Autodesk University 2016 (AU Keynote)

Another Autodesk University is in the bag. Just like most, it started with the AU Keynote.  A difference this year is each day of the conference contained its own keynote, therefore there were three keynotes. Many people I talked to appreciated the frequency. As in a keynote at the same time each day and something to plan for.  The opening keynote was also shorter than past years, another thing many appreciated.

Big kudos for having the same DJ as last year… the girl can really spin the beat! (is that what the kids these days say?). I also liked the band that played (unlike many in attendance). They did play a bit long but I don’t know how you can fault Autodesk for trying something new and shaking it up a bit.



The opening videos from the main sponsors…

  • Microsoft Surface Studio …  I want one! and got to try one in the Exhibit Hall! It is an awesome piece of technology even though I’m not sure exactly what I’d do with it.
  • Lenovo ThinkRevolution... great video but unfortunately I couldn’t find a link to it
  • Have you seen the new HP Workstation (HP Z2 Mini)? I’m reserving judgment until the final pricing is released in December.

The AU keynote is available to watch for yourself here.

Jeff Kowalski

I still remember the feeling I got from my first opening AU Keynote. I left the stadium that day eyes-wide-open. Autodesk was developing awe-inspiring technology and I was  thinking of all the possibilities. Now 6-years later I get the feeling of been-there-done-that… Jeff talks about the cloud, infinite computing, and generative design…. rinse-and-repeat.

Well, he changed it up this year!

Generative Design is here, well almost. Dream Capture is going commercial early 2017. Jeff’s vision has come true!

Jeff’s message is that powerful tools are emerging and converging. Emerging technology will amplify our expressibility. The number one emerging technology is Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning. Machines have gone from playing Tic Tac Toe to mastering Chess to conquering Jeopardy.

With unlimited computing, we have now taught computers to teach themselves. Take for example, Google DeepMind’s Deep Q learned to play Atari Breakout and got the best score ever. It took it one night as it learned in computer time. Now all machines can master Breakout instantly as DeepMind will share its knowledge.

For quite some time already computers and machines have solved left side logical challenges. Now they are moving into creativity and becoming a better creative partner. An example was the machine that studied Rembrandt and then painted a new one.

In probably the line of the keynote… “machines are now more Kirk than Spock.


Infinite Expressibility

Autodesk used generative design in the development of their Toronto office. Generative design generated thousands of floor plans based on the information and parameters fed into the system. This included people’s preferences and a goal to optimize the space.

Virtual Reality. It’s here and Autodesk is ready. VR is available today with Revit and Stingray. Virtual Reality is more than just “seeing.” It goes into the emotional connection.

Robotic systems will become robots + machine learning + generative design. Robots are learning and doing more.

To summarize:

  • are new technologies a threat? No, the real threat are the competitors who adopt the new technology first.
  • the robots are not coming for us, however, they are our super powers. This new technology stretches our creativity and our potential.

African Design Centre

Christian Benimana was next up at the AU Keynote. In my opinion, Christian was the best speaker of the day.

Christian went to school in China. There he learned that China is facing 3-challenges, when it comes to architectural design. He quickly learned are the same in many places in the world. This includes his home of Rwanda and most of Africa. These challenges are:

  1. Environmental
  2. Massive Population
  3. Developing the talent to create contextually appropriate buildings

Population growth and urbanization by 2050 will be 2.5 billion people in Africa. This is equivalent to today’s China and India combined! The infrastructure changes required to accommodate this amount of people is huge. Over 700 million housing units will be needed.


It is important to recognize the environment. Take Africa, which has its own advantages, like fresh air and the view. It can be an inspiration to other countries.

The plan… Locally Fabricated (#LoFab) – Hire Locally | Service Regionally | Train when you can | Uphold dignity (always)


To conquer the issues we’re about to start facing we need to master the process of “good design”. We need to understand the potential of people and equip them with the right tools. We need to improve teachable skills and it needs to be portable and multi-cultural.

Final message… embrace new technology by learning.

FIRST (Anna Nixon)

16-year old Anna Nixon was up next and although it felt really scripted her message really hit home.

As a father of 4 young children, it was very impressive to see what Anna and her peers have accomplished. I know many others who also left with a feeling to get their children more involved in programs like FIRST. We as the parents need to ensure our children are prepared for the future and technology, engineering, and design is a huge part of this.


Anna’s message was that students are the next designers, engineers, and builders. Her generation is the first to have grown up with technology. A generation where they have used tech before they could walk or talk. They are not limited by time or location.

When Anna’s generation hits the workforce they will expect global access relying on experts from anywhere. We need to keep learning interesting. They don’t know how to work alone and will need collaboration. Their voices will be heard!

Anna finished by asking all of us to listen to their ideas and have an open mind. The idea just might not be that crazy.

Carl Bass

The CEO of Autodesk started by talking about how things presented at AU can seem like science fiction. However, many have come true. “The future is about to change

Carl has met with automakers more in the past year than in the 12-years previous. The market is about to dramatically change and it has them scared.

  • With autonomous(self-driving) cars we are getting the “ultimate passenger experience.” They will be smarter and can adapt in milliseconds. We’re no longer building cars but are now building drivers.
  • The next generation won’t own cars. Car sharing will lead to transportation becoming a service.
  • It took 100 years to build the best powertrain, so it is too easy to dismiss electric. “When you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Disruption can be a source of new power and new creativity. It used to be to make better software you put it on a faster system. Now machine learning is about to become the method to develop new and better software.

“Unless your team is collaborating well you can not win.”

Carl promises Autodesk will build great products. “The future of work” with disruptive technology.  However, we need to prepare the students of today who are the workers of tomorrow.

Carl finished that new technology is not a threat. However, we need to be learning to learn. Also, new jobs will be created as we move to AI and machine learning. Just like BIM, which is still fairly new, but there are job titles, roles, certifications, and more wrapped around BIM and the industry.


“Netfabb Doubles-down to Offer Complete Additive Manufacturing Solution”

Not during the keynote but during Tuesday’s activities Autodesk announced enhanced capabilities for Netfabb. The new capabilities include technology from Delcam, Pan Computing, and Project Escher. Netfabb now offers cloud-based simulation, subtractive workflows, and collaborative 3D printing.The new features make it “the most powerful and comprehensive solution for additive manufacturing on the market.


“Not only is Netfabb easy to use, it does much of the heavy lifting in preparing models for 3D printing.” Said Dan Ko, Strategic Initiatives Lead at Shapeways. “Netfabb streamlines the process of fixing common 3D print file problems for additive manufacturing. If we didn’t have Netfabb to automate a large portion of file preparation process, each build would be substantially more time consuming and labor intensive.”

I will admit to not being that familiar with Netfabb so it all seems new to me. The announcement of new features has me intrigued so hopefully I can find some time to try this out soon.