Siggraph 2017 with Tween Boys
I remember when we got our first iPad. Ryan was two years old.
We opened the box, and the baby Ryan walked up to it, lifted it up, swiped it to power it on. He is eleven now, and the master of negotiation for more device time on any given day.
Ryan and his friends take notes on iPads (let's not discuss how their handwritings are...), have virtual play dates (one friend on the phone, the other on iPad, and they are playing in the same virtual world in Minecraft on their computers). They give each other virtual gifts ("I'm building something for Mateo for this birthday."). As much to my puzzlement, they love watching others playing their favorite games on YouTube. Sometimes I find him watching someone playing Minecraft on YouTube while he is playing it on his laptop. He builds stuff on SketchUp to print on his desktop 3d Printer for his language art homework. He presents his poetry museum in his cyber world of Minecraft where a person has to keep answering riddles to see the whole poem when the person realizes that the answers make up the poem.
As an architect, I try to keep up with technologies. I'm fortunate enough to be surrounded by highly-tech minded friends who are on top of their games and live in Los Angeles where the exposure to the new technology is in its abundance. But there is always confused fear that I am not sure what kind of world I am preparing him for. A few days ago, my good friend Anthony from Arup New York was coming to Siggraph 2017 held in Los Angeles and thought Ryan would have a great time there.
We went to Electronic Theater on Monday evening with his friend Hudson (12) whose parents are at the top of their games of computer animation. Going through 25 short films, they were enameled to the screen. One of this year's award recipients mentioned that he attended Siggraph the first time at age 15, the boys looked at each other with the typical tween/teen smirky proud look.
The next day, for the full conference we invited Mateo (11) to come with us. They were greeted warmly by Siggraph volunteers with the official posters. Ghost paint staff invited them to try it out. The boys took their turns, and I even got to give it a go. It was great fun. Later on our way out, we got to see some professional graffiti artists doing amazing work.
Nvidia was fantastic with the kids. Ryan and Mateo got to play Dominos with Issac the robot, in reality, and in virtual reality. AMD gave them lightsabers to play and pose with (we are still waiting for the free giveaway lightsaber :)). Techviz set up the VR of the interior of a space shuttle and enthralled the kids. KeyShot staff took the time to give a demo to the kids. Qualisys staff were great with the kids to set them up with VR games, and iPhone operated tanks battles. RealIs set up a VR snow fight for the boys, and the crowd got to see how quicker and deeper the boys get in the VR compared to adults. Intel had a VR Spiderman game set up, and of course, the boys were attracted to it like moths to the light. The game starts with the boys opening the suitcase from Tony Stark and putting on the Spiderman suit. After checking out Vuze 3D camera and Uniz 3D printer, my legs could not handle anymore.
On our way out of the convention, Siggraph staff stopped us to interview the boys. That was the moment when it dawned on me that the boys were the only kids at the convention. Some of the companies could care less about the boys since they knew that the boys did not have purchasing power. But most of the companies got the importance of inspiring these boys and how important the early name recognition will be for their future market. All who interacted with the boys were surprised how much quicker the boys understood and got the operations of VR environments compared to adults. Some of the companies expressed their concerns about the long term effects of VR on the boy's eyes or brains since there have not been enough studies. Some of them realized that their VR packs were designed too heavy/bulky for the boys.
Siggraph was a great experience for the boys, full of ideas and inspirations, and exposure to the people who must have been just like them at the young age. I know that they will remember this day. I would like to thank everyone at Siggraph for making it such an experience for the boys, and I might have to follow you to Vancouver as the boys are planning it already.