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The big five design technologies

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

At this morning’s Autodesk University General Session/Welcome Address Keynote event, one of the first things I heard an attendee say: “I’m one of thousands of architects in San Francisco looking for a job.”

This was followed by Autodesk evangelist Lynn Allen announcing an Elvis clone singing an Elvis song with Autodesk-centric lyrics about a disclaimer that new products discussed are not intended as promises of products to come. No photo-taking was allowed at this event, which was rather unusual.

Then CEO Carl Bass said that he was encouraged by “signs that the economy is getting better.”

He added that in talking to customers around world they say their primary challenge is in trying to stay competitive. Because of the tough economy and more complex projects, customers need to work more efficiently.

Using a timeline, Bass showed how successful technologies move from impossible to impractical, then possible, then to expected and finally to required in a continuum. He pointed out that flying was considered impossible except by those like Leonardo Da Vinci. It’s required in today’s society. Timing of the technology is a critical factor, if it’s too early, it won’t be embraced, people aren’t ready for it; if it’s too late, it misses the boat. He gave the example of the Newton PDA which was ahead of its time, while now it’s almost required that everyone have a mobile phone with a lot of features. In this continuum there is a sweet spot.

Five design capabilities or technologies are currently moving from impractical into the sweet spot, said Bass:

Exploration, analysis, storytelling, collaboration, and access.

The technological development accelerating these technologies is cloud computing – or web based computing, which is “becoming as cheap and reliable as electricity, so we can take greater advantage of computing power,” said Bass. It is a very big platform shift, and he said a shift like this comes along every ten to 20 years – that changes the way we use computers and do design and engineering work.

NaviCAD offers update to Google 3D Warehouse App

Monday, November 30th, 2009

NaviCAD has announced that its application to enable the viewing of  the Google 3D Warehouse on the Apple iPhone has been updated. Those interested can purchase it in the Apple App Store.

Gearing up for AU

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Autodesk University traditionally falls during the week following the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, as it does so this year. It also comes right after Autodesk’s third quarter fiscal financial announcement:

This year’s AU will be held at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas, a change of venue from previous years at the Venetian. Apart from the keynote presentations, Mainstage, exhibits and technical sessions, what looks interesting on the agenda:

Unconference sessions, where session content is created and driven by participants.  What is needed: a room, a projector, and a microphone, and then participants and the session leader do the rest. This year you can pre-register for unconference sessions.View all unconference sessions.

The Design Slam is back for its second year, following the format of Cut&Paste Slam of the previous years. The fast-paced format tests skill, speed, and stage presence, while the audience witnesses the professional designers and Autodesk executives at work on large-scale projected screens, creating original work in rounds of 20 minutes.

Pecha Kucha Night on Wednesday holds the expectation that participants share their ideas in a challenging format: they display 20 images, each for 20 seconds. In those six minutes and 40 seconds, presenters are expected to make a personal connection with their audience. This event has generated interesting results that have shown up in Mainstage presentations in later years.

See you there.

CAD Price Wars

Monday, November 16th, 2009

On November 4, China’s largest CAD software company ZWCAD Software Co. Ltd. announced a 50% markdown on their affiliated products to CNY 2,698. Other perks will be offered to their existing users.

Autodesk recently lowered the price of AutoCAD LT by $300, which is most likely a short term promo. Bentley continues to offer their PowerDraft, the equivalent of LT, at a competitive price in China – it reads DWG and is programmable. Another company offering low-cost CAD software is IMSI/Design’s DoubleCAD XT PRO with their limited time special offer -DoubleCAD XT PRO is now available as a bundle with Corel DESIGNER Technical Suite X4 for only US $695.

IMSI introduced this product earlier this year in the hopes that the faltering economy would be in their favor –  users who didn’t want to pay the price of the next upgrade for AutoCAD would jump ship and try DoubleCAD.

According to Bentley China, ZWCAD has a presence in China, but does  not have a strong presence in the AEC market.

Bentley’s GenerativeComponents – a panel discussion

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

An impromptu panel discussion was held at the end of one architectural track session at the Be Inspired Awards and Symposium a couple of weeks ago. The panel was comprised of Richard Priest, architectural software engineer for Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, winners in the category Innovation in Structural Engineering, Oliver Plunkett, civil and structural engineer director, BDP, finalists and Andy Shaw, architect, head of advanced digital modeling and Paul Hunt, Hopkins Architects Limited.

Huw Roberts, Bentley: Some practices have a specialist team doing GenerativeComponents (GC) – is it better if you can get it absorbed into the practice of the teams?

Response: It’s changing the dynamic for who’s driving the design. You used to get guys out of college who could just draw, now you’re getting them who can actually design to the project. It’s an emerging way of working, it’s generational, with more senior people who have more building experience moving on. It’s giving young practices an opportunity to emerge. I think it’s removed tension. The young are intimately involved and driving options that may seemed not possible. Before they would come in and just draw someone else’s design (in the old days).

You’re using GC to achieve purpose not just a cool shape.

Roberts: How do you think this technology is changing abilities?

Response: Before you had one best guess, now you can fine tune it, within practice, you can’t get away with doing extravagant, must make it rational and efficient, making sure design can work.

Huw Roberts: Clients wanted to explore progressive design – how has technology helped you convince the client that you’re helping minimize their risk?

Response: If you model something in 3D you can’t fudge it. It’s a virtualization of the building process that as designers, we should be doing.

GC forces you to be very precise, the 3D model is your digitai prototype. If your virtual model is working a lot of clients get more confidence that it can be built.

The word “Prototype” makes it sound like it’s more correct, than the word “model.”

Huw Roberts: Are you sharing analytics with client?

Response: Yes, you can prove C-values, shadows, they are easiest to quantify, room temps are more difficult to quantify, etc. They know what they’re getting.

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