Autodesk are hosting their huge, annual user event at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas this week. As with all such events, things kick off with Keynotes from the executives and a special guest. For AU2008, this meant CEO Carl Bass, CTO (that’s Chief Technical Officer to you, punk) took the stage with Tom Kelley, General Manager of IDEO. Kelley gave a very foreshorten speech based on his book, “the Ten Faces of Innovation”, combined with Bass’ empassioned whistlestop tour through how Autodesk products are being used to enable innovative design, meant that Jeff Kowalski took the stage to show off some of the future technology that the company is working on. Among the many things shown, a few things lept out.
For those Inventor users out there, a chunk of modelling technology was shown that ‘might’ be the future look and feel of Inventor – the video shown was cropped out so you can’t tell what the application was, but it’s pretty clear where this is headed.
What we can see here is a stripped back ui, a feature tree that’s integrated into the modelling window and some telling geometry manipulation. Whether its Direct Editing, Sync Tech, the 3D design world is going ape for the ability to directly manipulate geometry – this shows this working inside an Autodesk product – an intriguing thought.
Here you can see Marking Menu (something that Alias mastered years ago) being used to extend the operations available at the cursor, on the model and ready to go when you need them.
Secondly, Kowalski offering the thought that we should not think about what we can do with the computing technology now available (which he stated is currently being vastly unused due to legacy code issues across the IT industry). This image shows a concept of having a multi-core workstation or perahps across a cloud, running multiple simulation analyses. What’s displayed appears to be a chart showing results from design optimisation runs, displayed as a strength vs. weight chart, with live previews of FEA results.
The last was something I thought was very cool indeed. It showed a very sparse sketching interface, with tools that interpret your inputs to create not only explicit sketch strokes, but also to create smooth splines. That’s impressive alone, but the demo went further to show how that same workflow and data could then be flipped into a 3D environment and the same sketching-style inputs could be used to generate surfaces (we don’t have an image of that just yet). Looks a lot like this:
Final thing isn’t particularly new (SolidWorks did it a while ago), and the idea of online rapid prototype order certainly isn’t, but Autodesk has signed up with Z Corp (who in turn have created the Zprint service in partnership with QuickParts.com) and Stratasys (presumably using its RedEye bureau to enable print and delivery)to offer a direct link between AutoCAD and Rapid Prototyping service providers. Available from a File/Menu pick, the tools convert your 3D AutoCAD data to STL and communicate it with the chosen vendor.
Details are sketchy at the moment, but its due to be delivered with the next Bonus Pack (the goodies provided to Subscription customers). No word yet of whether or not this is going to roll out to Inventor and Revit, but its a smart move, for both Autodesk and the service providers involved.
NOTE: Autodesk went to great lengths to ensure that we all understood that what’s shown here is based on technology in development and maybe not even make it to final products and that attendees shouldn’t base purchasing decisions on the back of what was shown. And you should do the same.
But having watched this, it would be a damn shame if it doesn’t.