AU 2011 was a total mind blowing overload of fun, meetings and intellectual challenges. Add to that a few kilometres walking each day, the dehydrating low humidity of the Vegas atmosphere plus a bit of jetlag made it physically challenging as well (or I’m getting old!). I’m going to summarise my experience per day and then revisit aspects in the detail they deserve as separate posts.
The first real day of Autodesk University 2011 kicked off bright and early with the Welcome Address/General Session Keynote. This is the only formal session attended by everybody and seeing ~8,000 in one room is impressive. Also impressive was the 60 x 8 metre seamless screen which spanned the entire space. The panoramic image below attempts to convey the scale but you’ll need to think “big” while looking at it (or click through to the full image on Flickr)!
General Session Keynote
The keynote set the tone for this AU which, from what I saw at least, heavily featured both cloud, technological innovation (nano to macro) and personal manufacturing as major themes. Jeff Kowalski, Autodesk CTO, detailed his “Five Waves of disruption” which are changing concepts of ownership (to accessing experiences), Business Unusual, Digital Fabrication, Ambient Intelligence (sensors everywhere) & Infinite computing. Coping with this disruption will, it seems, take a combination of The Cloud + The Crowd.
Chris Anderson, Editor-in-Chief, WIRED, spoke and compared his grandfather’s experience inventing, developing, patenting and ultimately surrendering his automatic garden sprinkler product when the old tech manufacturing and marketing engine took control. He contrasted this with his own digital automatic sprinkler based on cheap open source hardware, manufactured without a vast corporate infrastructure and released as an open source system for future improvement. Chris also pointed to examples of Ambient Intelligence in his life where personal sensors monitor weight, exercise and other factors often linked to web services. Perhaps the most important concept was that the physical and biological manufacturing will see the sort of revolution we have seen in IT:
“Atoms are the new bits”
Carl Bass, Autodesk President & CEO, demonstrated the evolution of tools, process and design. He cited examples from the Architecture (Shanghai Tower, the Automotive Industry (Peugeot 404 to 2011 concept) and movie production (Avatar). He emphasised Autodesk’s commitment to the Cloud, both it’s recent “Autodesk Cloud” ecosystem and forthcoming Autodesk 360 cloud based PLM system. Some comments pointed to Autodesk’s present & future: “an owning software model is out-dated”, “Cloud based access to services” and a new philosophy of “Software everywhere” (irrespective of platform). The Las Vegas region gets little rainfall but AU proved to be very cloudy!
There were also some awesome customer/partner presentations ranging from “Moon Express” Lunar Rovers to “Because We Can” who do Revit>CNC Interior fit-out manufacturing and TechShop, the rental factory. More on them in a future post
AU 2011 replaced previous years industry specific keynotes (AEC, Manufacturing & AutoCAD/Media) with a new set of sessions: “Innovation Forums”. They varied in format & approach but explored the conference themes in more detail. Those I attended were popular with the big rooms often filled to standing room only (below) and I can see them becoming a feature of future AUs.
Each deserves it’s own post (coming) but in summary:
The Promise of the Cloud
This was a Q&A discussion with Autodesk clients (from AEC, Manufacturing and Entertainment) on how they are using Autodesk’s current cloud solutions. It was an interesting real world look at the opportunities, potential perils and benefits of cloud implementation.
Everything Changes: The Future of Managing Innovation
I missed the first half of this, due to some meetings, but the portion I saw detailed the problems with “traditional” PLM and introduced Autodesk’s approach to resolve them. Autodesk 360 unites Buzzsaw, Vault with a new platform component “Nexus” to bring PLM to the Autodesk Cloud. It was rather short on detail (Nexus is due Q1 2012 & I couldn’t attend the following days demo session) but looked rather interesting. Although PLM is primarily a manufacturing term Autodesk seem to be building a system applicable to any industry where the life of data extends beyond the design stage.
Creativity 2.0 & the Innovation Cage Grey Matter Smackdown
Creativity 2.0 shared inspiring speakers including Sir Ken Robertson, Architect Mark Foster Gage, Anthropologist Louise Leakey, Production Designer Alex McDowell and alternative technologist Saul Griffith. This was followed by the “Innovation Cage Grey Matter Smackdown” which brought intellectual debate into a fun “idea” cage-fight arena (below). While some of the competitions got heated only neural connections were bruised in these conflicts!
The first was with the AutoCAD Blogger Council and it was also a chance to learn about a project which combined the resources of an Autodesk Reseller, Autodesk and Lenovo to reinvigorate a design practice.
From that I went to an Autodesk Labs Customer Council at lunch in the Venetian’s, perma-sunset, St Marks Square where even at midday it is dusk. It was cool to make real connections with those who were formerly met as text/voices in virtual meetings.
For dinner it was back to, still dusk, St Marks Square to meet some other media/bloggers and a few members of the Autodesk Cloud & AutoCAD WS teams. It was another chance to meet previously virtual friends for real.
That wrapped up Day 1, it seems hectic when written down but was more so in reality. Every trek between sessions was pleasantly interrupted by meeting fellow AU attendees, friends and other distractions which make AU such an overwhelming event. On to Day 2!