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Tenth Annual Symposium on Frontiers of Engineering ENGINEERING AND ENTERTAINMENT
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Tenth Annual Symposium on Frontiers of Engineering Introduction CHRIS KYRIAKAKIS University of Southern California Los Angeles, California Entertainment technology has evolved over the last 100 years from hand-cranked film cameras with no sound to all-digital picture capture and multichannel surround sound. Most of the engineering innovations associated with entertainment have been fueled by the film industry’s need to surpass itself every few years. In recent years, entertainment has changed dramatically—from a large group activity available only in a movie theater to an activity that can be enjoyed by a family in a home theater or even an individual with advanced portable entertainment equipment. Innovations have not only ensured the high quality of the experience but also provided new directions for the creators of entertainment content and the people who enjoy it. The papers in this section focus on three areas of innovation: picture, sound, and actors. At first glance, these three seem to be very traditional. But each them holds a key to advancing entertainment to the next level. Anyone who has seen a summer blockbuster is aware of the dramatic improvement in computer-generated realism. Visual-effects supervisors now report that that they can bring even the most challenging visions of film directors to the screen. The only questions are time and cost. The technology behind the more realistic computer graphics (CG) techniques is simulations of light traveling in a scene and reflecting off of and through surfaces. These techniques—some developed recently and some originating in the in the 1980s—are being applied to visual-effects processes by CG artists who have found ways to channel the power
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Tenth Annual Symposium on Frontiers of Engineering of these new tools. In “Capturing and Simulating Physically Accurate Illumination in Computer Graphics,” Paul Debevec describes how new techniques are bringing unimaginable realism to the screen, creating visual elements that are becoming almost indistinguishable from reality. Bill Gardner’s presentation, “Spatial Audio Reproduction: Toward Individualized Binaural Sound,” focuses on spatial perception, a critical aspect of sound reproduction. While the audio industry remains focused on advances that can improve audio quality incrementally, Gardner’s work is approaching a new frontier in sound. We perceive the direction, distance, and size of sound sources with our ears. But the accurate reproduction of the spatial properties of sound remains a challenge. In this presentation, the technologies for spatial sound reproduction are reviewed and future directions, with a focus on the promise of individualized binaural technology, are explored. The third presentation in this section, “Designing Socially Intelligent Robots,” by Cynthia Breazeal, addresses advances in entertainment technology, specifically as it applies to robots. Breazeal interprets “entertainment” in a broad sense that encompasses personal-service robots, for which there is a quickly emerging market. Breazeal raises questions about the design of robots that can successfully interact in the daily lives of ordinary people. Beyond performing useful tasks, personal robots must be natural and intuitive for the average consumer to interact, communicate, work with, and teach new skills. To address these challenges, new areas of inquiry, such as human-robot interaction (HRI) and social robotics, are emerging. Social and emotional intelligence will be fundamental to the design of personal-service robots. After all, personal robots should not only be useful to their human users, but people should genuinely enjoy having their robots around.
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