Posted January 19, 2000 at 5:26 pm No Comments

Is it a laser light show or the Sheraton of tomorrow?

Last August our research group set up a booth for the “Emerging Technologies” section of the Siggraph 99 conference in Los Angeles.  Our booth was housed in a presentation venue called the “Millennium Motel”.  I suppose that the concept was to present a flashy image of what motels (or really hotels, if you don’t mind losing the alliteration) would look like in the millennium to come.The “motel” had a foyer decorated with an array of shining colored lights and flashing lasers that cut sharply though the dense fog churned out by a nearby machine.  The ceiling was covered with dangling ropes; pull a rope and you would hear a booming bell-like tone.  The whole effect was both futuristic and surreal.
The motel’s central “lounge” was designed with an underwater motif.  The floor was blue shag carpet, strewn with aquamarine beanbag chairs and clear plastic inflatable beach mattresses.  The ceiling was bedecked with gigantic white balloons that gave the appearance of massive bubbles.  Every day of the conference, one or two of the giant balloons would explode, causing hundreds of people to jolt in surprise as an earsplitting pop echoed through the exhibit hall.

Mandy takes a break in the faux swimming pool.

Head-mounted displays have to be wrapped in
enough bubble wrap to suffocate a horse.

Unpacking our booth’s equipment upon our arrival was fun, especially when I wrapped myself from head to toe in the 5-foot wide roll of Saran Wrap the shippers had used to bind our packages together.  Packing up the booth when it was time to leave wasn’t nearly as fun.  We had to disconnect the incredibly powerful audio system we had rented and could no longer listen to the Rockefeller Skank in repeat mode.
One thing did make unpacking fun, however: the conventioneers had detached the giant balloons from the central lounge ceiling.  We grabbed one of the balloons as it bounced around the exhibit floor and decided to break it with body slams.  Unfortunately, this proved more difficult than we had anticipated, as you can see in this video clip.  It’s worth the download.

Albert Lamorisse, eat your heart out.

My tailbone was sore for days after
this balloon-crushing mishap.
I still grimace in pain every time I watch it.

I’d like to thank my friend Steve at MAG Productions for capturing and digitizing this video, as well as for being the only person besides me who’s stupid enough to wrestle balloons on film.

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