Sunday20 August 2017

Building the buzz about Autodesk

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Ted-style talks gave Autodesk University a new excitement

Autodesk University 2011 may have lacked the usual plethora of new software announcements but it made up for it with big ideas.

The conference, which takes place each December in Las Vegas, is usually the best place to preview innovative developments. In 2010 it saw the unveiling of Photofly and the conceptual design tool now sold as Infrastructure Modeler.

This time the focus was on Autodesk’s announcement that it was making much of its software available in the cloud, so licensed users can work on the go, using a mobile device such as an iPad. But while this has undoubtedly taken a lot of behind-the-scenes work, it felt more like a natural progression than an exciting innovation.

It also quickly became clear that Autodesk has demoted the software that once gave it the strongest foothold in the architectural market. While there were a handful of Autocad workshops, the overwhelming focus was on Revit, a shift largely driven by the momentum behind bim adoption.

It’s a logical business move for Autodesk to involve itself in the conversations surrounding bim standards around the globe. Talking to former architect Phil Bernstein, now a Yale professor and vice president of industry strategy at Autodesk, reveals just how chaotic the situation is in the US. No two government agencies appear to have the same approach to standardisation and they are not sharing their knowledge.

“What is really admirable about what’s happened in the UK is the clarity of the objectives and the elegantly designed structure that Paul Morrell has put into place to isolate the key standards problems and get the answers together quickly,” says Bernstein. “What is missing is a lot of messy experimentation. What we have in the States is a lot of messy experimentation under no standards whatsoever.”

Bernstein is one of the Autodesk head honchos tasked with putting together the “innovation forums” that have replaced the dull industry-specific presentations of old.

The forums — a series of Ted-style inspirational talks — are where the real buzz is. The speakers are not largely Autodesk product users but people connected to design, including education theorist Ken Robinson, biological animator Drew Berry and inventor and MacArthur “genius grant” recipient Saul Griffith.

Quite frankly, these talks more than made up for the lack of big announcements. The excitement was tangible. By associating these individuals with its event, Autodesk appears to be saying: “These are the people who can change the world and turn science fiction into reality, now use our software to do the same.” With a bit of luck, the software can handle the challenge.


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