The 2018 edition of the SuperComputing conference was a special one: it was the 30th anniversary of the event. Because of this we created a tongue-in-cheek interactive VR demonstration that was hosted on the SURF booth, instead of the usual scientifically focused demos.

The real IAMSTERDAM sign

The inspiration for the demonstration was the IAMSTERDAM sign at the Museumplein in Amsterdam, where large numbers of tourists would take photographs of themselves in front of (or even on top of) the sign. We figured having a virtual IAMSUPERCOMPUTING sign at SC18 might draw a crowd as well. Note that the actual IAMSTERDAM sign was removed unexpectedly from the Museumplein, just a few weeks after SC18 ended.

For the demonstration we created a bare-bones 3D model of the Museumplein based on our own modeling efforts and using a few publicly available 3D models of buildings around the area. Instead of the IAMSTERDAM sign we placed an IAMSUPERCOMPUTING sign (having to curve it upwards at the end because of the buildings in the area, but this also nicely fits the usual exponential trends seen in compute performance).

To enable a visitor of the booth to place themselves in the VR world the first step was to take a photo of the visitor in front of a greenscreen background. From this we could automatically derive a 3D “cardboard” version of the person. This 3D model could then be placed interactively by the visitor themselves at whatever location they desired. Visitors could also add a short text message and place a few extra objects (again, 3D cardboards based on images) to make it more personal.

A flythrough of the final VR world at the end of SC18 is shown in the movie below. All in all, we had around two dozen contributions (can you spot them all?). Note that we masked out people’s faces for obvious privacy reasons. Except for one person: our group’s Casper van Leeuwen, who did most of the work in realizing the demonstration.