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Autodesk University 2012 | The Future of Design

Autdoesk Fusion 360While gearing up for Autodesk University 2012, I had developed a sense of what many professional engineers and designers were concerned about. Our Investments. You know what I mean, our engineering software investment.

Some would say we purchased software, but I counter that those that have purchased the same software from the same company for decades, have invested in that company. We’ve invested in Autodesk.

I’ve listed some of the factors that have peaked the concern of many:

  • Consumer market
  • Increased democratization
  • The Damn Cloud
  • Sticking social media in everything
  • Fusion???
  • And what about the software I already use?

You could wrap these up with a nice bow labeled “Autodesk’s weird activities and purchases”.

Lack of Understanding

This topic is better known as non-cohesive marketing.

Every bit of data that comes out of a software developer has had marketing’s fingerprints on it. It’s not a bad thing, it simply means that the company shapes the data in a manner that is more understandable for a particular audience… while perhaps diminishing any unattractive details. We do the same thing when negotiating sales or reflecting on the reasons our speed was so high when stopped by the  police officer.

The biggest problem this year has been that the items listed above and the huge consumer market push were not well connected to the professionals, which is a marketing misstep in my opinion. This left the professional community feeling that Autodesk had gone off their rocker, and were not concerned with ‘real engineers’ any longer (It wasn’t just one odd purchase after all).

I heard the ‘reasons’, but they just don’t fit with me, nor most of the professionals I know.

So what gives?

A Better Perspective

As years scream by me, I am less won over by marketing slogans and hoopla. During this trip to AU however, we saw a good amount of productivity added to tools like Infrastructure modeler as well as new tools like Formit and the awesome Fusion 360 + Simulus. I have placed a lot of hope into PLM 360 and after hearing about its architecture that is being sewed into everything, I’m quite elated. Much much more on these topics to come.

Autodesk Formit    Autodesk Fusion 360 T-Splines

Autodesk Forward Looking Strategies

We all know what the real mission of the consumer market push was, long before AU: Inundate the next generation of purchasing power with the household name of Autodesk. Pure and simple. When you boil it down, we all need money, and those young people will be the ones with it. The trick is to keep them from becoming a bunch of decision making morons.

Which is exactly the point that Carl Bass wanted to impress on everyone this year.

Carl Bass and Schuyler St. Leger at Autodesk University From the time I was 8 years old, I have been making tools and components to do anything that I needed. That’s just what you did. Our abilities were limited to the tools and resources at any particular location. Today however, tools are available to young people that were incomprehensible during my youth, or even at the college level past.

ALL OF US would have been using those tools if they were available, and ALL of us would have been miles ahead when we hit the professional marketplace. Anyone who says otherwise is full of it. (Think back to your first computer. WE were the first consumer market coders, using TRS-80’s and storing data on tape decks. Remember that? I was 12 years old.)

On the main stage, Schuyler St. Leger, an incredible 12 year old boy, introduces Carl Bass after demonstrating all the mechanical and electrical design he has not only thought of, but built. How?

Incredible imagination and Incredible tools

“It’s not a question of being in a good school district, but having a broadband connection.” Schuyler St. Leger

Some Cool Stuff Coming

You are going to see some really cool stuff coming this year. Scott and I will be discussing things we learned from the product people at Autodesk, as well as ideas we picked up at AU. I for one have some good news that connects directly with one of the biggest tangible concerns that engineers have today about Fusion and the new products… and I’ll spill that when I write the next article on Fusion 360.

“There’s a shift coming in global manufacturing and I want you to be aware of it, think about it, and understand how it can impact you.” Christine Furstoss, Technical Director for Manufacturing and Materials Technologies, GE

So while Autodesk is after a profitable future, you cannot argue that if we had these capabilities at our youth, that our imaginations would not have been quite so foreshortened. I believe that Carl Bass truly believes in his company and the path that they are on; Inspiring the new thinkers of our day, and providing them with intentionally evolving, powerful tools, to use their imaginations to create a future beyond the limits of our engineering practices.

“I’d like to leave you with one final thought. Jeff [Jeff Kowalski, CTO, Autodesk] talked to you about the power and the limits of tools. And as toolmakers, we see it as our job – in fact we see it as our obligation and promise to you – to develop tools that allow you to maximize your creativity, your imagination and your skills.” Carl Bass, CEO, Autodesk

  • I am still not too hip on some of the consumer initiatives.
  • I did not like the limitations I felt in Fusion, nor do I like being told it’s the future in the same breath as being told it’s not a production tool.
  • I am not believing that everything Autodesk is cooking with is a good idea.

I think that I have to accept that Autodesk is empowering a new group of thinkers (and engineers) none the less. I hope that Autodesk continues to keep the current users empowered, while empowering the next generation. I feel good about the emerging technology and new thinkers, just not the weird music they are bringing with them.

Fast Disclaimer: nothing herein shall be construed to indicate the Design & Motion has any idea what Autodesk was thinking with the multi-million dollar, social media camera phone app purchase. I don’t think anyone can explain that one.

Keep checking in with us; we have some good stuff coming at you.

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