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Autodesk University Kicks Off with a Dynamic Main Stage Address

Matt Ball on December 2, 2014 - in Event Coverage, Featured, Modeling

This year’s Autodesk University kicked off in Las Vegas for the 22nd time. The more than 10,000 attendees are reportedly made up of 50% new attendees. The program has been revamped this year and there is an expanded exhibit hall with application “neighborhoods,” and a 3D gallery that includes a printed car! There are also five innovation forums on the future of how we make things, as you’ll read below this is rapidly changing.

CTO’s Vision

Jeff Kowalski, Autodesk’s CTO took to the stage first to discuss technology. He started by saying that all of our creations (bridges, buildings, manufactured products, etc.) are all dead. They are inert and can’t sense or collaborate. We’re now moving into a new paradigm where we start to think of design as a living process that takes away from technologies often contrary impacts on nature.

The design change is built on access to information, where we can draw on designs of the past. Autodesk is using machine learning technology to identify relationships between different designs. The computer generates taxonomies, learning the elements and how they relate. Trolling through designs to classify all the components like bolts and gears, and cataloging only those that are unique. This also extends to their context– what they do, how they work.

A gear knows the other parts it works with (axels, bearings, other gears), and the computer is starting to understand what all these items do. The outcome is a tool that supports the way we solve problems naturally. Knowing how these things work, the computer presents design ideas automatically, presenting things to help you address the problems you face. The computer will analyze everything that is as a foundation for what will be – like nature.

Generative design starts with your goals, and presents iterative designs until you get to the design that is right. In the past this process was like watching grass grow, but now harnessing the cloud, we can get the best result in the same time as we took to get the first result. The computer will iterate toward a highly optimized result, essentially expanding human potential.

As an example, Autodesk is working with NASA Ames on a means to lighten elements going to space, computationally growing components like nature does rather than designing based on existing structures.

Getting back to things that are dead, Kowalski spoke to a new order where we move toward sentient things, where objects respond, taking action based on sensory input. Our things will become more dynamic and relevant, evolving as nature evolves. Our things will also collaborate, helping to make our

Kowalski doesn’t like the Internet of Things, because it’s not about the things. The net effect is that these things talk through an interface, but are still dead because they don’t talk to each other. It’s the Internet of Thing! They should be aware of each other and conscious of what’s taking place in the world. When our products realize they are living in a consciousness, what should our devices be aware of and how should they respond.

If our collective goal is to design and create things that are living, we are challenged to design based on experience. This “Community of Things” are designed to actively and purposely work together.

Examples of how we are redesigning our approach include:

  • a fungus that remediates nuclear contaminated areas
  • new alloys that are optimize
  • architecting new materials rather than depending on chemical building blocks

CEO’s Outlook

Carl Bass, president and CEO of Autodesk, was next on stage, speaking to the computer’s role of separating the real world from the digital world to change how things are made. Advances in how we capture the world are central to that evolution, and we’re getting better at how we sample the world. Images are not nearly enough, because we don’t have much information. Capturing in 3D gives us a model to reason about what we are designing.

In the past we’ve been limited to keyboards and mice to tell the computer, but now we can capture in 3D to generate a high-resolution model that we can analyze, modify and then make. The newest tools can capture tens of billions of points. This automation is also scaling to city model creation with InfraWorks, giving the computer the task of compiling the foundational work that we can then build upon.

In the past, we’ve collaborated with episodic events with file sharing and e-mail and SharePoint. That’s a model that doesn’t cut it with today’s collaboration, and that’s where A360 comes in. A360 captures information and provides a central point to collaborate. It’s built into the 360 products today and will be central to all products in the future.

The company is essentially harnessing Github iterative design tools for designers and engineers. It can capture input from anyone anywhere. With infinite computing, rendering is no longer a commodity that needs to be done while we sleep.

The company is also enabling applications such as TinkerCAD that work on iOS, Android, Chromebook or Linux for how we choose to work these days. Collaboration is the foundation here, not a bolt-on that happens later.

3D printing is another innovation that is getting attention to take on the pain points of slow, expensive and unreliable. Autodesk’s SPARK looks to push the limits with partners, and with a $100 million investment fund to spark startups and innovation. The Ember printer integrates hardware and software with OpenEmber with open software, open hardware and open materials (spark.autodesk.com/ember-explorer). The blending of technologies with CNC precision and 3D printing of metals and other materials are leading to exciting innovation.

The digitization of the construction process is another exciting innovation. With BIM360 (Autodesk’s fastest growing product ever) allows you to see performance of teams and to optimize project delivery. A new element to this workflow is Autodesk Layout, a collaboration with Topcon to reference the model in the real world for inspection and assembly.

Carl Bass closed with a hint toward a “Subscribe to Autodesk” one-price plan that gives access to all the tools at one price.


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About Matt Ball

Matt Ball is a former editor and publisher of V1 Media.

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