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SIGGRAPH 2014: Emerging Technologies

Published on 26 Aug 2014

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Increasingly realistic simulation of materials, precomputed sound propagation, or just a bit more fur are some of the technical breakthroughs presented here. Media formats are pushed as well: demonstrations included terapixel images and detailed 3D models of entire cities.

Behind these breakthroughs is the continued emergence of new technologies. Faster and more efficient processors, improved algorithms, and new equipment enable designers and developers to keep pushing the envelope. 8K technology demos are already present at the conference. Virtual reality continues to impress as more possibilities are discovered. The 3D modelling community shows growth as 3D printers get better and cheaper. And it’s evident that these experiences will be delivered and shared via the web — videos, virtual worlds, high-resolution assets.

The increased use of the web as a content delivery platform is one of the reasons why we are building tools to help service providers prepare their networks and deliver the user experience they need. Having the ability to know where the network is congested, and being able to enforce policies on excessive usage will be critical in the coming years. Today, many of the games that only fit on Blu-ray discs can also be purchased digitally and downloaded. YouTube has already rolled out 4K support. Live streaming has more publishers than ever.

New technology will trickle down to the masses as costs get cheaper and there is more content to consume. The High Definition television took a few years, but it’s now standard even for entry-level flat screens. But we cannot count on having a buffer to prepare for what’s coming, as it could arrive tomorrow. The smartphone wasted no time to proliferate after Apple delivered its first iPhone. Virtual reality headsets are not cheap, but Google showed that we can build one out of cardboard for about $20; just slot in your own smartphone. Mobile processors continue to improve, as it’s a highly contested area. And the consumer benefit: we have so much processing power in our pockets today, but that processor certainly wants to chomp on something to match.

One of the main things I learned at SIGGRAPH is that the media we consume will not only improve in quality, but also in size. Add to that other formats that use the web as a vehicle for distribution, and bandwidth consumption will only continue to rise. Online gaming and streams will continue to test network latency and speed, and of course, the Internet of Things (IoT) will continue to gain more members. IPv6 won’t be an option anymore — it will be a requirement. Emerging technologies will not wait for networks to prepare.