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50 Years of Innovation and Creativity in Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques Celebrated at SIGGRAPH 2023

An Overview of Milestones and Highlights of the Past 50 Years Were Showcased With Several History Installations and Retrospective Talks During the Conference

CHICAGO, Aug. 22, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- SIGGRAPH 2023, the premier conference and exhibition on computer graphics and interactive techniques, marked its 50th year of breakthroughs and innovation with a week-long celebration in Los Angeles, from 6–10 August 2023. The industry has grown in the last 50 years, and SIGGRAPH marked this special occasion by celebrating the milestones and pioneers of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

What originally started as an ACM SIGGRAPH History archive evolved into a remarkable project that had more than 225 people collaborating from around the world. The industry, from original pioneers and students to artists and technicians, came together sharing time, expertise, and ideas. The historical offerings ranged from Retrospective Talks and a walk through the early hardware developments to the amazing, interactive Time Tunnel, sponsored by Autodesk, that was created to feature the world's most comprehensive timeline of computer graphics achievements over the past 50 years.

"SIGGRAPH is about people, and I believe the reason SIGGRAPH is successful as a community and conference is the diversity of the offerings and the convergence of cultures," said Bonnie Mitchell, SIGGRAPH 2023 History Chair. "In order to fully represent and celebrate the past 50 years, I wanted to ensure the programs and displays reflected this. I love the generosity of and synergy between people in this community. When true collaboration occurs, it's about giving, it's about listening, and it's about learning and changing, supporting each other, and making great things happen."

The SIGGRAPH community focuses on computer graphics, which includes innovation and technological developments in the fields of animation, visualization, imaging, and art, among others. For example, digital art, an art form that uses digital technology as an essential part of its creative process, has evolved dramatically since the 1970s. Because of the innovations of pioneers in the SIGGRAPH community, artists are now able to use computer graphics to creatively express their ideas. In the 1970s, people used text to represent images (ASCII art) until computer graphics algorithms enabled artists to create art using computer programming. Today, artists express their ideas using digital painting, data visualization, digital photography, 3D rendering, and imaging tools because of developments that originated from the SIGGRAPH community.

Computer scientists, researchers, mathematicians, engineers, technologists, and artists in the SIGGRAPH community are interested in how computer-generated images inform, inspire, and shape the world we live in. From artificial intelligence and robotics to augmented reality and 3D rendering breakthroughs, the historical offerings at SIGGRAPH's 50th conference celebration reflected a unique intersection of technological innovation and artistic thinking. The programs encouraged the attendees to reflect on the past and speculate what the future would be.

The historical and retrospective highlights included:

  • The Time Tunnel, an approximately 130 feet long x 25 feet wide x 14 feet tall immersive, interactive space with floor and wall projections.
  • Connections, where a robot used artificial intelligence and facial detection to match attendees to others in the SIGGRAPH community.
  • Postcards From the Future, where artificial intelligence was asked to illustrate what the future will look like in 50 years. One of the postcards was illustrated by a human. Could attendees guess which one it was?
  • Tea Time was an interactive exhibit that displayed historical SIGGRAPH content on a monitor, controlled via natural gestures with a teapot.
  • The Historical SIGGRAPH Conference Posters 1979-2023 display visually depicted the aesthetic branding of the time and showed a progression in style over the years.
  • SIGGRAPH Pioneers: Rare Gems From CGI History presented a reel of rarely seen videos from the early years of CGI, contributed by the SIGGRAPH Pioneers community.
  • The First 3D Renderings illustrated, using original polaroid photographs, how the first 3D, shaded, colored, computer-generated, raster-scan images were produced.
  • Retrospective Talks were hosted by the pioneers who developed technologies commonly used today as well as key volunteers who devoted years of their life to bring people together from around the world to share their knowledge of computer graphics.
  • Cabinets of Computer Graphics Curiosities and Vulture Culture – A Visual History of SIGGRAPH Swag where artifacts from the past were on display showcasing how far we have come in 50 years.
  • Blasts From the Past showcased historic emerging technology exhibits that changed the world.

The SIGGRAPH 50th celebration brought together innovators, researchers, and creators of digital art, visual effects, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and much more. The contributions came from a variety of fields — including arts, science and electronics, academia and research, film, and television, among others. The work shown at the SIGGRAPH conference comes from diverse industries and government agencies, from medical, scientific visualization, artificial life, and robotics to games and animation in the entertainment field.

"SIGGRAPH looks forward to daring and bold ideas, research, and advancements coming from the community, but we also benefit from looking back at the contributions made by the community that got us to where we are today," said Erik Brunvand, SIGGRAPH 2023 Conference Chair. "It's young enough of a discipline that many of the pioneers are still able to celebrate with us. We have a rich history where our early innovators created incredibly creative concepts that are still making an impact today."

Jim Foley, author, computer scientist, and computer graphics researcher from the Georgia Institute of Technology (retired), is an early SIGGRAPH pioneer. When asked about the conference, he said "I've been to all but one SIGGRAPH conference, and this, the 50th, will be my last. SIGGRAPH is my family, a tradition, and much of my professional identity. Words of advice … the only constant is change. Keep on learning, don't be afraid to try new ideas and approaches. Be bold."

SIGGRAPH contributors shared stories of research, papers, and books that they wrote that inspired others to make their start in computer graphics and related industries. Foley stated, "It is very satisfying to have someone at the conference come up to me and say, 'It was your book that got me started in computer graphics!' My motto is: 'Your success is my success.' I thrive on helping others succeed, and one way that has played out is via the books I co-authored."

Mitchell added, "I wanted to honor and thank the original pioneers of the industry, and also give back to the community that gave so much to me. The contributions and generosity of the many people who took the time to help so that we could celebrate this significant year was a magical experience for me."

For more information about the celebratory programming from the conference and other programs from SIGGRAPH 2023, visit the full program. The companion Virtual Access component will be available for on-demand viewing through 9 September 2023. Bookmark the ACM SIGGRAPH Blog for interviews and deep dives from different contributors.

ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, is the world's largest educational and scientific computing society, uniting educators, researchers, and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources, and address the field's challenges. ACM SIGGRAPH is a special interest group within ACM that serves as an interdisciplinary community for members in research, technology, and applications in computer graphics and interactive techniques. The SIGGRAPH conference is the world's leading annual interdisciplinary educational experience showcasing the latest in computer graphics and interactive techniques. SIGGRAPH 2023, the 50th annual conference hosted by ACM SIGGRAPH, took place live 6–10 August at the Los Angeles Convention Center, along with a Virtual Access option.


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