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Siggraph 2013: 3D Printing, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and 4K

We attended this year’s Siggraph 2013 at the Anaheim convention center, just outside of Disneyland. As it goes with every year, there are new trends that are being pushed by various professional graphics vendors. This year’s theme appeared to center around a few key technologies which are already being sold as the future of graphics.

The primary technologies that we saw showcased the most were 3D printing, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and 4K. The latter is no surprise when you consider how long 4K has been slowly filtering into the film industry and would inevitably make its way into the professional graphics industry where most of the VFX artists are already doing a lot of work in 4K. Naturally, we saw a plethora of 4K displays ranging from arrays of 4K monitors, to extra large 4K TVs and even 120 Hz 4K 3D Projectors from Christie.

Following the numerous 4K displays around the show floor, we took a look at the countless 3D printing booths scattered around the exhibit floor. Each 3D printing booth offered a different 3D printing solution with different business models and materials.

Some of the first 3D printing we spotted was simple stuff that you see every day online when it comes to 3D printing, nothing really incredibly special except for the 3D printed human busts.

Next, we met Shapeways who showed us how they have their own printers that can print virtually any material and the way that their business works is that you can either make a model, have them print it and they’ll send it to you. Or you can design the product and put it up for sale on their store and then you split the profits with them if you are able to sell some of your own 3D printed product. Some interesting examples (below) are jewlery, toys, vases, and lampshades.

Shapeways was not alone as they were in good company with a few other vendors that could 3D print virtually anything using a vast array of materials.

There were also companies that took sheets of paper and turned them into 3D printed objects using computer models. I found this to be the most intriguing method of 3D printing that I have ever heard of, however, 3D printing metal is also quite impressive when you consider that most 3D printing a few years ago was all ABS plastic. The company is called Mcor technologies and their business model is to sell you the machine for a decent amount of money, $40,000 to $50,000 but over time you end up saving that since you use paper as your material and ends up costing 1/5 the cost of regular 3D printing material.

As you can see above, specially printed pages are coded on the edge so that the printer knows which page goes where and you can see the finished the result alongside the single sheet print out that could build a bigger version.

Last but not least, we saw a lot of VR and AR at Siggraph, more than I have ever seen before. Full disclosure, this is my second year attending. We saw demonstrations from companies like Imagination Technologies, showing off the Oculus Rift playing on a smartphone, we saw a few other booths using the Oculus Rift as a development tool and another company is using the Oculus Rift to give virtual home tours to architects and buyers.

Not to be outdone, companies like Canon decided to show off their ‘Mixed Reality’ headsets that allow you to see a 3D rendered virtual object against the real world. In my eyes this is Augmented Reality, but for some reason Canon is choosing to avoid this terminology. The ability to see a fully rendered ship based on my perspective on the ship using these glasses was absolutely awesome and I can only imagine what it will feel like to architects and engineers that they can walk through their creations before a single piece is assembled.

They also had an interesting demonstration where they had a group of people watch the same dancing simulation, allowing people to watch the same thing at the same time but also be able to easily converse with eachother and enjoy the experience.

If you would like to see more photos of our trip to this year’s Siggraph conference, we’ve included a gallery below for you to enjoy.