Tech conference, already a gadget heaven, may bring in big bucks

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by Scott Satchfield / Eyewitness News ssatchfield @wwltv.com

wwltv.com

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 4:03 PM

Updated Thursday, Oct 22 at 12:36 PM

NEW ORLEANS - It's an interactive playground where cutting-edge technologies are on full display.

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From virtual reality simulations to robots folding laundry, some of the world's leading tech innovators are unleashing their creations in New Orleans at the 2009 Siggraph Conference.

"Students, academics, educators, researchers, all the way to the far end, which are companies who are selling goods to consumers," said Mk Haley, who helps organize the event.

Siggraph is short for Special Interest Group in Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques.

Conference officials say New Orleans is a perfect fit for the spectacle.

"It's just a great host city for technology reasons, people reasons, accessibility, the services in the convention center and such," Haley said.

With thousands expected to attend, it's another economic boost during a typically slow period. But Marty Altman, who works with Louisiana Immersive Technology Enterprise, a firm that aims to attract digital media and tech businesses to the state, said the impact could reach far beyond this week.

"We want to draw in big companies and big studios. We want to help entrepreneurs start new companies - the one or two guys that have a great idea," Altman said. "We've got incubator programs going on. We've got all kinds of things to try to accelerate all of that."

Perhaps the biggest draw is a new digital media tax incentive in the state modeled after the film tax credit program.

"So that ranges from all the computer graphics work and digital effects work. That includes games. That includes all forms of digital media," Altman said. "It becomes very interesting if you're trying to start something new. That's how we've drawn some of the studios in from places like California."

Siggraph's visit, officials say, could prompt attendees to give Louisiana - especially New Orleans - serious consideration.

"It's very appealing, because a lot of the places where these industries have dominated predominately in the past, have very high cost of business," Haley said.

Altman believes it's a great target audience for his pitch.

"Many folks in this community that attend this conference on a regular basis are in the group of people that don't understand the things that are going on in Louisiana. They don't understand the kinds of incentive programs that we've got. They don't understand the kinds of technologies that we've got," he said. "The potential is really enormous."

Siggraph 2009 runs through Friday at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

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