These new technologies could change the industry forever! Here are our eight favorite inventions from SIGGRAPH 2016.

Every year SIGGRAPH brings us the very latest in computer technology. While the conference has certainly evolved over time, SIGGRAPH still remains one of the largest annual gatherings of computer nerds, from VFX artists to computer scientists. This year over 14,000 people attended the conference, and we were there to see all the latest breakthroughs in motion graphics, VFX, and related technology. While it’s hard to say that anything was unimpressive, below is a list of our eight favorite things from SIGGRAPH 2016.

1. A Giant Mechanical Robot/Mech Suit

Appropriately named “Big Robot,” the centerpiece of the emerging technologies pavilion at SIGGRAPH 2016 was this seventeen- foot, human-operated robot suit. In the words of the creators:

It is programed to make trajectory of head position of 5m humanoid. Thus, the pilot feels as if his/her body were extended to 5m giant.

The robot operates with sensors around the user’s arms, legs, and head. If the user takes one step forward, the robot rolls forward. If the user lifts their arm, Big Robot’s large mechanical arms lift with them. In order to get the robot to the United States from Japan, the designers actually had to ship it to SIGGRAPH via sea container. You can read more about this impressive technology in the research paper from students at the University of Tsukuba.

2. A Massive 3D LED Screen

In-home 3D screens never really took off in the way that James Cameron had hoped. Instead, 3D resides primarily as a novelty in popular culture. However, while the world has shifted its focus to VR, scientists at HavaVision3D have created a transportable large LED solution for high-quality 3D content.

This new technology doesn’t require projectors, and because it’s LED technology, the black areas are deeper than most modern 3D solutions. This 3D screen is much brighter than typical 3D projectors. In a lot of ways, it felt like watching a 3D Jumbotron up close — which is to say it was amazing.

3. VR Basketball

As expected, VR played a huge role at SIGGRAPH 2016. From game designers to VFX companies, there seemed to be no shortage of VR content. However, one booth that really stood out was a VR basketball demonstration created by OptiTrak. OptiTrak specializes in motion capture technology for robotics, animation, VR, and movement sciences.

In a nutshell, the demonstration placed users in a virtual basketball world where they physically played basketball with a robot. The crazy part? The basketball itself had tracking data points, so as users held the ball in the virtual world, they could physically feel a ball in real life.

If you’re interested in learning more about OptiTrak’s technology, you can check it out over on their website. The following video shows the demo in action.

4. Virtual Aquarium

Most VR content is intended to be viewed from a stationary position. However, one of the most exciting implications of emerging VR technology is the ability to move around within your virtual space as you walk around a physical room. At SIGGRAPH 2016 PhaseSpace put together a VR demo in which users are invited to walk around a virtual underwater coral reef.

Aquarium Earth VR
Image from ‘The Helix VR

As users are immersed in the environment, they are guided around via virtual walls, which help keep them from running into physical walls. The implications of this emerging technology are huge for entertainment.

5. VR Mech Simulator

When it comes to the consumer experience, VR has a long way to go before it becomes mainstream, yet the “arcade” approach to VR has been around for a while. While it may be impractical for a consumer to buy a car-sized device that can simulate a mech suit, the VR Mech Simulator at SIGGRAPH 2016 does give us a glimpse of what the future of VR entertainment might be.

The VR Mech Simulator puts users in the driver’s seat of a bipedal mech, complete with blasters that can be aimed using your head. The technology developed at Clemson University is looking to revolutionize how flight and training simulators work. You can read more about Mech VR in their research paper hosted on the SIGGRAPH website.

6. FlyVIZ: 360-Degree Field-of-View Simulator

It’s been said that moms have eyes in the back of their heads — FlyVIZ makes this saying a reality! The system uses a 360 camera to create an equirectangular display that allows users to see in all directions. Their in-person demo invited users to grab objects from behind their heads without ever looking back.

The video below shows a few real-world applications of FlyVIZ’s system.

7. Glasses-Free 3D Screens

While our sister website, PremiumBeat, covered MIT’s glasses-free 3D screen from SIGGRAPH, another glasses-free 3D display that caught our attention was the multi-planar 3D volumetric display created by LightSpace Technologies. The technology uses stacked optical layers and a high-speed projector to create a simulated 3D display that’s years ahead of MIT’s research.

Lightspace Technologies

While the technology is currently being used mainly in a medical context, it’s not impossible to think that a similar technology could make its way to the entertainment world.

8. Tactile Simulator

Tactile Technology

Virtual reality, as opposed to physical reality, takes place in a digital world. So it’s impossible to physically touch objects in this virtual world, right? Researchers at the The University of Electro-Communications have developed a glove that can simulate ‘high-fidelity tactile sensations’ for the wearers of the glove. In short, users can rub their hands over a virtual object and it will actually feel like it’s there. The technology uses a combination of electrical pulses and vibrations to simulate touch in a virtual environment.

(Bonus) 3D Printed Pancakes

Okay, so perhaps 3D-printed pancakes aren’t going to be paving the way for the future of entertainment. But if you’ve ever dreamed of eating a flapjack in the shape of a stormtrooper, the 3D pancake printer booth was the place to be. Believe it or not, you can actually buy your own pancake printer online for $299.

Did you go to SIGGRAPH 2016? What was your favorite new invention? Share in the comments below.