Updated: 8/31/05; 8:45:41 AM.
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Tuesday, August 2, 2005

Sorry, I never did follow up on the Lucas keynote. The short version: he didn't really say anything interesting. He's affable and charming, but he also jovially referred to the guy who'd just won the the "best new researcher award" as "the water guy." He was trying self-deprecatingly talk about how he just doesn't get all this tech stuff, and thank god we (well, they) do, but there was this kind of creepy blind optimism going on that I didn't like so much. Also, he said some stupid things about how games won't get good until you can talk to them -- he seems to still believe that full interactivity and flexibility is what games need. He's a freaking filmmaker -- if anybody should get that games are most fun when you carefully construct them with walls you don't see because you're invisibly guided away from them, it should be him. Meh.

Tonight was a trio of ILM guys comparing first trilogy vs second trilogy work in (a) space battles, (b) critters, (c) environments. I bailed after (b) because I wanted to catch a cab back, rather than walk home in the dark. I've transitioned slowly from "it's a creepy police state" to "dear god, I hope there's a cop on every corner." Not that there's been violence, or even the hint of it, but some paranoiac vibe is creeping out into me. Bleah.

Anyway. Ahem. The ILM thing was pretty interesting, although the presentation three years ago was more detailed and more fun. The screens kind of suck this year -- too small. The most interesting note from tonight's contrast and compare was how so much of the stuff in the new trilogy was a direct nyah nyah nyah to the limitations of guys in hair suits and optical compositing. Droid army? Deliberately spindly arms. Padme's crazy all chrome spaceship? Turns out you JUST CAN'T DO THAT with optical compositing. So much of Episode I, especially, was like a big spasm of rage against the limitations of the '70s and '80s.

Another interesting tidbit -- sometimes, they'd play the puppet motions in reverse, to distract you from the fact that they looked like muppets.

I finally crawled the expo floor proper, this afternoon. Mostly just felt overwhelmed by all of the crap; it's a far cry from the entertaining "see what I did" whimsy of the Emerging Technologies area. Most interesting thing was ATI and NVidia, who were stationed at opposite ends of the area. The NVidia Luna demo, running on the GeForce 7800, blew me freaking away. The movie doesn't do justice to seeing this thing running, real time rendered, on a 30" screen. It really looked cinematic. Google informs me that apparently this is meant to be a demo of what the PS3 will look like, but this was clearly running on a PC with this new card.

On the other hand, ATI was running a demo that looked about 95% as stunning, but on what they claimed was a real live XBox 360. If this is the future of HD consoles, I'm looking forward to it. This stuff looked like cut scenes, except live rendered.  9:14:12 PM  (comments []  

First session this morning was on quantum computing -- these guys had figured out practical ways to do quantum search, and had some insights on how to apply this to things like collision detection, z buffers, etc.

Here's quantum computing from my drooling idiot perspective (to be clear, I'm the drooling idiot here): QC allows you to do some interesting massively parallel computations, with the small problem that observing your results destroys them. They had this interesting idea that I sort of marginally understood called semi-cloning, which boils down to duplicating your results enough that you can use error correction to recover the data when you observe all of the semi-clones. Pretty cool.

Latest word from guys who work in the field: QC by 2020. This prediction is apparently based on when they think Moore's Law will drive us into the quantum space, so YMMV.

There was a pretty good joke I can't do justice to about how the NSA does a lot of work here, but talking about is impossible because it's quantumly unobservable. Except funnier (and creepier).

Another thing from Emerging Technology -- a cylindrical display that shows different views from different angles. If you walk around, you see all views around a static object:

Also, a real demonstration of the whole Minority Report gesture interface thingy idea. Controlling it was kind of tricky, but it was still cool. The coolest bit was you could also hold up paper to the screen and it could take extremely high resolution pictures of the paper. And then you could manipulate that image with your hands (resize it up, for example).

Finally, it does make the world taste better:

(Finding Dr. Pepper was the high point of my otherwise crappy Taco Time experience -- clearly my memories of this chain from my youth were overly rosy. Well, OK, the Mexi Fries were good.)

I also walked through the posters, and some some interesting ideas that I have yet to fully process.  2:07:15 PM  (comments []  

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Last update: 8/31/05; 8:45:41 AM.