Menacing VR Dragon, Glittering Harley and Digital Drill Intrigue at SIGGRAPH

by Brian Caulfield

So, is it real or is it rendered? That question was on many computer graphics pros’ minds at SIGGRAPH – the world’s top graphics conference – in Los Angeles this week, as we asked them to compare our rendering of a yellow and black DeWalt drill to a live 4K image of the real thing.

Conference goers – like Peter Baintner and Michael Baumeister, automotive design students at the University of Munich – were consistently stumped. To tell the difference you had to sneak past the NVIDIANs staffing our booth and wave a pen in front of the live image.

Our digital drill is just one example of how our technologies are blurring the lines between reality and the latest generation of computing technologies. We brought a lineup of new technologies to SIGGRAPH, including a tech preview of our interactive physically based rendering technologies.

Harley-Davidson Senior Surface Designer Matthew Gueller was among the speakers at our “Best of GTC” theater at SIGGRAPH.

Dragons and Harley-Davidson

There was plenty of eye candy, too. Dozens lined up at our green and black SIGGRAPH booth to strap on headsets and slink through a dragon’s lair in our virtual reality demo. Others gawked at a glittering, green-and-black Harley-Davidson Street Glide parked alongside a digital model of the bike rendered with a technology demonstration of a future Iray for Rhino 3D plug-in. Scores more crowded into our “Best of GTC” theater to hear how industry leaders like Pixar are using NVIDIA technologies to create stunning visual experiences.

That’s no hyperbole. Conference goers like Irv, a digital animator, were literally stunned after stumbling out through a demo of Weta Digital’s “Thief in the Shadows,” powered by a Quadro M6000 GPU. Watching people through Plexiglas react with a jump as they encountered a ferocious dragon in its lair was almost as fun as the demo itself. And it left graphics pros of all kinds buzzing about the possibilities for VR in their own work.

Nearby, NVIDIANs walked designers through our latest generation of tools to reveal how we used our Iray ray-tracing technology to create interactive, photo-realistic models of watches, drills and mountain bikes that we could change, on the fly, as conference goers peppered NVIDIA engineers with questions. And they could see these designs at 4K resolution, on new high dynamic range displays, and even delivered interactively from 500 miles away using NVIDIA GRID graphics virtualization technology.

We used our Iray ray-tracing technology to create interactive, photo-realistic models of watches, drills and mountain bikes that we could change, on the fly.

Of course, NVIDIA tech wasn’t just limited to our booth. More than two dozen NVIDIA partners incorporated our technology into their own exhibits on the SIGGRAPH show floor.

Chaos Group, for example, showed stills from Kevin Margo’s futuristic short film, Construct, in VR using our latest VRay 3.2 technology. And PNY showed our new NVIDIA Quadro M6000 running a demo of Sky-Skan’s DigitalSky software displaying 550,000 asteroids orbiting our sun, in real time. And that’s just a taste of the sophisticated domed-theater software’s capabilities.

The surprise hit: our SHIELD Android TV home entertainment device. SIGGRAPH attendees crowded around a big white couch to play games displayed in 1080p high definition at 60 frames per second on a 60-inch screen.

“This is better than a console,” one graphic designer said, controller in hand, and he blasted down a twisting mountain road in Dirt 2, a driving game being streamed to SHIELD over the internet. “I’m definitely getting one.”

It may not be a pro tool, but it’s good enough to leave more than a few pros impressed.