A few weeks ago I blogged about the design related displays in the Autodesk Gallery at One Market Street - their San Francisco Customer and Technology Showcase. That is just one aspect of the space. The real fun part begins when you get to the technology previews.
Autodesk Labs have a range exhibits showcasing user experiences, possible technologies and input devices that must be seen, touched, felt to be believed. Autodesk Labs Software Engineer John Schmier was our guide backing up functional explanations with some of the challenges, technological and human interaction, being explored in these prototypes. What we have today is pretty good, but the future is going to be amazing!
Multi-touch and design:
First up was Mudbox, a Kiwi made Autodesk acquisition, running on an awesome Perceptive Pixel Multi-touch screen. I would have the paid the excess baggage to get it home but I suspect they'd notice if it went missing! John explained some of the challenges that are faced when you try & do more than just zoom, pan or move objects around as seen in most touch demos.
The screen/software has to interpret gestures used to change settings, edit objects and change views/orientation while the user works. Decoding that mix and generating the intended result demands precision sensing and complex interpretation of the human input. Aside from that, it was also my first real look at Mudbox and how it allows virtual sculpting, with this screen, literally hands on!
This YouTube shows Hans Kellner, Autodesk developer, demonstrating the display with Mudbox.
Augmented Reality - What the?
The Autodesk Labs team have a collection of technology demonstrations which explore various methods of viewing and interacting with virtual models. This goes beyond the touch screen bringing the model, or objects representing it into the real world. I saw the Boom Chameleon at AU 2007 (below) but it was fun to try it again. Moving the screen allows you to see a model "in the round". The Labs have developed that further by getting rid of the boom and using objects with shape markers whose location/orientation is sensed by web-cam. As you manipulate the shape marker your virtual model follows. The possibility of applying this to retail layout design certainly got my attention.
Brian Pene demonstrates Augmented Reality
Mixed reality Interface (MRI) showing interaction with the 3D model of a house created in Autodesk Revit.
Although it's been around a while 3D printing is going from exotic to almost mainstream. Desktop printers are starting to become viable and AutoCAD 2010 has integration with external 3D printing services. I saw a couple of printers and a table full of samples demonstrating many uses. Although often used for form prototyping some techniques are robust enough for functional testing. It's impressive to see printed forms that would be rather difficult to fabricate without this technology!
I also saw, but for some reason didn't photograph, the full size 3D printed motorcycle seen at Autodesk University 2008. In fact The Gallery is like an permanent AU Main-stage that you can participate in. The bike is huge, virtual prototyping made very real!
Autodesk Gallery at One Market Street, the name tells you where to find it and if you're visiting San Francisco it's worth checking out.
For more info and contact details see: www.autodesk.com/thegallery