Ramesh Raskar Shares His Vision

By Juliet Fiss

Note: original slides from the SIGGRAPH talk can be found here.

What will be the next big thing at SIGGRAPH, and how can the SIGGRAPH community contribute in an impactful way to fields outside of traditional computer graphics? SIGGRAPH NEXT at SIGGRAPH 2015 explored these questions. In this new addition to the SIGGRAPH program, an eclectic set of speakers gave TED-style talks and posed grand challenges to the SIGGRAPH community. In this blog post, Professor Ramesh Raskar of the MIT Media Lab introduces SIGGRAPH NEXT and outlines his vision for it.

What will be the next big thing at SIGGRAPH?


The SIGGRAPH community has a set of hammers that it uses to solve problems: geometry processing, rendering, animation, and imaging. What will be the next hammer, the next major field of study, appear at SIGGRAPH? Let’s examine where our research ideas come from. Often, advances in machine learning, optimization, signal processing, and optics forge our hammers. Our selection of hammer also depends on the nails we see. The most common application areas of computer graphics currently include computer-aided design, movies, games, and photography.

We often ask: “Does this work contribute to SIGGRAPH techniques?”

We should also ask, “Does this work contribute SIGGRAPH techniques to _____?”

When we answer the challenges posed by these traditional application areas of computer graphics, we are “drinking our own champagne.” We have made amazing progress in these application areas, and we should celebrate! SIGGRAPH NEXT is about finding new varieties of champagne; for that, we need new varieties of grapes. We should invite others from nontraditional and emerging application areas to enjoy our champagne with us, and they will become part of our community. First, we can expand our work in existing areas like mobile, user interaction, virtual reality, fabrication, and new types of cameras. We can also expand into emerging areas such as healthcare, energy, education, entrepreneurship, materials, tissue fabrication, and social media. What’s next?

Professor Raskar highlights three top areas where we can make an impact. One big take-home message is that many of these applications involve biology: bio is the new digital, and it will affect us ubiquitously.

  1. Sustainability: We can improve the efficiency of food and energy production. Some research projects in this area include the design of next-generation windmills, hydrophobic and hydrophilic surfaces, aquaponics and vertical farming, and building materials that can eliminate need for air conditioning.

  1. Virtual Human: We can contribute to health care by designing better prostheses, implants and stents, inventing new types of convenient and low-cost medical imaging, and even designing smarter athletic clothing.

  1. Scientific Applications: We can apply our knowledge of imaging, modeling, and rendering to better understand the connectome, brain synapses, or fine movements of the human eye. At the MIT Camera Culture group, researchers are trying to read a book without opening it, which has potential applications in medical imaging.

Visual computing is a powerful technique that can be used to solve problems in these important fields. First, there’s visual debugging: producing image results provides great perspective and insight. Images are persuasive, spark creativity and inspiration, and at the same time can still be scientifically rigorous. But SIGGRAPH isn’t only about producing images. The GRAPH in SIGGRAPH can mean many things: measure, record, draw, network, connect.


In the next installment of this series, the invited speakers from SIGGRAPH NEXT explain the key challenges in their fields, and how visual computing can possibly solve them.

Note: original slides from the Raskar’s SIGGRAPH talk can be found here.