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Home | Seminars and Symposia | Past seminars/symposia: Wednesday, May 1, 2002

DTC Seminar Series

The Reality of Simulated Actors


Alvy Ray Smith
Microsoft's First Graphics Fellow

Wednesday, May 1, 2002
4:30 p.m. Reception
5:00 p.m. Lecture

402 Walter Library

Colleagues have for years claimed that they will replace actors with digital simulations, any day now. Dr. Smith analyzes the problem with everything he knows and comes to perhaps surprising conclusions. The key distinction drawn is that between the appearance of actors and the acting of actors, the avatar idea made large. The tight relationship between animation and acting is drawn. Dr. Smith will present an analysis of just how hard it is to simulate the appearance of actors, and he will make predictions of when. He will tiptoe into theories of consciousness, to analyze acting, but strive to separate religion from science, and wishful thinking from hard prediction.


Dr. Alvy Ray Smith cofounded four centers of computer graphics excellence before joining Microsoft as its first Graphics Fellow: Altamira, Pixar, Lucasfilm, and New York Tech. He received two technical Academy Awards for alpha channel concept and for digital paint systems. Dr. Smith invented, directed, originated, or was otherwise instrumental in the following developments: first full-color paint program, HSV color model, alpha channel and image sprites, Genesis Demo in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, first Academy-Award winning computer-generated short Tin Toy, first computer-generated film Toy Story, Academy-Award winning Disney animation production system CAPS, and the Visible Human Project. Dr. Smith was a star witness in a trial that successfully invalidated five patents that had been plaguing the digital imaging business. He writes and speaks extensively. Dr. Smith served on the Microsoft Art Committee. He has a PhD from Stanford University and honorary doctorate from New Mexico State University. He has recently retired to devote time to the emerging artform of digital photography. See website