Last week, it was all things Autodesk at the 17th annual Autodesk
University (AU). The event gives Autodesk industrial/manufacturing
software users from across the globe an opportunity to learn about the
latest offerings from the company. Yet, this is not simply a “tips and
tricks” or “product showcase” venue for architects, engineers, plant
designers, and so forth. It’s far from that.
First 3D-Printed Jet Engine Autodesk University 2009
The History of AU Fact Sheet
Autodesk CEO Carl Bass
Bass at AU 2009
AMD at AU
AMD at AU part2
AMD at AU part 3
AMD at AU part 3_1
Dell at AU
Nvidia at AU
Nvidia at AU 2009
Last week, it was all things Autodesk at the 17th annual Autodesk University (AU). The event gives Autodesk industrial/manufacturing software users from across the globe an opportunity to learn about the latest offerings from the company. Yet, this is not simply a “tips and tricks” or “product showcase” venue for architects, engineers, plant designers, and so forth. It’s far from that.
At AU, users are informed about the latest industry trends from Autodesk experts, including CEO Carl Bass. They find out how Autodesk software is being used to do some amazing projects worldwide. They discover how the various offerings augment one another. They get a comprehensive view of the various segments of the industry, from 2D and 3D CAD, to digital prototyping, to design visualization, to structural design, and more. Perhaps most important, they have a chance to hear and learn from some of the top instructors as they improve their knowledge and skills. And, over the span of a few days, they can share concepts and ideas with their peers.
This year, AU took place in Las Vegas, at the Mandalay Bay hotel and conference center. Not surprising in this economic climate, attendance was down quite a bit from last year, with approximately 6000 participants at the show. However, for the first time, Autodesk offered virtual participation, and approximately 15,000 users took advantage of this remote capability. Attendees could choose from well over 500 classes and labs, in addition to industry keynotes.
Autodesk CEO Carl Bass kicked off event by sharing the five design-related capabilities he believes are key to solving today’s most challenging design problems, and then showed how customers are employing these capabilities to do things that were thought to be impossible not long ago. Before his address, though, the usual Autodesk disclaimer was delivered, and this time it was done in pure Vegas style as an Elvis impersonator sang the words.
Bass acknowledged that 2009 was indeed a challenging year for vendors and users. In particular, they were faced with many more constraints than every before, having to do more with less, and remain competitive in the process. “The world is changing, and the way we do our work is changing,” said Bass. “One of the best ways to stay competitive is through the use of technology.” Technology, he noted, enables users to make better decisions.
Successful technology moves across a continuum over time: the impossible, the impractical, the possible, and the expected. It is at the “possible” range where users can maximize their competitive advantage and differentiate themselves. “That is where you want to be,” said Bass. “Time is the critical factor. If it is too early, the technology can be impractical; too late and you miss the boat. You need to time it just right.”
Bass used CAD as an example of technology that moves along this continuum. Up until the 1960s, computer-aided design was impossible. Then it was just impractical. In the early 1980s, it became practical for many companies to use, thanks to the release of AutoCAD. When CAD became expected in all offices, the focus moved to 3D CAD. Now, CAD is required and is taught in all the schools. It has also spawned new technologies based and built upon the basic 3D model, such as BIM.
Bass then highlighted four companies that found that “sweet spot” at the right time, which enabled them to be more innovative, more profitable, and more successful: Green Ocean Energy, which used digital prototyping to find the optimal design for harnessing energy from the ocean; BlueMap, which used BIM info for sustainable building designs; Intel, which uses prototyping to refurbish its fabs without impacting production; and Lightstorm, which uses digital technology, including MotionBuilder, to change moviemaking, as it did with the upcoming Avatar feature film.
Five areas that Bass identified as moving from impractical to sweet spots are: exploration, collaboration, access, storytelling, and analysis. And what is driving the momentum is Web-based computing, or so-called cloud computing. Bass identified the concept of cloud computing last year, but since then, its usage has taken off. People now have access to their data anywhere, at anytime, with cloud computing—that in addition to the extra compute power that it provides. “It will change the way we work,” he said.
Sustainable energy pioneer Amory Lovins, who is co-founder and chief scientist at the Rocky Mountain Institute, joined Bass on stage, discussing a concept known as whole system design. He noted that we need to improve building designs to make them efficient—to the point where a house, for instance, leaves zero environmental impact and the efficiency actually pays for the house in just several years. “Conventionally, the more you save [in energy], the more it costs to do so,” he said. But, eventually you do reach a point in the design where you are maximizing the energy savings and reducing the costs. Most contractors stop when they reach a point along the curve where the homeowner can live with the price of the efficiency. But there is a cost. If they continue working at the design, they can invert the numbers, where efficiency is maximized but the cost is greatly reduced, not increased. This holds true in manufacturing and other areas.
Autodesk CTO Jeff Kowalski followed on stage, discussing the growing trend of augmented reality—adding digital information to real-world information. Once used mainly for research purposes, augmented reality is now becoming practical, particularly with mobile applications, the Web, and smart phones. For example, people can use those technologies to see virtual pipes appear on their phone as they survey a street corner, for a look underground. To this end, Autodesk Labs is working to bring concepts like these to users.
Autodesk Labs counts various projects, such as Seek (which virtually connects users and manufacturers) and Project Twitch (a Sketchbook mobile application that lets users design, or sketch, on their mobile device through an app), as apps it has explored recently.
Helping to move innovation along, Kowalski says, is the newfound ability to analyze quickly. With today’s technology, a user can optimize a design faster than ever, and in turn, it allows them to be more creative. His parting advice: “The continuum is always moving. If you stand still, you will fall behind.” He asked the audience to consider where they are on the continuum, and if they are prepared for what is coming next.
AutoCAD/Media and Entertainment
While Bass’ address was informative, it paled in comparison to the AutoCAD/Media and Entertainment keynote, delivered by senior vice presidents Amar Hanspal and Marc Petit. They discussed how the techniques and technologies used in Hollywood are helpful in industrial applications. They introduced Marriott as an entity capitalizing on this cross usage of technology. Marriott streamlined the hotel’s designs and construction process using complex visualization to communicate its design strategy to all its hotel franchises.
Of course, the highlight of the entire event came next, when Petit offered a sneak peek at some of the latest visualization techniques to date: those used to produce the feature film Avatar. The process used to create the movie was cutting-edge; the results were far beyond amazing.
In all, the trip back to school, to Autodesk University, was not only educational, but also fun.