December 06, 2010
Autodesk University 2010 Report
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Industry News
Autodesk University 2010 Report
By Susan Smith

Typically in recent years, Autodesk University's opening mainstage presentation has not been big on product announcements. In fact, there really were no product announcements at the event held in Las Vegas this past week, mainly promises of technologies to come.


Carl Bass, CEO, Autodesk

This year's event kicked off with CEO Carl Bass introducing some inspiring customer stories, most of which did not have much to do with AEC. Because they really signal the direction that Autodesk is going in terms of innovation and creativity, they are outlined briefly here:

Project H Design designed a “hipporoller” for those in developing countries to help them with their crops, however, the design team was so disconnected from the culture, geography and people of the region they served that the project was a “failure,” according to Emily Pilloton. Project H then targeted Bertie, NC, a rural community where they could develop projects for public education. They wrote and implemented Studio H, and teach design thinking in a shop class setting. Students earn 16 college credits over the course of the year.

Co-founder of Escape Dynamics Dimitri Tseliakhovich has been searching for a way to open space up for large scale exploration. He has designed a plane that is simple, small and cheap enough to be owned by small business or an individual. It is not in existence yet, but Escape Dynamics' vision is sure to get it into space. “Because we've been using inefficient technology to get to space, there is a physical limit on how efficient rockets can become,” said Tseliakhovich.

Because rocket launches depend upon fuel, the whole process by which launches are accomplished must be changed. Fuel is very heavy, “and you have to bring all of it with you for propulsion,” Tseliakhovich explained. With the Escape Dynamics' plane, “We are delivering energy in the form of a microwave beam, and we can then make the launch eagle eco-friendly, cheap and efficient fully externally powered space launch system.”

This system will open unlimited exploration in space, such as asteroid mining, according to Tseliakhovich, adding that asteroids have more platinum elements than have ever been mined in the history of humankind. “It will allow the sustainable, profitable and permanent colonization of space. There has never been a better time in history for a project like this.”

Small teams are now capable of designing things that were only designed by large governments and corporations. Because of digital prototyping, shortcutting hundreds of steps in traditional manufacturing processes, you can deploy your designs and put them into orbit, said Tseliakhovich.

Caltrans speaker Bart Ney showed public transportation projects that employed a new “transportation simulator” developed by Parsons Brinckerhoff, which can show differences between driving conditions, during night and day, and in different weather, for example, and can be applied across mobile platforms. The Transportation Simulator can be used during planning ,design construction, and can also incorporate audio and feedback tools. Anyone can drive it. (It was available for test drive on the Exhibit Floor)

Franz Von Holzhausen, chief designer at Tesla Motors, gave some very good reasons why we need to “go electric” with our automobiles:
  • There is a finite resource of 1, 258, 000,000,000 barrels of proven resources of oil
  • 20,000,000 barrels of oil consumed every day in the US
  • 45 percent of each barrel is used for gasoline.
  • 8,333,333 barrels of oil deliberately spilled in Kuwait War.
  • 4.9 million barrels of oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico as a result of the Deepwater Horizon spill, and much of it is still closed to fishing.

The Tesla Roadster uses a lithium ion battery, and 90 percent of the charging of the battery takes place at home. The charged battery will actually replace a tank of gas.

The energy of one battery will take you 300 miles, and it takes one minute to swap out a battery and one minute to charge a battery. There is no gasoline used and no tailpipe emissions.

The car was designed to be able to withstand the same impacts that the front of the car would suffer in the rear of the car, and will be one of the safest cars on market.

Being able to make a prototype version of the upcoming TRON remake (the first version of the movie came out in 1982) has had some obvious advantages, according CEO of digital domain at Disney, Cliff Plummer. Usually the studio doesn't get to see the movie until six to nine months before it comes out, so they must wait until then to begin planning products around the movie debut. In this case, they could see a prototype far before the movie launch, and could then begin the creation of games and merchandising around the movie and its characters.

CTO and founder of Bespoke Innovations, Scott Summit spoke about the products his company creates for people with special needs. “We've been living in an age of mass production, we accept identical as a way of life - do we own anything that is unique and individual?” he asked. “We are also conditioned to accept a level of mediocrity.” Bespoke creates prosthetic products with the aim that one size fits one instead of one size fits all.

In the design process of the prosthetic, the user becomes an active participant in creating an environment in which individual and unique is the norm.

The modern prosthetic is not that different from aircraft landing gear, said Summit. Using 3D scanning, design and 3D printing, Summit said that you can take a person's body and put it into the design process and thereby turn mass production “on its head.” “The user is the first step in the process, anything that follows is designed for the individual.”

An example is a prosthetic made for Chad, a cancer survivor and soccer player. “We 3D scanned his left leg, his brain may be able to remap the newly created leg to its morphology,” said Summit. “We aren't about making something that is going to fool you into thinking you don't have a artificial leg. People engage him and tell him what a great leg he has.”

The design takes into account the wearer's own personality and his relationship with his motorcycle. “It's kind of hard to tell where the leg starts and motorcycle stops,” said Summit. Different prosthetics can be made for different occasions and uses. Summit describes the prosthetics as offering people a simple way of having the luxury of getting their body shape back, so they can feel the familiar shape of their body they have always known.

Infinite Computing

In his keynote, CTO Autodesk Jeff Kowalski said a toolset change may require a mindset change, and infinite computing, or cloud computing, is both a toolset change and a mindset change. It allows people to do things they may not have been able to contemplate before. Quoting Einstein, he said: “you can't solve a problem using the same mindset that created the problem.”

Infinite computing allows us to work from everywhere, said Kowalski. “We are never out of touch with our data.”

This direction actually became much clearer in a later conversation with Callan Carpenter, VP, global subscription and support, who said the biggest new feature of their subscription program is the new features to products offered by Software-as-a Service (SaaS). “We are augmenting the desktop with point functionality from the cloud,” said Carpenter.

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