Autodesk University 2009 In Review
by Jeff Mottle
Just before the holidays I was invited to Autodesk University (AU) 2009 in Las Vegas. For those who have never been, AU is Autodesk's annual user event which hosts hundred of courses and end user sessions, as well as various industry specific keynotes, where attendees are allowed a glimpse into the future of the industry. This year's event was held at a new location in the Mandalay Bay Hotel from December 1-3, 2009.
I attend many events each year and the economic downturn of 2009 had certainly put a dent into conference attendance across the board. While most conferences I attended saw reductions of 40-60%, AU was down only 30% this year with around 6,000 attendees. AU expanded its reach this year, with the overwhelmingly successful virtual AU program. Over 20,000 attended live sessions over the web from 100 different countries. While many of the in-person sessions were simulcast to AU Virtual attendees, Autodesk also hosted many sessions that could only be accessed by Virtual attendees, including instructor Q&A.
My focus in attending AU has always been to seek out the upcoming trends in the field of architectural visualization. This year I attended a full gamut of courses, keynotes and private sessions, trying to flesh out the underlying messages and strategic direction for Autodesk's AEC initiatives.
Although not every session provided insight, there were a few jewels this year that really got me excited. Every year Autodesk hosts a private NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) session for top customers. I was fortunate to have been able to sit in on this year's session and I have to say there are some exciting things on the horizon for 3ds Max and some very welcome changes.
Of course, being an NDA session most of the information presented cannot be shared publically, but due to an unforeseen turn of events, some of the slides from that session were leaked publically and have since been addressed by Ken Pimental, Director of Visual Communication Solutions at Autodesk, on his blog.
Project Excalibur (XBR) was not expected to be revealed for quite some time, but many in the industry had heard rumblings for a number of years of big changes that would be happening under the hood. Project Excalibur are those changes. XBR will address fundamental improvements in workflow, UI and performance and will likely "occur over three phases". 3ds max 2010 was Phase I of the project, but this is only the start. At the time of writing, it's unclear how much of XBR will be made public during the January 27th webinar, but I invite all interested parties to visit Ken's Blog and register for the 90 minute session. I would consider this a very rare occurrence and an event not likely to happen again in the near future. Based on what I saw at AU, I think it should not be missed!
While at AU I also had a few minutes to sit down with Ken Pimental for a video interview to discuss some of changes that are going on in our industry. In the video below Ken explains Autodesk's stance on the difference between Visual Communication and Visualization, how the landscape is shifting in the visualization industry and what artists and companies in the industry should do to prepare.
CGarchitect Interview with Ken Pimental (Part 1 of 2)
CGarchitect Interview with Ken Pimental (Part 2 of 2)
Each year Carl Bass, President and CEO of Autodesk, speak openly and candidly to the press about the direction Autodesk is taking and the decisions they are making. In this 6 part, 1 hour recording, you can get a sneak peek into some of the probing questions asked by the press in this year's session.
Autodesk University Press Confernce with Carl Bass (PART 1 of 6)
PART 2 of 6
PART 3 of 6
PART 4 of 6
PART 5 of 6
PART 6 of 6
Another fantastic session this year was the Autodesk Labs presentation hosted by Brian P. Matthews, VP of Autodesk Labs. Autodesk Labs is the outlet for Autodesk to push technology concepts and ideas into the public domain for feedback and testing. Brian's presentation focused around what he perceives as the seven technology trends of design.
1. Human Centered Design
Building more intelligent software is the goal of most software companies, but Brian presented some very interesting slides outlining the potential of future user interfaces. Most of you are aware that Autodesk software allows you to send usage information back to them. What you might not know is that when you opt to do this, all of the commands and keystrokes you use within the application are recorded as well. Based on the data they have received from thousands of users, they can predict user behavior. For example, Autodesk is able to determine with 60% probability what your next step will be if you type the Line command in AutoCAD and within 75% probability after you input eight commands. Brian suggested that new UIs might automatically present the user with suggested selections based on what the user is trying to do, removing unnecessary steps and even helping novice users make selections that they might not have known were otherwise available.
2. Analog to Digital
Capturing the real world is an important part of many fields within the architectural arena. Advances in the last few years have made the capture of site and as-built conditions even more affordable and usable. LIDAR scanners allow users to generate massive point clouds and even capture per pixel RGB data. During the mainstage keynote a peek at new AutoCAD tools to surface point cloud data were even revealed.
Technology is also being worked on that allows you to generate accurate and usable point cloud data from video and even a series of photos captured with an iPhone. Autodesk's Object Modeler technology (recently acquired from REALVIZ) might eventually even allow you to create animations from a series of photos.
3. Cloud Data Search
Brian explained the importance of removing silos with how data is stored and translated and mentioned changes being made in Autodesk applications to improve the movement of data. Applications like Autodesk Seek are the first steps towards this end.
4. Cloud Computing
Limitations of current computing technologies mean that we are not likely to see the massive increases in speed on a single chip soon, but adding more processors to the equation scales computational abilities immensely. Autodesk Project Newport currently uses 2000 cores to run its online rendering application.
Speculative computing is also a new concept that is very conducive to cloud computing, as it allows designers to use the computer to find the best design, rather than running pass/fail design analysis on user generated designs. The best window locations and building orientation could be determined by the computer in a fraction of the time that designers could, and likely with better results.
Cloud computing also allows for minute based computing which could lead to less internal hardware resources and more terminal based software solutions. Imagine accessing all of your software remotely and having it perform calculations and operations, magnitudes faster than a local workstation.
5. Digital Reality
Digital reality covers visualization, simulation and analysis. Applications like Eco-tect, real-time rendering with ultra high fidelity are the directions that today's applications are headed.
6. Digital to Analog
The second trend was capturing the real world, but there is also an increasing demand to make digital creations real. 3D printers are coming down in price and will eventually reach the consumer level, allowing anyone to print their own products. Advances in the types of materials that these printers will be able to produce might even one day allow you to print your own shoes!
Overlaying digital information into real world is also revolutionizing how we interact with data. There are already iPhone apps that take GPS and compass data and correlate that with video information. Simply point your iPhone at a building and access all the construction information.
7. SAAS/Web Services/Wed Based Computing
Software as a Service, Web Services and Web Based Computing are all essentially the same thing. The buzz word of the day will change, but the power of massive computing platforms will change how many aspects of our industry operate. A great example is the recent announcement of project Bluestreak in Autodesk Labs. Bluestreak combines social media with design and is a "web-based collaboration environment for accelerating building information modeling through the open exchange of design information and ideas between desktop applications, web-based services and people." Collaborative design and on demand rendering are all coming down the pipe thanks to web based computing.
To my surprise this year's show floor was just as big as ever. I had a chance to stop by a few booths and record a few demos of technologies that I thought would interest the CGarchitect community.
Alioscopy is a glasses-free 3d display solution that employs a lenticular lens on its screens. This gives you a 3d effect as you move around the screen. As a child you might remember those playing cards that you could flip back and forth to see different characters. Alioscopy uses a similar technology for displays. Unfortunately the video does not do the technology justice, but if you are at any industry event this year, be sure to check out their booth. Alioscopy was at SIGGRAPH and AU in 2009.
Alioscopy Demo at Autodesk University 2009 (Glasses Free 3D)
Vertice is a real-time engine for 3ds Max and Revit that allows you to navigate your scene in real-time. The best part of this application is its simplicity and ease of use as well as its tight integration with both applications.
Vertice Real Time Engine Demo at Autodesk University 2009
Zebra Imaging is a new company to the visualization field that as of last year had only been showing private demos in their demo suite. While they were founded in 1996, this year they made their launch to the show floor to showcase some impressive advances in their technology. Zebra Imaging offers an imaging service that produces full color holographic datasets from 3d data.
Zebra Imaging Demo at Autodesk University
Off the show floor Procedural was putting on private demos of the latest release of their procedural CityEngine software. The videos below feaure an interview CGarchitect did with them.
Procedural Demo at Autodesk University 2009 (PART 1 of 5)
PART 2 of 5
PART 3 of 5
PART 4 of 5
PART 5 of 5
Overall this year's Autodesk University was a hopeful and exiting glimpse into the future of our industry. If you have never been to AU before and if you are an Autodesk user, it's really a fantastic event for networking, improving your competitiveness and learning from some of the top experts in the field. Hope to see you at AU 2010!
If you would like to post comments or questions about this review, please visit our forum
You must be logged in to post a comment. Login here.