Even though VR technology and techniques have been around for decades, and recent advances abound thanks to improved hardware and software techniques, the business side is still in it’s infancy. Worse, there is no yellow brick road to how profitable VR and AR will be, despite all the fiscal predictions abounding, such as this latest one.

Analyzing the tech side of VR proves that there are still many challenges for designers, engineers and artists to overcome. After Siggraph, we compiled our own short list of tech that we believe requires further investigation and/or for VR-readiness.

As simply stated as possible and with the full knowledge that many technical ideas, papers and solutions exist for each of these, below is a list of our “must know about tech for VR” short list. Note we will attempt to delve deeper into each of these from several angles, first by soon publishing a VR/AR survey we hope you take – so we can get the kind of raw data we need to deeply analyze the industry, and secondly, by holding and publishing interviews with veteran game developers and engineers now working in VR and AR. This said, here is our short list:

  1. Stereoscopic 3D & foveated rendering
  2. Gesture control and scene or world navigation
  3. Resolution scaling
  4. Display persistence
  5. Impact of haptics
  6. Light Fields/cameras
  7. Shaders/shader levels
  8. Global Illumination
  9. Forward/deferred rendering
  10. Materials and skinning
  11. Locomotion and interaction mechanics
  12. Physically based sound/propioception
  13. Physically based shading
  14. Human centered design specific to VR and AR
  15. Motion to photon latency
  16. 360 video playback

We look forward to exploring these technologies in a forthcoming survey to be hosted on our new site, VR|AR Business Review.  Stay tuned.