AU at 14: Agents of Change

January 1, 2007
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In the AU exhibit hall, Leica Geosystems HDS exhibited the new HDS6000 scanner and Leica TruView and Cyclone PUBLISHER software.


The 14th annual Autodesk University (AU) user conference returned to Las Vegas from Nov. 26 to Dec. 1, 2006, and was themed around the concept of “Agents of Change.” The event was hosted at the Venetian Hotel Resort and Casino, and attendance was up 40 percent from 2005 with more than 7,300 people at the show.

On Tuesday morning, November 28, Lynn Allen, technical evangelist for Autodesk, began the keynote session by explaining Autodesk’s theme for AU 2006. She said that attendees couldn’t let the city’s motto that “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” be true of what they learned and gained from the conference. Instead, the goal of AU was that attendees would become “agents of change” and take their new knowledge back to the office by integrating it into more efficient workflows and sharing it with coworkers.

Allen then introduced Carl Bass, former COO and current CEO of Autodesk, by calling him a “techie at heart.” When Bass took the stage, he repeatedly expressed his appreciation for the users of AutoCAD. Describing his company’s focus, Bass said, “Autodesk creates software to help people experience something before it’s built.” He reaffirmed Autodesk’s commitment to increasing both the simplicity and power of its products. He also committed as CEO to continue to understand customers’ challenges, needs and industries. “You challenge us to make our products better and better,” he said. Bass specifically noted that with today’s 64-bit platform, there are no limits to what can be modeled and presented, and he highlighted the growing use of laser scanning technology as evidence of this.

After his initial speech, Bass was joined on the stage by customers who performed live demos of their projects completed using Autodesk products. The first customer to take the stage was GMJ Citymodel of London, England. This firm created an incredibly detailed 3D model of London by combining very high-resolution aerial photography with ground surveys. The GMJ model is used for planning stages of new developments, as well as for environmental and safety studies. GMJ plans to further develop its model by updating it with newer imagery and increasing detail, and is looking into modeling other cities.

Next up was Doug Eberhard, virtual technology officer for Parsons Brinckerhoff, a global multi-service firm that offers planning, engineering, program and construction management, and operations and maintenance. He showed examples of “PB infrastructure supermodels,” which attendees were able to view in stereo by using 3D glasses made available on their seats. Eberhard poked fun at the attendees and how they looked when they all put on their 3D glasses, but he also spoke seriously about the importance and impact of the models his company creates for planned developments and improvements. “It’s cool to be cool,” Eberhard said, “but we need to be precise and accurate.” He listed a few impressive projects that PB has created infrastructure supermodels of, including the Los Angeles airport, the World Trade Center site in New York City, Seattle’s transit system, and developments in Dubai.

Two former military members presented on how Autodesk software has aided military operations such as mission planning with enhanced situational awareness. They showed images of a site in Baghdad where a mission needed to be performed, and described a few of the benefits Autodesk software provided in the planning phase, such as the ability to view bottlenecks and likely ambush spots in the pathway, and also the ability to view lines of sight from a particular location.

Dave Trahan, co-owner of Patriot Mechanical, a heating and air conditioning firm located in northern California, showcased a different application of Autodesk software. He subscribes to the Nextel Mobile Locator Services, a wireless service partnered with Autodesk, that allows him to view the location of each mobile worker on his staff in real-time. “We can squeeze in an extra call and give customers better time estimates,” Trahan said, commenting on the efficiency gained by using this service.

Additional customers in the manufacturing, industrial design, architectural and automotive industries also demonstrated their achievements using different Autodesk products. The final keynote demo was presented by Jon Brouchard, an architect who has created a virtual online studio for his firm, Crescendo Design, at Second Life. Accessible at www.secondlife.com, Second Life is an online environment where people adopt avatars as themselves, and to conclude the presentation, the audience watched a virtual model of Bass visit Brouchard’s virtual design studio. Bass noted before the session concluded that, although the customer work presented on the big screens looked polished, “this work is not out of reach…. You can make your work as creative, innovative and successful as it can be.”

Educational Highlights

The hottest classes suited for surveyors focused on how to better harness and grasp the productivity-enabling features available in Civil 3D, the successor to Land Desktop. Most of these sessions were standing room only--with upwards of 500 people at each session. A number of sessions taught attendees how to use the new survey tools in Civil 3D.

Perhaps the best “take-away” from AU was the handout that accompanied each class. These detailed pamphlets included tips and tricks for a variety of functions in Autodesk products. Filled with practical information and detailed graphics, these handy guides can save the user’s time by reducing the need to thumb through a thick software user manual.

Attendees networked at Autodesk’s Civil Engineering and Geospatial Solutions booth.

Surveyor Specifics

Terry Bennett, PLS, LPF, senior industry manager of engineering and construction infrastructure solutions at Autodesk, said that there were probably 30 percent more land surveyors at AU 2006 than in previous years. He noted that the company has started to “ramp back up with more survey features” in the software offerings.

Bennett said that one of the greatest advantages of Autodesk’s newer products is built-in technology that creates instantaneous feedback to users so errors can be easily found and corrected. He described the intelligent modeling in Civil 3D as “helping to alleviate the pain of QA.” The individual feature lists of Civil 3D support “extra safeguards,” Bennett explained, so if a user makes an adjustment to one object, all components related to that object are automatically updated.

Bennett said that Civil 3D 2007 is a more comprehensive product for surveyors because it “understands the survey network as an entity.” He also noted that the latest release of Map 3D has increased spatial capabilities.

Speaking directly to surveyors, Bennett commented that he believes Autodesk Raster Design is the most overlooked product that can aid them in tasks that they have been doing by hand. This product’s scan capability adds data such as imagery, old plans, deeds of records, etc., to allow surveyors to leverage old information in their new projects. Looking to the future, Bennett urged surveyors to consider themselves as “stewards of infrastructure information.” He believes the value of the surveyor’s work is increasingly valuable because it provides accurate information for many lifecycles, and Autodesk “will create products that allow [surveyors] to be the glue” for these future projects.

The giveaway at the Engineered Efficiency booth was a can of Play-Doh, symbolizing “flexible modeling solutions.”

Showcasing Solutions

Sponsors of AU 2006 included Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, 3Dconnexion, Dell, IBM, Hagerman, Key Equipment Finance, NVIDIA and PNY Technologies, Océ, Oracle, ATI and AUGI. In the exhibit hall, there were a few booths with logos familiar to many surveyors, including Carlson Software, Condex, kubit, Leica Geosystems HDS, Océ, Safe Software, Trimble and Z+F. There was also a range of CAD training and managing providers who were marketing their services for diverse applications of Autodesk software, including Avatech Solutions, Cadapult Software Solutions Inc., Engineered Efficiency and L.A. Cad.

By week’s end, AU offered more than 500 classes, and the chance to visit with more than 100 exhibitors and sponsors. Although attendees were limited by time and schedule constraints, Autodesk recorded more than 200 classes and made them available to attendees after the conference on its website at www.autodesk.com. The networking benefits of the show, or “intelligent schmoozing” as Autodesk refers to it, were made more accessible by AU Connect, a networking service Autodesk developed to encourage peer and sponsor connections. In addition, the conference sponsors hosted breakfast and lunch each day, which allowed for more discussion among the various attendees.

Autodesk University 2007 will be held in Las Vegas Nov. 27-30, 2007.

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