Adobe's incredible new painting software, and a huge robot you can pilot...

Image: John Fujii

... and 5 more equally cool things I saw at Siggraph 2016.

The animation, VFX and interactive conference Siggraph is well-known as a precursor to tech we may one day use everyday to be creative. That might not always be the case, but here are some stand-out Siggraph 2016 sightings that just might break through.

1. Meet Big Robot Mk.1A

For many observing this Emerging Technology exhibit from the floor, it was unclear what Big Robot Mk.1A ‘was’ exactly. But once you climbed up its 5-metre humanoid frame to act as its pilot (via foot motions), you felt as if you really were a 5 metre high giant – an unsettling feeling at first, but one that I now wish I could replicate in my backyard.

Rather than just living out your Pacific Rim fantasies, the actual purpose of the exoskeleton could be like The Mill's Blackbird for one-set representation of what will be a CG car (or in this case, a giant robot).

Image: Manuel Alducin)

2. Wetbrush will make you want to paint

There’s certainly a glut of apps that let you choose a myriad of brushes and manipulate and create almost anything. But few apps can boast making you ‘feel’ like an oil painter, even if you’re only doing so digitally. With Project Wetbrush from Adobe and Nvidia, I started on a van Gogh piece and moved the paint around like it was thick and gooey (wet, essentially) without almost any lag.

3. Spinning around with ZoeMatrope

ZoeMatrope is a spinning wheel of real static objects that, when lit with a perfectly timed strobe, appear to change material qualities at the whim of the operator. Almost magically, the object can appear diffuse, specular, transparent or one of millions of colours and densities. The maker says the possible uses are in material design selection or in art, design and advertising.

4. Submergence into data

Art projects at Siggraph can be fun but often temporal. Submergence felt different. It was an interactive environment with more than 8,000 LEDs suspended from the ceiling. Each LED could be manipulated and represent the flow of light, music, colour or any information. It was a great way to make you think about the flow of information, a refreshing relief from the donning of VR headsets.

5. ShapeSpaceVR is not VR like you know it

You can already get ShapeSpaceVR’s ‘Zen Parade’ for the GearVR. It will make you re-think what VR can do. Now the psychedelic qualities of that experience have been ramped up in ‘Art Maze’, an explorative VR ride that you control through a maze of painterly blobs.

6. Borrowed Time, on Pixar’s pipeline

A behind the scenes talk for the short film Borrowed Time, which won the Siggraph Computer Animation Festival Best in Show award, detailed how the directors utilised the Pixar pipeline to make it. This was possible since they were both artists at the studio and could take advantage of the Pixar University Co-Op program there. Imagine having the Pixar renderfarm and animation toolset at your disposal? They did.

7. Express yourself with StyLit

Many of the Technical Papers at Siggraph can easily go by without too much notice. But this StyLit research should resonate for anyone in illustration and 3D. An artist works on a flat surface in crafting a stylized image. That expression is transferred onto a 3D model using light propagation techniques and matches what has been done in 2D. To me, it feels like an interactive shader and blurs the line between super-clean digital work and a hand-drawn aesthetic.

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