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Siggraph Exhibit Gets a Lot of Hits

Siggraph 97, the giant computer graphics conference and exhibition, turned out to be an even bigger hit than organizers expected.

Final tallies put the total attendance for the six-day event at a record 48,700--more than 20% higher than the 40,000 visitors who had been expected at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The trade show also drew 379 companies--29 more than planners anticipated.

An exhibition on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday seemed the most popular part of the multifaceted affair. Attendees thronged tohundreds of booths to witness demonstrations of the latest computer graphics software, especially packages used to create Hollywood’s special effects. Dozens of people lined up at the Evans & Sullivan booth, for example, where the 3-D graphics company offered rides in a trio of pod-like CyberFighters.

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The most cutting-edge technologies, however, were reserved for the industrial-style Electric Garden, a sort of science fair for grown-ups.

The MIT Media Laboratory showed off its Toco the Toucan, a digital bird whose vocabulary grows the more a human trainer talks to him. Toco also turns his head to look where the trainer is pointing, thanks to a novel circular cursor that tracks human body movement.

The chemistry and biochemistry departments at UC San Diego offered rides on their Virtual Explorer. Crew members don 3-D glasses and sit at a video game console to navigate the virtual craft through a patient’s bloodstream, lymph system or infected tissue in a demo reminiscent of Disneyland’s Inner Space attraction. The UCSD team plans to use the Virtual Explorer to enhance science education.

The Tokyo Institute of Technology let attendees shoot hoops with a virtual basketball. A series of force-feedback wires connected to hoopsters’ hands gave them the impression that they were actually holding an orange ball.


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