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au_logo.jpgAutodesk University 2010 took place in Las Vegas, Nevada from Nov. 29 through Dec. 2. This year’s event attracted 7,000 people to the live event, and 40,000 virtual attendees via the live Internet broadcasts of the content. The event theme, “The Power of the Possible,” placed an emphasis on the ability to turn dreams into reality using the Autodesk product line.


The new reality of the need for the greatest efficiency was woven throughout presentations,with an emphasis on streamlined workflows due to fewer employees as well as the cost savings to be gained from greater efficiency.


Project Galileo

Autodesk’s Project Galileo promises an easy-to-use planning tool for creating 3D city models from civil, geospatial and building data, and 3D models. This new offering will start its life in Autodesk Labs, and will allow users to sketch conceptual infrastructure ideas within the 3D city model. The focus market for Galileo is on communicating plans and projects within context. The users of the product are planners, GIS analysts, project managers, and architects.

Paul McRoberts, senior director of infrastructure modeling product line group gave the audience a preview of Project Galileo, showing the ease of import of a Civil 3D and BIM models and sketching in some new infrastructure for planning purposes. McRoberts emphasized that this new iteration of LandXplorer is an information package, not a graphics package allowing users to visualize data in context.

Of particular interest to the audience was the ability to dynamically interact with the model directly. Manipulating the terrain with immediate feedback that was demonstrated in a pond scenario, where users could see the water retention of a pond and the amount of earth that would have to be removed.

Bass Speaks

Carl Bass outlined the product lifecycle that spans from the impossible, to the impractical, to the possible, and then to the required. He placed this progression in the context of model-based design to state that those early adopters of what’s possible stand to gain the most, and that BIM is now ready to provide its users with a competitive advantage.

Among the announcements at AU was the commitment to the cloud and mobile applications to extend the power and portability of the Autodesk product line.

Bass also spoke about the success of their Open Source experiment with MapGuide and its applicability to other markets that they serve. He commented that the effort has been a success based on the large number of users, but that Open Source was a bit of a “last gasp of the commoditization of desktop software.” He mentioned that the push toward mobile and cloud computing have eclipsed the interest in open source as a means to extend software capability, and that the phenomenon in the geospatial space that made this the right move doesn’t translate well to other markets that Autodesk serves.

Communicating Complex Design

The game-changing impact of model-based designed for large engineering projects took the stage at Autodesk University.


Ron Panneanen from the Washington State DOT spoke about the Alaska Way Viaduct project and the importance of visualization for informed decisions and public outreach.

Seattle’s Alaska Way Viaduct replacement project took a model-based design with a focus on safety, mobility and sustainability. Creating models allowed the team to see into the future, making more informed decisions with multiple stakeholders, visualizing all alternatives while gaining approval and consensus.

The model-based process let the planners select the best possible option, improving internal and external communication. The models that were built on engineering data allowed Washington DOT to design, construct and manage the projects even before they were built. The successful approach is now being replicated in many other projects.

CalTrans is taking a similar model-based approach to their design approach, but they felt there was a barrier to communication because the visualizations look like a canned movie. They have partnered with Parsons Brinkerhoff to take the next step in interaction by harnessing a gaming engine and creating an immersive driving game for the iPad and other devices that allows the public to drive through the design. A driving simulator is on-hand at AU this year to show attendees how they might make their own model-based designs more accessible to the public.

CAD and GIS Integration

An ongoing issue for the infrastructure industry is having an updated view of the infrastructure that we have, including a view of the newer items that we’ve constructed. Making the data integrated between CAD and GIS will help solve the problem that has wide ranging implications. Among the benefits are improved efficiency, decreased cost, better collaboration, fewer errors, reduced re-work and redundancy, greater speed, flexibility, and better designs.

The business reasons alone are compelling, but a justification of the work needed to integrate CAD and GIS often need to be made to management. Frustrations in my discussion group included management that felt GIS was a fad, and in another instance an organization that was in total lock-down of data integration due to security concerns. On the technical side there were common pain points tied to the ability of sharing data across groups, with a lack of infrastructure and an inability to move information along.

Organizations that have made progress on the CAD/GIS divide cited organizational changes such as:

  • both CAD and GIS functions being in the same department with the same overall manager
  • educational sessions to allow for cross-cultural understanding
  • shared challenges with like goals that don’t force colaboration but create a positive energy for a shared solution
  • Clear understanding of the business benefits, where both departments see the dollars and times saved by a more collaborative approach

The session was a refreshing window into an old problem, but with very practical ideas on how to tackle this, and a very supportive environment with some very frank discussion.

The sneak peak at Tron: Legacy was the highlight for many at the event. Cliff Plumer, the chief executive officer of Digital Domain, the digital production studio that helped produce the film, gave an overview of the technological progression from the original film with a 15-minute preview.

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PHOTO CREDIT: All photos were taken by Shaan Hurley of Autodesk, and permission to re-run them here was granted. You can see more of Shaan’s photos of the event via Flickr.

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