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    Autodesk University 2009


    The seven trends Matthews mentioned were: 1) human-centered computer interfaces (allowing computers to adapt to us, rather than the other way around); 2) analog to digital (bringing the real world into the digital design world, such as through laser scanning); 3) "infinite data," "cloud storage," and intelligent search (ways of managing the enormous amount of data collected from the analog world); 4) mathematics- and physics-based reality simulation, allowing visualization, simulation, and analysis of how things look and work in a digital virtual reality (Green Building Studio and Ecotect are examples); 5) cloud computing; 6) digital to analog (bringing digital designs life in the real world, such as through 3D printers); and 7) SaaS (Software As A Service) and related web services.

    Autodesk announced a number of products that address these trends in various ways. One is Project Newport, which helps architects show their designs in context so they can explore design options and create immersive 3D presentations that customers and building owners can participate in. Addressing the fourth trend outlined by Brian Matthews, about digital reality, Project Newport is still in the Autodesk Labs phase and not yet available to the public.

    Another product line is Autodesk Seek, a web service launched in 2008 that allows designers to search for and embed building products — including 3D models, 2D drawings, and performance data — into their designs. The Seek product line relates to three of the seven trends: analog to digital, cloud computing, digital reality, and web-based services.

    Seek is a pipeline, accessible right on the desktop, to get data to a wide audience. Manufacturers can make the information available on their web sites, complete with visualization and simulation capabilities. Seek connects architects and engineers with building product manufacturers by including targeted marketing channels for building product manufacturers that allow them to reach out to commercial and residential design professionals as well as homeowners.

    Autodesk reports that $5 billion to $10 billion a year is spent on marketing by building product manufacturers. And according to Scott Hale, vice president of consulting services for Avatech Solutions, the market for linking architects with building product manufacturers "exploded" in 2009. The advent of Seek is right on target with the need to bring product information into the Revit model and to be able to share it with other decision makers.

    Autodesk Seek is connected to two technology "previews": Project Dragonfly, a home design application that offers intuitive interior design tools for home improvement to rapidly visualize layout and furnishings, and Project Showroom, a free, web-based home decorating service that lets you drag products from your web browser into lifelike room settings.

    Both Project Dragonfly and Project Showroom are set up so homeowners can, through Seek, select products such as dishwashers or other appliances or features that they'd like to have in their homes. Over 1,000 manufacturers were in Seek as of December 2009, including kitchen appliance manufacturer Dacor, which will offer a branded version of Project Showroom on its web site so customers can drag and drop products and create photorealistic room settings to demonstrate how products, lighting, and colors will work. All data comes from Seek and is modeled in 3ds Max, and consists of many cached images.

    Third-Party Products

    This past year has seen a growth of interest in 3D laser scanning of the built environment. Because federal stimulus funding has been earmarked for renovation and retrofits of buildings, more 3D laser scanning is being used as a relatively cost-effective and very accurate way to aggregate data from existing buildings. Vendors of this technology say that the price has come down sufficiently that customers are no longer just large firms, but smaller firms as well. Three-dimensional laser-scanning companies exhibiting at Autodesk University included Leica Geosystems, which demonstrated its Leica CloudWorx 4.0 for AutoCAD, a plugin for using laser scans with AutoCAD.

    Alioscopy is a company that offers customizable templates in a content library for the deployment of 3D content and displays. Alioscopy offers 3D display technology and multiple-view camera systems not dependent on 3D glasses. Autodesk users can use 3ds Max to create CG assets and templates.

    Zebra Imaging presented its holographic images printed on flexible mats. Each hard-copy digital hologram is composed of thousands of high-fidelity rendered still images. Users can manipulate the image to view it from a wide variety of angles. The holographic images are taken from raw data sources such as CAD models, laser scans, and satellite imagery.

    Autodesk University 2009 was held December 1 to 3 at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.

    Susan Smith is the editor of AECCafe, an online news portal for the architecture, engineering, and construction industry, as well as GISCafe and GISWeekly, an online portal and weekly magazine for the geographic information systems industry. She has been writing about architecture and technology for over 15 years and resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico.   More by Susan Smith


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