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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 July, 2003, 10:13 GMT 11:13 UK
Computer animation takes centre-stage
By Julian Siddle
BBC Science in San Diego

The world's largest exhibition and conference of computer graphics Siggraph 2003 has opened in San Diego, California.

Siggraph conference
Focus o the minutiae of games and graphics design
It is a huge gathering of programmers and games enthusiasts from around the world.

The main focus of the conference is a series of discussions and seminars on the minutiae of games and graphics design, like how to make a ball look rounder on the computer screen.

There is also a large presence from the film animation industry, including talks by Disney animators on their latest offering Pirates of the Caribbean.

In the film, a pirate ship is crewed by a team of computer-generated skeletons.

Technology showcase

Siggraph began in the early 1970s as an informal gathering of California university students with an interest in computers.

Pirates of the Caribbean
Disney showing off the animation used in Pirates of the Caribbean
Many of the activities are still focused around the US computer industry, but there is now more of an international presence.

An animation team from New Zealand is providing one of the main attractions as they showcase the animation technology used in the creation of the Lord of the Rings films.

There is also a strong Japanese presence especially in the field of new technology.

As well as the seminars on games and graphics there are computer animation shows and a number of interactive events, where computer programmers and designers from around the world showcase their wares.

These cover a huge variety of areas but one which is strongly shown this year is haptics, the touch feely side of computer interaction.

Strange exhibits

A team from Japan have brought along a food simulator which is a bizarre combination of what looks like dentistry tools, mechano and laptops.

Siggraph exhibition
Many bizarre interactive experiments on display
Volunteers stick two probes into their mouth bite down and experience a virtual reality eating sensation.

The probes move up and down on a small flywheel accompanied by the whirring of electric motors as soft and hard foods are simulated.

There is also interactive fog, which rather like real fog disappears when you touch it and a number of large scale musical installations which are controlled by body movements.

All this is a great deal of fun. But when one of the exhibitors who had spent years developing a system which transforms images into a series of distorted shapes and colours was asked the point of it all, they replied; "Well, we haven't really thought of that yet."

More a case of art for art's sake.

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