AU2012 Report - Part 1

What a week at Autodesk University 2012 in Las Vegas. More than 7,000 AU attendees were present for the event, now in its 20th year. Many of those 7,000 gathered Tuesday morning for the main stage, keynote session featuring the following speakers.

  • Jeff Kowalski, Chief Technology Officer, Autodesk: @jeff_kowalski
  • Dezsö Molnár, co-founder of Molnari, Inc., developer of the Gyrocycle.
  • Christine Furstoss, Technical Director for Manufacturing and Materials Technologies at GE.
  • Schuyler St. Leger, young designer, speaker, and maker: @DocProfSky
  • Carl Bass, President and Chief Executive Officer, Autodesk: @carlbass
  • Lynn Allen, Technical Evangelist, Autodesk: @lynn_allen

images of the AU2012 General Session Speakers


Jeff started things off informing the audience that we would be discussing "practical tools that can improve the way that you work not sometime in the future, but right now today". Jeff also talked about how simulation tools have progressed to a point where they are no longer "nice to have, but a must have". Meaning that "today's simulation tools are replacing 'I don't know', with 'Let's find out!'". Jeff said that "Today's breakthroughs are almost always yesterday's crazy ideas" and brought up the phenomenom of "connectivity schizophrenia", or the disconnect we often experience in the workplace when important information sharing is delayed or never occurs. Cloud enabled tools help to solve "connectivity schizophrenia" by providing "a single point of connection, a central coordination place for everything that we need to know and do to complete our projects".

Dezsö's inspiration for his Gyrocycle started with a daytime traffic jam in Los Angeles and a late night escape from it. The mass exodus from the Houston/Galveston area prior to hurricane Rita in 2005 furthered this inspiration. Seven people died as a result of this storm, but roughly 100 died as a direct result of the massive evacuation. Rather than look at this problem from an increased infrastructure point of view, Dezsö wondered how to lessen the footprint of the vehicle and get it off the ground. Seven months after drawing up a design, a working version of his Gyrocycle was flying. He is now using design software to further refine his ideas for continued improvement.

Christine spoke about the overcapacity in many industries, and the need to innovate differently, the "Third Industrial Revolution". With digital manufacturing, "you're building not only the part, but you are building the properties".

Schuyler is a 12 year old who loves to make things. He has access to computing tools at the age of 12 that most of us never dreamed of at that age, and has never known a world without the Internet. A fast broadband connection and the desire to learn can go a long way in today's world. Nobody told Schuyler that he was not supposed to be able to program microcontrollers until the second year of electrical engineering courses, so he learned on his own. The combination of inexpensive software and hardware means fewer limitations for inventors. Schuyler's generation armed with powerful computers, the Internet and personal fabrication tools have shrunk the design+build process in today's world.

Carl Bass took the stage next and echos what many engineers and designers ask often.. "Wouldn't it be cool if...?". He explained how Autodesk Sketchbook allows you to digitally sketch a design almost anywhere on almost any device, and how Autodesk 123D Catch builds a 3D model out of multiple 2D photographs. A new product named FormIt allows you to visualize buildings and surroundings so you can quickly try many options and see how they relate to the requirements. Autodesk Infrastructure Modeler allows you to experience the complete design of a long road for example, before any earth is actually moved. Bass announced cloud based Autodesk Fusion 360 as "the worlds only complete 3D CAD solution that lets you work the way you want to.". Bass says you can use Fusion 360 as much or as little as you want to and only pay for the time you use it. Virtually unlimited computing power used for Fusion 360 also opens up new possibilities for faster and better cloud based rendering also.

Last but not least, Lynn Allen closed out the general session by getting the attendees ready to kick off the week discussing the 800+ classes available along with free product certification testing available during the conference.

Other than the mentions of FormIt and Autodesk Fusion 360, there were no groundbreaking, "what did I just hear?", type of announcements. More from the Carl Bass Q&A coming in part II.


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