Ubisoft Montréal had the opportunity to host i3D, the leading conference for real time 3D computer graphics, this week. It was the first time in its 32-year history that this world-renowned conference came to Canada.
Daniel Holden, a Ubisoft Montréal animation programmer with a PhD in computer science from the University of Edinburgh, was one of the keynote speakers who presented to the 200 experts that visited us from around the world.
Holden’s presentation focused on machine learning and Ubisoft La Forge’s R&D initiatives. Earlier this week, he shared some of his thoughts on the conference coming to Canada, his participation as a keynote speaker, as well as his work at Ubisoft La Forge.
Hi Daniel! This is the first time i3D has come to Canada. What do you think it means for Ubisoft Montréal that it was selected to host?
Daniel Holden: I think it is fantastic that i3D is being hosted at Ubisoft this year. It isn’t always the case that game development companies are good at engaging with the academic community, and I think it is great for Ubisoft to build up these connections and make the relationship between academia and industry more of a partnership than a server-client relationship.
Academics don’t always know which practical problems need solving in the industry and people in the industry don’t always have the time to keep up to date with all the new ideas or techniques that might help them. Sometimes all it takes is a casual 15-minute conversation for magic to happen – which I hope is exactly what hosting i3D will bring.
How does is it feel to be a keynote speaker at the conference?
D.H.: I was really flattered to be asked to be a keynote speaker this year, in particular as one of the other keynote speakers is Turner Whitted who is famous for inventing recursive ray tracing in 1979.
I can’t compete with that, but I hope that when I show some of the projects we’ve been working on at Ubisoft La Forge, people will start to get excited about the prospect of doing R&D in the context of game development because they will see all these interesting research projects, almost all of which have been carried through all the way to industrialization.
Can you tell us more about your presentation?
D.H.: My presentation is primarily about all the different machine learning projects we’ve been doing at Ubisoft La Forge.
One thing I am well aware of is how much deep learning and neural networks have been hyped in the media, so what I really want to try to present is something of a new and more practical perspective on how machine learning can be used in games – something I hope will resonate with developers.
I also want to show just how fun it can be doing research for game development and all the different, unique challenges and applications there are.
Where do you think i3D stands among other conferences in the industry?
D.H.: i3D is probably the top conference specifically targeting interactive graphics – which means it generally has lots of research into rendering techniques applicable in games. As usual, I’m looking forward to getting my mind blown by all of the creative ways people are hacking the rendering pipeline – in particular, I am excited to see papers on using machine learning inside the rendering pipeline.
You came to Ubisoft Montréal from London. What brought you to our studio?
D.H.: I’ve always wanted to work in game development, but it was really Ubisoft La Forge that brought me to Ubisoft Montréal. I feel that with all the recent advancements in machine learning, it is exactly the right place and the right time to be working on R&D in games – and I joined Ubisoft La Forge because I wanted to be part of that as early as possible.
So far, working at La Forge has been exactly what I hoped for, and I feel I’ve already had a chance to make an impact on things at Ubisoft, which is incredible. I’ve also really enjoyed my first year in Canada and Quebec as a whole. I felt very welcomed from the day I arrived and have been enjoying my time here a lot – snow storms included!
For more information: