I spent Monday and Tuesday in Las Vegas at Autodesk’s inaugural I3D event and the start of Autodesk University 2013. I thought I’d share some of my observations about the event and Autodesk in general.
Welcome to i3D
In case you haven’t heard of it, i3D was a new one-day event held the day before AU2013. The name stands for Innovation, Innovation, Ideas and was targeted at entrepreneurs, makers, and others who have an idea for a product they want to get out into the world. Roughly 200 people attended (just based on counting chairs in the room).
The keynote was delivered by Beto Lopez from IDEO, who talked about how IDEO helped organizations become more innovative. One thing Beto focused on was the role of empathy in the innovation process, the importance of really understanding how a product would be used and what the user’s desired experience was.
Later in the day I was on a panel discussion with Beto and Kat Ingalls from Autodesk, moderated by Dan Zucker from Autodesk. The topic was “You are not alone” and we discussed how someone with an idea could use online communities to find people to connect with and ideas to help started. Both Kat and Beto had some really interesting insights into how communities are evolving to help entrepreneurs get started.
I also attended sessions on prototyping, manufacturing and other topics, and in each of the sessions I had a chance to talk to attendees. I found people from all walks of life, including a software engineer from Disney, a startup founder writing a mobile app, and (of course) designers and engineers. The feedback from everyone I spoke to was really positive -- folks liked the topics and the speakers.
If you’re an entrepreneur or thinking about working with a hardware startup I’d think about attending i3D next year, especially if you use Autodesk products.
AU2013 - The answer is outside
AU 2013 kicked off Tuesday morning with a keynote from Jeff Kowalski (CTO) and Carl Bass (CEO). The theme of the talk was “The answer is outside” with both men focusing on how organizations can drive greater innovation by looking outside their normal processes.
Jeff talked about ways organizations can be more creative, discussing a variety of new tools and approaches. The high point of the keynote for me was about 10 minutes into Jeff’s talk when he spent several minutes talking about GrabCAD. Go GrabCAD!
Carl spoke next, and the thing you need to know about Carl is that he’s very, very excited about cloud collaboration. Autodesk offers a huge array of products, but Carl focused exclusively on cloud-based services with a “360” on the end (like Fusion360). Since I, too, am very excited about cloud collaboration tools (like our own GrabCAD Workbench) I really enjoyed Carl’s talk. Also, it had a dancing robot with a disco ball.
This was my first AU 2013 and I have to say I was really impressed. First, Autodesk did a really nice job with the event itself - great visuals, well organized, nice venue (the Venetian Hotel). Second, the attendees I spoke to were very enthusiastic about Autodesk and the products they offered.
I also had a chance to learn a bit about the Architecture, Electrical and Constructions (AEC) space, which is one of Autodesk’s largest markets. My degree is in mechanical engineering so I’ve never thought that much about buildings (joke: What’s the difference between mechanical engineers and civil engineers? MechEs build weapons, CivEs build targets). It turns out Building Information Management (BIM) is a hugely complex task. In many ways it’s more complicated than manufacturing, for several reasons: the parties involved are largely independent (architects, contractors, construction), the timeframe is very long (years to build a big building), and the actual assembly happens literally outside, in variable conditions. As a result, there is far more change and uncertainty than in a normal manufacturing process. So there are a lot of companies (including Autodesk) trying to help make the process smoother.
Finally, I was impressed by Autodesk’s commitment to trying stuff. They are clearly aware that the process of design and engineering is changing rapidly and that customers are looking for new types of solutions. So Autodesk is trying things, like cloud tools and consumer iPad apps, that current Revit or AutoCAD customers are probably not asking for today, but that will help Autodesk learn about what customers will ask for tomorrow. That process can occasionally look messy but it seems to be working in helping the company “go outside” and learn about new areas.
If you attended AU and have anything to add, please comment below!