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Autodesk Day One: Keynote

The Autodesk keynote is absolutely packed. I’m down the back with the plebs because Autodesk deems that Design Reform is not worthy enough to be granted a spot on the bloggers table. So I’m here bringing you the view of the common people.
 
Upbeat dance music is pumping and about five-thousand people are shuffling into a large, converted warehouse cast in Autodesk-green light. The Autodesk logo is on screen, spinning in three-dimensions like a Microsoft Screensaver from the XP days. The atmosphere feels placid rather than palpable. 
 
And it’s on. 
 
An advertisement from Dell. Generic shots of architects turning a literal napkin sketch into a building. Advertisement from HP. Interviews with real people using HP computers to design some pretty sweet cars. Advertisement from Intel. Lots of hollow catch-phrases like ‘limitless imagination’. I declare HP the winner of the advertisement battle, they were the only ones to keep it real.
 
Now more screensaver. 
 
And it’s really on.
 
It starts with a huge long disclaimer slide. Penn and Teller are kicking things off. Penn declares the disclaimer ‘bullshit’. It’s like he can read my thoughts – well he is a magician. Teller’s head is in a box. I wonder if this is metaphor…
 
Another advertisement, this time for Autodesk. Graphics of cars crashing, buildings coming together, scenes from movies presumably using Autodesk software. The screen warps around and is about 30 metres long showing a main image and a background. Amazing setup. 
 
Autodesk CTO Jeff Kowalski is on stage. “The illiterate of the 21st century are not those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn”. Talking about ‘mindsets’. Today’s world is VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous). What is the right mindset for this kind of environment? Breakthrough innovations do not come from books telling use to do what we have always done. Jeff says we need to look outside ourselves.
 
Outside the tools. ‘Infinite computing’. Jargon for having unlimited computing power via the cloud. ‘Search first, make second’. Look for what is already out there, and then start designing. ‘Reality computing’, scan what exists and the only model the new parts. ‘You no longer need to own our own tools’. Clearly trying to prime the audience for the Autodesk subscription service.
 
Outside the people. Most of the smartest people work for someone else. ‘Global, virtual, exchange’ is Jeff’s term for open-source. The main limitaiton is with our traditional mindsets. 
 
Outside the work. Both as professionals and companies. As a professional you should be doing not only what you need to do, but what you don’t know you need to do. Go to random classes at AU. Companies can do the same by moving into new markets. ‘Reverse mentoring’, young people teaching the old. ‘Reverse innovation’, I don’t understand what this means but somehow GE used it to make a medical device. 
 
Jeff is going to make one final point. "It doesn’t actually matter if you actually achieve an impossible goal, what matters if do something significant while trying to achieve an impossible goal".
 
Carl Bass is up. His favourite activity is visiting his customers. Going to run through a number of people using Autodesk products. Guitar company using Autodesk360 to make custom guitars. Carl brought one of those guitars and now he is playing it on stage. 
 
Aston Martin using Autodesk to design their latest car – Sketchbook Pro, Alias, CNC clay model, hand sculpted to refine, laser scanned, imported back into Alias. Running through all of these projects extremely quickly, not at all focusing on the software, just giving a few stats about how the project improved. 
 
Next company is Porex, who use PLM 360 to make valves. Another company that used Autodesk360 to design a prosthetic leg. ‘Like Facebook for engineers’. Also used the newly announced CAM360, the first cloud based manufacturing software. 
 
Now he is talking about people making Denver International airport using BIM360 Glue, which allows access to project information anytime, anywhere. They are also using BIM360 Field, which allows access data in the field. RECAP to pull the existing building into the project. 
 
Next company is BioLite, a Brooklyn based company that build a wood burning stove that burns as clean as propane. I missed the software that they used, but they made a huge stove 500 times as big as their normal stove. 
 
Bot&Dolly, a company from San Francisco that uses cameras attached to robots to make movies like Gravity and the Box video. Hugely impressive demo real. Now there is a disco ball on a robot with spotlights targeting it while Kanye plays. 
 
And with that, the Autodesk keynote is over. No product announcements, no vision for the future, no indication of where this is all going. All in all, a fun hour but not nessesarily inspiring. 
 
- Daniel Davis of CASE