Bringing Siggraph ’24 to life

Looking ahead to the next 50 years of CG and interactive techniques.

Karen Moltenbrey

Are you ready for a Rocky Mountain graphics high at Siggraph 2024? This year, the conference will be held in the Mile-High City of Denver during July 28–August 1. The event will feature lofty concepts in CG and truly amazing applications, as well as vendors pushing technology to new heights.

Back to its roots

Denver holds a special meaning for Siggraph. It was in Colorado, not specifically Denver  but Boulder, where the first Siggraph conference was held in 1974 after being conceptualized at The University of Colorado in Boulder.  Approximately 600 people attended the conference, most of whom were there to learn more about this burgeoning field through academic papers. A workshop prior to the conference drew 180 attendees. This inaugural conference was deemed a success but was just the beginning.

In 1977, exhibitors (38) became part of this mix alongside attendees (750), as the conference was held in San Jose. Then, 10 years after the first Siggraph, the numbers were staggering: 218 exhibitors and 20,390 attendees at the Anaheim, California, conference.

Over the years, Siggraph has been held in various cities across the country, from San Jose, San Francisco, San Diego, and Anaheim on the West Coast, to Bowling Green, Ohio, Atlanta, Boston, and Orlando on the East Coast, with stops in Dallas, Minneapolis, Detroit, Las Vegas, New Orleans, and Chicago in the mid-section. There were other locales, but by the mid-1990s, Los Angeles became a popular destination for the conference, sneaking into nearly an every-other-year rotation. (This was likely due to the plethora of digital artists and animators located in the area. The glitz and glam of Hollywood productions couldn’t have hurt either.) In 2011, for the first time, the North American main Siggraph conference (as opposed to Siggraph Asia, which began in 2008) was held outside the US, in Vancouver. The Canadian city was such a good host that the conference has returned there three additional times and will have another encore in 2024.

As for attendance, Siggraph enjoyed significant growth through the late 1990s, albeit with some dips along the way. The 1999 conference in Los Angeles boasted 42,690 attendees and 337 exhibitors, record-high numbers that would not be reached again. Nevertheless, Siggraph continues to attract attendees and exhibitors, as the conference staff has consistently maintained a high-quality program that continues to make the event relevant.

Siggraph 2024

As Siggraph returns to the state that gave rise to what has become one of the most influential conferences centered on computer graphics, it is ready to look to the next chapter in technology. In fact, according to the Colorado Technology Association’s “Colorado Tech Industry Report,” the state has the seventh-fastest IT industry growth rate in the country, and in the next five years, Colorado IT employment growth is predicted to grow by 12%, the third-highest predicted growth rate across the US. So, having Siggraph return to Colorado is especially relevant today as it was 51 years ago.

This year’s conference theme revolves around the next stage of computer graphics and interactive techniques across production and animation, gaming and interactive, research and education, art and design, new technologies, and more. This comes after Siggraph celebrated its 50th anniversary last year in Los Angeles.

“Siggraph 2024 stands at the precipice of the next half century of computer graphics and interactive techniques distinction, encouraging us to keep our minds one step ahead of what we can only imagine will come next,” states Andres Burbano, chair of the 51st annual Siggraph conference. “This positions us to ask, How do we continue to push the boundaries of what is possible to build our desirable technological future? Imagination lies at the heart of this endeavor, enabling us to envision worlds and experiences previously unattainable.”

Burbano, a native of Pasto, Colombia, is an associate professor at the Universidad de los Andes’ School of Architecture and Design. “We have the power to intervene in the current technical landscape to produce fresh ideas and fascinating worlds,” he adds.

(Source: Siggraph)
Keynote speakers

Mark Sagar, co-founder and chief scientific officer of Soul Machines/director of the Laboratory for Animate Technologies at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute, Dava Newman, director of the MIT Media Lab, and Manu Prakash, an associate professor of bioengineering at  Stanford University/co-founder of Foldscope Instruments, will be the Siggraph 2024 keynote speakers. Sagar’s keynote will be part of the opening session and is scheduled for Monday, July 29, at 9:00–10:30 am. Newman will speak on Tuesday morning, July 30, from 9:30 am–10:30 am. Prakash’s  keynote will be on Wednesday morning, July 31, from 9:00–10:00 am.

Sagar’s keynote is titled “Beyond the Illusion of Life.” In keeping with this year’s conference theme, Sagar will be discussing the work he and his team are conducting into the creation of autonomously animated virtual humans with virtual brains and nervous systems. He will discuss their biologically-based approach to bringing an interactive digital character to life that can think, feel, have experiences, and act with volition.

“Human cooperation is the most powerful force in history. What would it take to achieve that same level of cooperation and interaction with a digital character and intelligent machine?” Sagar teases, inviting attendees to his keynote to learn more.

Mark Sagar
Mark Sagar

Dava Newman, director of the MIT Media Lab, also holds positions in astronautics and aeronautics, and served as NASA deputy administrator in 2015–2017, making an impact on NASA’s human exploration, particularly in developing the Human Journey to Mars plan.  Moreover, she has significant research expertise in aerospace biomedical engineering. Her keynote will focus on “Humanity Becoming Interplanetary: Exploring Space for Earth” as it pertains to CG advancement.

Dava Newman
Dava Newman (©Christopher Michel)

At Stanford, Prakash runs a curiosity-driven science lab dedicated to what he calls frugal science tools that democratize access to science, including a foldable microscope. Siggraph says Prakash will take the audience on a “microscopic” journey of the often-unseen world, with beautiful creatures, in his keynote “The Microscope.”

Manu Prakash
Manu Prakash (Source: Linda A Cicero/Stanford News Service—main image; Foldscope Instruments Inc.—insets)

For those unable to attend the conference in person, there is a Virtual Access option that is concurrent with the in-person event. Registration can be found here.