Monday, February 01, 2010

Japan/SoKor Day 7: Siggraph Asia 2009: Day 1

December 17, 2009
Japan Trip Day 7: Siggraph Asia 2009: Day 1

People have been asking me for a while if this trip is for "business or pleasure" - and I usually say, "It's 99% pleasure... cause I'm going to a conference for a day in Yokohama." As I completely expected, this "1% business time" was actually 100% friggin' glorious, and so I think it counts as "pleasure" rather than "business time". (This would be a good time for a "that's what she said" joke, in case you weren't getting the cues).

Anyway back to "business"... I got up this morning and was super excited and relaxed after a night of bathing in coffee and green tea and a chair massage back at the hotel. I didn't ask for a non-smoking room which was a bit of a mistake - in Japan smoking is very common, even in hotel rooms and restaurants. There was a good air conditioner thing in the room though, so not too bad... I'll have to be sure to ask next time. I slept in as it was nice to have my own room after 4 nights of sharing a big dorm room in Tokyo, and the breakfast looked pretty basic so I just chilled out and grabbed some food quickly before they closed it up. Good times, the hotel was uber basic but was super close to Yunessun, I think with the expectation that you'd spend most of your day there anyway, so it worked out perfectly.

I got on the transfer bus to Yunessun, and met some Chinese people who said they were "from Melbourne" - though they had incredibly strong Chinese accents. :) They were in Hakone with the purpose of seeing Mt. Fuji ("Fuji-san"). I had originally hoped to see Fuji-san from the hill near the spa resort or on the bus on the way in, but no luck. I think maybe I was not in the exact right area to see it, and it's not often that it's clear enough to see it. If I go to Hakone region again, I'd definitely like to spend more time around there because it was absolutely beautiful there - there are some more national park areas and lakes that would definitely be worth seeing. I suggested the "Australians" (?!) chat with the tour guide desk at Yunessun and wished them a good trip.

I took the bus all the way back to Odawara Stn., and then jumped on the Shinkansen to Shin-Yokohama station. This seems to be a common trend - a town will have a normal station (eg. "Yokohama") and then a new station where the Shinkansen travels to/from (Shin-Yokohama). These can be a fair ways apart, but the ticket reservation people at the train stations always give you the best advice on which train to choose. I got a Green Tea/Red Bean paste bun and Asahi-brand coffee. Haha, funny cause I thought Asahi only made beer! The coffee was hot and good and had another funny quote: "Gold is a premium coffee with a radiant-like beauty perfected with premium beans!" Haha, premium. The short name of the coffee was "Wonda", standing for "Premium Beans Asahi 'Wonda' (Wonderful Coffee)" haha, so many words. When I was wearing my huge bag on the front and back at the train station, carrying the red-bean bun in one hand, and the "Wonda" coffee in the other, a Japanese man came up to me, saw my Canadian flag backpack tag and was SUPER excited. "Fuji-san?!" he said, presumably asking if I was in the Hakone area to climb Mt. Fuji, I guess. :) I probably packed enough stuff too if it was the right season for climbing!

I arrived in Shin-Yokohama, transferred to Yokohama, then got off there and onto the Minato-Mirai subway station to Basamichi. I found the hotel suuuuuper quick thanks to the directions I copy/pasted to my trusty Japan travel doc. This has turned out to be absurdly useful so far, as all the train stations have 5, 8, sometimes 20 numbered exits!! The hostels and hotels always tell you which number exit to pick, so it's a lifesaver that I already have all of this information in my pocket... especially when I'm carrying 50 lbs of stuff! I got to the hotel and was too early to check in, so I left my bags and walked to Pacifico Yokohama. This was a huge building, and there was a nice Ferris Wheel outside of it.

I got my registration badge, and then wandered around. It was interesting that the exhibition floor and the job fair were in the same location, as they are usually separate at Siggraph USA. I wandered more and Emerging Technologies was a huge section at Siggraph Asia... tons of cool exhibits, including:

  • Virtual Reality & Tangible toy video game
  • Cell phone video broadcast mixer software
  • HDRI image eye-tracker
  • Dome Theatre
    -10 Gbps link to Osaka
    -They said they were using about 6.5 Gbits for the live feed
    -Live Broadcast from the roof of a TV Station
    -4k Fisheye lens transfer
    -60 fps, 4x the resolution of HD video!
    -It looked super clear, and it was pretty crazy that it was streaming live
Continued on to see some other cool stuff and recognizable places like SCAD Hong Kong! Also saw folks from Academy of Art in San Francisco which was awesome, and wished them luck with their presentation. Then picked up Rachel and Nick's Siggraph mugs, as they got a free one for reviewing papers for Siggraph. Also got a cool poster and Siggraph T-shirt, too!

After that I headed back to the Lucas booth, where I was able to help out for 3 hours in the afternoon. This was a really fantastic experience, and so fun to hang out with the Singapore folks and meet lots of cool prospective employees and answer questions. It turns out there were a lot of technical questions about programming languages, work hours, work/life balance, visas, etc. When I didn't know how to answer something, I fwd'd people to the powerhouse HR staff. I had heard so much about Heather, Bobby and Emilie and they were such an awesome group of people. It was really a great experience to get to know them better and hang out. Hao came by too, to catch up. That was fantastic, and even Tatsuya came to meet me at the booth too!

After I was done at the booth, I met up with Tatsuya for dinner. We met up with Regina and her colleague Dave from Weta and headed off to dinner. This was amazing and Tatsuya chose a great place for us and ordered for us in Japanese. Again, his help was absolutely invaluable!! We had a great dinner, chatting a lot about the industry, trends, hours, company culture, and that sort of thing. It was amazing. We had a chicken soup hotpot, with chicken and veggies and tofu, and finishing off with udon noodles.

After a great dinner, we said goodbye to Regina and Dave and headed off to the party for the night. It was at a place called "BankART Studio NYK", and was called "Get Yokohammered!" Tatsuya had sorted out our invites to the party, and I was (obviously) insanely excited about the experience. We ran into a German dude who I met at the hostel in Tokyo, and he said "It's not cool, there should have been more free booze for a party called 'get yokohammered'." "Well, fair enough", I said... and as we continued walking to the party we agreed that it was still gonna be totally freakin' awesome to be there, free whatever-or not. :)

And... we were totally right. It was, as expected, freakin' awesome! EVERYONE was at the party. I saw tons of people I'd talked to earlier on in the day at the booth, and lots of other familiar faces from the conference. As I was bustin' a move on the dance floor, I hear a, "Hey, Jutan!" Turns out it's Paul Kanyuk from Pixar who had a presentation the next day. He said he'd recognize "that hair and those dance moves" anywhere. Haha.

We continued bustin' a move to some weird tunes by a techno group called the "Yokohama Residents". They were weird dudes wearing these crazy eyeball costumes, with crazy house/rave music and effects behind them. There was a gong which they eventually painted an eyeball on, and they painted kanji on stage too. Random dancing chicks came on stage at some point too. It got louder and weirder as it went, so we went to get more drinks and ran into the Lucas crew! They are SO nice and said thanks like a bazillion times for my "help and enthusiasm" at the booth. :) It was totally my pleasure to help out, but they were really nice and made me feel suuuuuuppper appreciated. As if this day wasn't awesome enough!!

Then we ran into Tony from Pixar and took off to another bar. Gio from Singapore was a hilarious dude, and ALSO Canadian... man lots of Canadians around! We wandered around downtown a bit, and headed back to the hotel that the Lucas peeps were staying in. We chilled out and had a drink in the hotel bar, and then Tatsuya and I split a cab back. My hotel in Yokohama is not very expensive as far as hotels right near the convention center go (about $80 a night), it was a REALLY comfortable bed and room. I had an amazingly comfortable sleep, and in a non-smoking room this time!

Whew... what a GREAT day. This was definitely some maaaajjor yin/yang, work-hard/play-hard kinda balance. SUGOI!!!!!!!!

Red Bean bun and "Wonda" coffee on the Shinkansen to Yokohama

Arrived at the hotel "front" and there was no one there cause I checked in super early. A very helpful front desk girl came out to help me and carried my (SUPER HEAVY) backpack to the storage. I wanted to help her with it, but she was determined to be very hospitable and carry it for me. Oh, Japan.

Dropped my bags, and off to explore!

Sick buildings on the harbourfront

Arrrgh, mateys!

Loved this building

Hard Rock Cafe

Pacifico Yokohama, where the conference was being held


Welcome Siggraph Attendees... sweeeeeeeet!!

Arrived and someone from Pixar was talking about Production Process for "Up"

This was cool, a social networking toy for kids, kindof like one of those virtual pets. You can "friend" other people, but only when you have close proximity to other people who also have the virtual pet toy. Pretty cool stuff, used RFID for the proximity sensor, and as a "safety feature" so kids can social network safely.

I tried this out, pretty neat. A virtual reality headset combined with physical gameplay elements with realtime graphics overlaid on top.

Real-time HDRI image, adjusts based on where you look, Those two sensors at the bottom tracked your eyeball movements.

This was sick. A "broadcast board" for mixing video from different live sources... all coming wirelessly from cell phone video cameras. This would be a cool future for YouTube, or for concert videos, with everyone filming everything all the time these days!

The video broadcast board dude demonstrating one of the cell phone video cameras

Dome tent entrance for video streaming presentation from Osaka

Lots of sick video cards

Helping out at the Lucas booth with Heather and Bobby from Lucas Singapore!! This was super fun, everyone was awesome, and it was a great time.


Then Hao showed up! It was great to see him halfway around the world.

Exhibition Floor and Job Fair were the same area at Siggraph Asia, but it was definitely bigger than I expected, and incredibly well organized.

Tatsuya and Dave when we went out for dinner

Regina excited to take lots of photos of the tasty food!!

Hahaha I love this photo

Tatsuya teaching us the ways of Japanese cuisine!

Crazy party with a techno group called the "Yokohama Residents"

Crazy effects

I was rockin' out pretty hard and then heard a "Hey, Jutan?!" from behind me. And... it was Paul from Pixar. Then we partied harder. AMAZING!

More weird video action

Haha this was crazy

Then they painted an eyeball onto this gong

More crazy video effects

After ironing a shirt on stage (?!), then this dude started vacuuming stuff, then vacuuming the gong, then vacuuming the sound board (which made for some crazy feedback)

After that we wandered around in downtown Yokohama

We finished off in a hotel bar, these guys still rockin' their Santa costume

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