26 April 2011

Interview with the 2011 SIGGRAPH Technical Papers Chair

Following below is a brief conversation with Hugues Hoppe, SIGGRAPH 2011 Technical Papers Chair from Microsoft Research, who shares his insights, opinions, and thoughts regarding SIGGRAPH 2011 and beyond.

What was your inspiration/motivation for volunteering to be the SIGGRAPH 2011 Technical Papers Chair?

Being the Technical Papers Chair is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to serve the research community and to experience the process from a completely different point of view, so this opportunity would have been difficult to pass up. Serving as chair entails many different responsibilities, but fortunately there is a large organization that provides help in numerous ways.

One of the most rewarding aspects is to try to improve the various stages of the Papers Program (submission, review, and presentation). Although this process has been fine-tuned over many years, one can still try to improve it. This year I worked toward increasing anonymity in the review process (so that it can hopefully become “double-blind” in the future), and worked with Stephen Spencer (SIGGRAPH Publications Director) to provide hyperlinks in PDF documents, as well as to introduce a “Papers fast-forward” document.

While SIGGRAPH has one of the most beautiful printed proceedings of any conference, the future lies in on-line electronic distribution, and we want to make that medium as rich and convenient as possible.

Did any trends surface as you reviewed all the submissions? Any surprises?

There are of course different “hot” topics every year, as our field continues to evolve. In addition to the traditional themes, some of the prominent ones this year include stereo acquisition and display, procedural and interactive geometry layout, and facial animation. Generally, we see a continuing trend towards data-rich approaches, as opposed to purely procedural ones. Personally I was impressed by the quality of real-time techniques in cloth animation and fluid simulation.

In comparison to last year, the acceptance rate was lower? Any reason for this?

I don’t think anyone knows precisely why the acceptance rate varies from year to year --- much like the stock market. There is much continuity in the papers committee members, and there is certainly no target number of accepted papers. Over the past five years, the acceptance rate has been 18%, 24%, 17%, 18%, and 27%. Thus, this year’s rate of 19% lies right in the middle of the long-term distribution.

How is this year’s program similar or different compared to previous years?

The program seems very similar to previous years in having the same balance of fresh/unexpected topics versus refinement of established areas.

What were some of the challenges that your committee faced in reviewing the content?

The review process seemed relatively uneventful this year. (I cannot reveal any of the issues encountered in the committee review discussions.) As usual, we had some Internet difficulties during the mad dash before the submission deadline. The lesson this year was to not advertise the precise time (about two hours before the deadline) at which we switch from uploading files to instead uploading MD5 hashes. Giving away the precise time effectively leads to a “denial-of-service attack” by our own users at that earlier time.

You have had many papers published since 1992, do any of them standout above the rest for particular reasons?

Two impactful papers are “Surface reconstruction from unorganized points” (1992) and “Progressive meshes” (1996). Surface reconstruction was a relatively new topic 20 years ago, and our results were really primitive, especially by today’s standards, so it’s great that SIGGRAPH recognized the potential this might have. The progressive meshes paper was also significant personally, as it was the first work on my own.

What advice would you give to someone who is considering submitting a paper to next year's SIGGRAPH?

Start work early! Really. Current SIGGRAPH papers have an amazing level of polish. That is likely why we see so few single-authored papers. The old timers in graphics recount stories of how they would have a great idea a few days before the submission deadline and quickly write it up; that is unfortunately not very feasible anymore.

If you had to name someone who has had the greatest impact on your professional life, who would that be and why?

Working with my PhD advisor Tony DeRose at the University of Washington was an invaluable experience. Overall, my time in graduate school was hugely productive. I’ve also had many supportive managers at Microsoft Research over the last 17 years.

We saw on your website that you have a preference for Belgium products, what is your connection to Belgium?

Indeed I was born in Belgium, and still speak some French. Although my family moved to the U.S. when I was young, I haven’t lost the taste for Belgian chocolates.

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