Having to stay at home while doing this converts the whole experience into something more like a role-playing game where you pretend to be at a conference but actually are just sitting in a room. This was reinforced by the presenters' webcams showing their everyday surroundings in the background. Furthermore, dealing with normal family life myself between talks and presentations rapidly deflated any feelings of being part of a Special Occasion.
Still, I managed to sit through 6-8 hours of fascinating content every day. The conference was scheduled in the PDT time zone (about 10 hours delta for me), but I decided not to shift my sleep rhythm too drastically. I ended up staying up a couple of hours later than usual, passing out before 1 AM. Even so, by Saturday I was feeling exhausted, as if I had been on a transatlantic flight after all. I suppose being tired is a key part of the conference experience. 🙂
When it comes to the research and technological advances presented, I did learn a couple of new things but mostly I learned about all the huge gaping holes in my knowledge. Much of graphics research nowadays is about how to apply machine learning techniques, but I have only a passing familiarity with ML concepts. It's been a while since I've been listening to a presentation and just thinking to myself that, wow, I don't understand the first thing they're explaining here. But this is a good thing! There's always new things to learn and new avenues to explore. It's very useful to understand what kind of problems people are solving with this stuff before learning the techniques themselves.
Overall, the experience held together for me mostly because of my memories of the "real thing", of being there physically. Without that touchstone this would not have been very different from spending a week watching YouTube videos. Still, it has to be noted that a virtual conference is so much easier for a global audience to attend. Traveling is expensive!
If I didn't have a small child to take care of, it would've been interesting to stay at a local hotel for the week, trying to capture some part of traveling abroad. I think that would have made it easier to be immersed in the conference and it would've improved the experience. (Not sure if my wife or my employer would've agreed about that, though.)
The original Gemtext version of this page can be accessed with a Gemini client: gemini://skyjake.fi/gemlog/2021-08_post-siggraph.gmi