The POV Dispatch is our Autodesk internal newsletter, published monthly, where we discuss the big ideas that are important to us and our customers. It is published by our Corporate Strategy & Engagement team of which Autodesk Labs is a part. Bill O'Connor is a Corporate Strategist. In a recent issue, Bill and I contributed an article about some work our summer interns completed. I thought I would share it with you.
Movie Review: Design Through Play by Behnaz Bouzanjani, Luke Byun, Marianne Khalil, and Samantha Chiu
Reviewed by Bill O'Connor, Corporate Strategist and Scott Sheppard, Autodesk Labs Program Manager
[Editor's note: Normally the fourth article in the POV Dispatch is a book review. This month, it's a movie review instead. At the Movies was a movie review television program where two film critics shared their opinions of newly released films. Its original hosts were Roger Ebert of The Chicago Sun Times and Roger Ebert of The Chicago Tribune. Bill and Scott are lobbying to be Autodesk's Siskel and Ebert. Make sure you watch the video before you read their reviews. You can click on the image at the top of this article.]
This summer the Office of the CTO (OCTO) had four interns look at the future of design.
- Fatemeh (Behnaz) Farahi Bouzanjani, USC
- Marianne Khalil, Rhode Island School of Design
- Samantha Chiu, Carnegie Mellon University
- Sehee (Luke) Byun, Academy of Art
Thinking outside the box, they envisioned a wearable device that captures brain waves and includes a visor-like display. The interface to interacting with the design process was much like play time or holding a conversation with a friend. The interns produced this short movie plus a 40-page comic book to share their vision.
Perhaps the most positive thing I can say about this film is that I am very much looking forward to the future it depicts. We see an utterly charming 4-year-old girl — played by Sophia Pene, Autodesk employee Brian Pene's daughter — sketching out some design ideas for creating a new creature. She's using what looks like a small white board the size of a personal-sized pizza and magic markers. But wait a minute — what's this? She sees, next to her, a futuristic visor-part old-school wheezing accordion and part curved bundle of tiny sheleighleighees — and puts it on her head.
Next we see the entertaining sequence of her "thinking about a creature" and then she unstraps part of the visor (which presumably contains her idea, now), connects that section of visor to that original white board pizza pie, and her idea pops out — it's a wacky little creature that looks kind of like an unconventionally proportioned mouse. She the tweaks the design, prints it out a few times until it's perfect, and then she nails it, and the creature lives.
So yes, this first-time effort by our OCTO interns is very enjoyable. It communicates a future vision where what we think can quickly be added to what we're working on.
Other positives include:
- The form factors for these new tools are inviting and believable.
- The process depicted looks well-designed — simple and fun.
- The music and whimsical sound effects are good and add to the overall them of the piece.
But on the downside, this alluring future is also one that most innovation and future-focused people have been aware of for some time. So while it's an inviting future, I felt like it was also a future to which I had already received an invitation, a long time ago. Another quibble I had was with the title, which references a connection between the digital and physical worlds, but doesn't mention the third leg of this conceptual stool, which is the "mental" part of the equation. Had the film's creators been more focused on that aspect of the triptych — which is also the least explored, for obvious reasons — I think they might have been able to come up with something a little more surprising, rather than simply giving us a well-executed vision of things most of us expect to happen anyway. So overall, I give this film a thumbs-up even though it didn't take me anywhere I hadn't been before (in my mind's eye, anyway), I very much enjoyed the journey and based on this effort, I expect great things from our Ex-Interns in the future.
Having watched the video, did you realize:
Designers are getting younger.
The design process is applying to younger and younger people. That's why a child was depicted in the video.
Brain waves are readable.
In the future, in addition to capturing the drawing on the table, it will be possible to read brain waves. This is why the child has to put the device on her head to capture her design. The device literally captures her imagination. Using a device was chosen because the interns felt that implanting a computer chip into a child's brain would be unacceptable to parents; however, thought-reading technology would be welcomed into everyone's home.
A viewing screen is necessary to display designs.
Although the device can read brain waves, it cannot transmit the resulting design directly to the brain. Instead the design is displayed on a screen built into the visor portion of the wearable device. Apparently reading brain waves will be acceptable in the future but implanting thoughts will not.
3D Printing happens out of thin air.
A futuristic device will be able to grow a physical representation of a design out of thin air. There will be no need for ABS plastic or other materials. Despite such a futuristic 3D printing process, the printer portion of the device lacks a wireless interface to the thought capturing part of the device. That is why the child removes part of the device from her head and physically connects it to the part already on the table.
Analysis and simulation occur after fabrication.
The original toy design imagined by the child lacked a tail, so it fell over. To restore balance, a tail is grafted from one of the antennas. With all the sophistication of the device, wouldn't an analysis be done as part of generating the design? Wouldn't a simulation have been done prior to the out of thin air 3D printing? Even today Autodesk is working towards "computer aided design" instead of "computer aided documentation of designs."
My guess is that all of this information was not imparted to you with just one viewing, so I give it a thumbs-down. Now go back and watch it a second time with this information in mind. Isn't it much better? Though this movie captured some of their work, it would need to be longer and more fully developed to truly represent the notions that the interns were able to come up with.
Having written their reviews independently, here is the discussion that followed after each had read the other's review.
Bill: Okay, Scott, let's start review this film OCTO-style.
Scott: Let's do this...
Bill: I'll start with the one big positive I could see in this fledgling cinematic effort. The filmmakers created a warm, inviting vision of a future that I wanted to experience. They actually transported me a bit which is one of the great joys of film.
Scott: Well sure, that was a nice future, if you don't mind one riddled with holes!
Scott: Don't dude me, dude. Sure, the overall vibe was nice, but how do they conjure up a future where you can 3D print things out of thin air, but there's no wi-fi?
Bill: Okay, that is a little strange.
Scott: Plus, even today we can do analysis and optimization before we create a prototype, which was not reflected in the film.
Bill: I agree that there were some conceptual holes, but that's not what bothered me about this film.
Scott: So what did?
Bill: It didn't show me anything that I hadn't thought about before.
Scott: So, Buzz Lightyear, you're telling me that you had already thought about everything in the film? What about the tools they showed?
Bill: No, not those tools in specific, but the broad strokes — there was nothing new or different enough to give me that "Wow!" experience that you get from the best science fiction.
Scott: You didn't get even one "Wow! Really? Wow!" I thought some of the thinking was pretty fresh, so even though I spotted those conceptual holes, overall I felt like I got some good insight from the film.
Bill: It's cool that the film was created by 20somethings, and that it featured a 4-year-old protagonist!
Scott: It's always great to get the perspective of people half your age. (No I don't mean the 4-year-old. I mean the interns.)
Bill: That age factor is important to keep in mind. In the global category of "Work Being Done By Interns," I think this piece would stand tall, definitely a winner in that category.
Scott: Overall, I would agree. That youngins like these could put together something so professional in between all their FaceTweeting, Vine-ing, and Instagram-filtering sessions is impressive.
Bill: So that's our review. For this week the balcony is closed.
In conclusion the general consensus is the future is in the eye of the beholder. It was great the get the millennial's take on that future.
Movie critics are alive in the lab.