For all of those people who have emailed Autodesk Labs at email@example.com about viewing design data on an iPad or mobile device, check this out:
Thank you. Please keep the feedback rolling in.
For all of those people who have emailed Autodesk Labs at firstname.lastname@example.org about viewing design data on an iPad or mobile device, check this out:
Thank you. Please keep the feedback rolling in.
The Project Krypton Technology Preview provided early stage design advice to plastic part designers. Seamlessly integrated into the Autodesk Inventor, Autodesk Inventor LT, SolidWorks, and Pro/ENGINEER environments, this add-on provided real-time feedback on a plastic part's manufacturability, cost efficiency, and the environmental impact of the selected material. The executable stopped operating on April 21, and the technology preview has ended.
Thanks to all those who provided feedback.
Moving on to the next preview is alive in the lab.
Continuing our theme of plugins for design applications other than AutoCAD, this month’s plugin is once again for Revit.
This plugin can be used to view American Society of Heating Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Table Data and accompanying images explaining the data. Revit MEP utilizes the ASHRAE Duct Fitting Database to lookup coefficients for determining pressure losses through duct fittings. This add-in provides a way to view the illustrations and the data table of available duct fittings from the database. Specifically the ASHRAE Viewer add-in provides the following functionality:
The plugin was developed by Martin Schmid of Autodesk's AEC Industry Success team. In addition to the standard read me, he even included a user manual that formed the basis of this blog article. Thanks Martin. So give this one a try and let us know what you think at email@example.com.
Showing you how to extend the value of our design applications is alive in the lab.
The Project Showroom technology preview has ended.
Thanks to everyone who provided feedback on what it would be like to see photorealistic computer generated images to build confidence before making a purchasing decision.
Thanks to the appliance manufacturers who helped us build the experience. Here are some images from the simulated shopping experience.
Though the Project Showroom technology preview has ended, our work related to rendering is not done. Now instead of using manufacturer data to see rendered images, you can use your own with:
Rendering evolution is alive in the lab.
Having grown tired of the TypePad spelling checker which:
I decided to try Windows Live Writer 2011. Setting up Live Writer to connect to TypePad was as easy as supplying my blog URL, TypePad user name, and TypePad password. I was able to create a post, spell check it, and publish it to my blog. It showed up immediately. That went so swimmingly, that I tried to write a post today that I wanted to show up tomorrow morning at 4:00 AM Pacific time – my normal posting time. I use this time so United States east cost readers have a blog posting for their morning even though I don’t wake up until an hour later. Alas when I try to publish something from Live Writer that won’t appear on my blog until the future, it publishes immediately if I do not include a blog category (such as Moldflow Scandium). If I do include a category, I get:
I looked on the TypePad forums but found nothing. So I searched the web for “live writer scheduled” and found:
This thread is dated December 2010 but it looks like nothing has changed. My plan is to create in Live Writer, upload to TypePad as a draft, and then schedule for blog publication. That is an improvement but not as perfect as it could be. I have opened up a Trouble Ticket with TypePad.
Disappointment is alive in the lab.
You can use the Feature Recognition application to convert neutral 3D CAD models, such as STEP, SAT, or IGES solids, into full-featured Autodesk Inventor models. The feature mapping can be executed automatically or interactively as needed to maintain design intent. The most recent update was an installer update that allows for installation with the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Autodesk Inventor 2012 software.
Our most frequent form of feedback are examples of where the mapping worked terrifically or miserably. We're also interested in enhancements you can suggest. So please keep the feedback coming into firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keeping things current (so the feedback continues to flow) is alive in the lab.
As someone who manages projects for Autodesk, when I send out meeting minutes, I use a format that includes the following sections.
I have been doing it this way for years. Old dogs can't really learn new tricks. Actually maybe I should not say that because years ago, rather than just put the date, I decided to put the date along with a fun fact about something that happened on that day.
March 25 - On this day in 1668: The first horse race in America took place.
I use the SiteScope site to get a list of events that happened on a particular day.
I pick an event that I feel would be of interest to the recipients of the minutes. Not too long ago I started adding a "quote of the day" to go with the minutes. I get the quotes from:
Here are some examples of what I have used:
Our CEO, Carl Bass, graduated from Cornell.
My hope is that by spending 2 minutes to add a little interest to my meeting minutes, people will actually read them. Come for the tid bits, stay for the action items.
Stenography is alive in the lab.
After a global employee webcast with inspirational words from CEO, Carl Bass, I attended an employee gathering where Autodesk Fellow, Tom Wujec, handed out copies of a new book that tells the Autodesk story: IMAGINE DESIGN CREATE. With sections like:
I can't wait to read it. The book answers questions like:
A hardcover version of the book will be available from Amazon.com soon. Many of the designs from our One Market Gallery exhibits are featured in the book!
Pulling out our old library card is alive in the lab.
For our technology previews, I normally set up an email address and a discussion forum. Though feedback through the email address seems to be more popular, feedback through the forum allows everyone to see both the question and the answer.
|2D to 3D Tool for Inventor||labs.iv.2dto3d
|3D Annotation for Inventor||labs.iv.3da
|3D/2D ShareNow Add-in for AutoCAD, Inventor, Revit, and Design Review||labs.freewheel
|BIM Family Toolkit||labs.iv.bim
|Bridge Modeler for AutoCAD Civil 3D||labs.civil3d.bridge
|CommunityCommands for AutoCAD||labs.acad.commcmd
|Daylight Analysis Tool for Housing in China||labs.revit.sustainability
|Factory Layout Optimization for AutoCAD||labs.acad.optimization
|Feature Recognition for Inventor||labs.iv.feature.recog
|Google Earth Extension for AutoCAD||labs.acad.google
|Inventor Fusion Technology Preview||labs.iv.fusion
|Mesh Enabler for Inventor||labs.iv.mesh
|Panel Gap for Alias Automotive and Alias Surface||labs.alias.panelgap
|Performance Monitor for AutoCAD||labs.acad.perfmon
|Photo Scene Editor for Project Photofly||labs.photofly
|Plugin of the Month||labs.plugins
|Point Cloud Feature Extraction for AutoCAD Civil 3D||labs.acad.shape
|Point Cloud Tool for 3ds Max/3ds Max Design||labs.3dsmax.pointcloud
|Project Scandium Technology Preview for Moldflow Insight||labs.moldflow.scandium
|Project Snap for AutoCAD||labs.snap
|Project Twitch Application Trials||labs.trials
|Rhino Import Translator Add-in for Inventor||labs.iv.trans
|Shape Extraction for AutoCAD||labs.acad.shape
|STL Exporter for Revit Platform||labs.revit.stl
|Subassembly Composer for AutoCAD Civil 3D||labs.civil3d.subassembly
Though the forum is preferred, some users who use the new Internet Explorer 9 browser to post to the forums are getting blank posts. The web team is looking into it. Until a solution is in place, users can always fall back on email.
Repair work is alive in the lab.
Yesterday I blogged about Autodesk's participation in the FIRST robotics competition at UC Davis. When I was growing up, radio personality, Paul Harvey, had a segment called "the rest of the story." In that tradition, Autodesk Events Manager, Christie Hoyle, shared some information with me so I could tell the rest of the story.
Although the actual robot competition is the culmination of a team's efforts, a lot of activity goes on beforehand. Teams need to develop marketing campaigns to attract sponsors so there can actually be a team. Towards this end, Christie volunteered her time to assist the local FIRST Robotics team, Marin Robotics “Team Recycle-It”, with their marketing efforts. Chief Education Office, Joe Astroth, was a mentor for the team. CEO, Carl Bass, provided Autodesk Inventor training for the 14 students.
The Marin Robotics team (about) is comprised of students who attend local high schools including Redwood, Tamalpais, and Sir Francis Drake. In 2008, they were awarded the Rookie All-Star award for their recycling program which encouraged all participants to recycle paper, plastic, and e-waste during the competition. Last year, they were awarded the Delphi Driving Tomorrow’s Technology Award for demonstrating a solar powered prototype FIRST Robot which inspired other teams to use technology to invent new sources of renewable energy. This year the team sold e-watt saving LED light bulbs.
After hearing details about their history, fundraising efforts, e-recycling program and knowledge of Autodesk products, Christie began thinking about the opportunity for Autodesk to get involved. With her help, Autodesk hosted a Marin Robotics: Team Recycle-It Open House Kickoff in the Autodesk San Rafael office atrium. On February 22, the students and mentors in attendance raised record breaking fundraising dollars. This event also allowed employees the opportunity to ask the students questions about: the FIRST program, their design, the creative process to build their robot, and knowledge of Autodesk software.
When one takes a test to get one's pilot's license, one of the questions is "What makes a plane fly?" There are two correct answers: "Money" and "Lift." So "What makes a robot hang inflatables on a grid?" "Money" and "Engineering."
Volunteerism is alive in the lab.
My wife, some friends, and I attended the final rounds for the regional competition of the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) robotics competition at UC Davis. Autodesk has been following FIRST since we became a sponsor and even has exhibited a robot from Gunn High School (Palo Alto, CA) in our One Market Gallery.
Whereas the Gunn High School robot's assignment (from a competition years ago) was to stack more boxes than its opponent, this year's competition was called LOGO MOTION™. Robots created by high school teams were grouped into two alliances - the red alliance and the blue alliance - each consisting of 3 robots. The robots worked together to outdo the other alliance.
||Each robot tried to hang as many inflated plastic shapes (triangles, circles, squares) in 2 minutes and 15 seconds. The higher the teams hung their pieces on their scoring poles (3 sets of rungs), the more points they earned for their alliance.|
An interesting kicker to all this is that during the first 15 seconds of each match, the robots were autonomous in that they operated by themselves. It was quite common to see a robot pick up a game piece and hang it on the highest rung all on its own. After that, the robots were operated remotely by human operators.
|Extra points were awarded if pieces were hung to form the FIRST logo.||
During the final seconds of each match, the main robots would deploy a "mini-bot" on to vertical poles. The first minibot to race to the top earned extra points for the alliance.
The alliance with the higher score won the match - best 2 out of 3 matches allowed an alliance to advance to the next round. It was very much like a sporting event with sections of the crowd dressed in team colors with organized cheering included. Robots were prepared for battle in a pit area:
In addition to being a sponsor, Autodesk awarded a special prize for design excellence.
Autodesk Chief Education Officer, Joe Astroth, announced the winner. Congratulations to Buchanan High School from Clovis, California who earned this award for their animated film.
In addition to a nice trophy for the team, each member won an iPad 2 loaded with software. Joe asked that we not tell CEO, Carl Bass, who had not been informed of Joe's on the spot generosity.
Saturday was as fun to watch as any traditional sporting event. Our Logo Motion winners were:
I was proud to see Autodesk be a part of it.
Olympics of the mind are alive in the lab.
The ADN Plugin of the Month program brings you a new plugin each month. The source code is included to show you how easy it is to extend the functionality of our design applications.
The Plugin of the Month for February 2010 was Screenshot for Inventor. This plugin can be used with Inventor to simplify the process of capturing images of parts of documents, or the entire document or application window. It optionally allows you to remap the background to white and the foreground to black, convert the entire image to grayscale, as well as sending the captured image directly to a printer.
In addition to releasing a new plugin each month, the ADN team often updates previously released ones. On Monday I posted an updated Screenshot for Inventor. Based on your feedback, as documented in its read me file, the version 1.1.1 changes include two defect corrections:
This latest update merely includes a VB.Net project file for those who wish to modify or extend the functionality.
So keep the feedback coming in to email@example.com.
Plugin evolution is alive in the lab.
In an earlier blog post, I talked about a presentation I attended about the Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) Project. I mentioned that the Autodesk Gallery had a driving simulator as an exhibit. Senior Marketing Manager, Kimberly Whinna, gave me some more information (an email I copied/pasted from) that I thought I would share.
"One of PB’s current infrastructure projects is the new US$1.045 billion Presidio Parkway in San Francisco. The roadway will replace Doyle Drive, a 1.5-mile road that runs from San Francisco’s Marina District through the Presidio to the southern access of the Golden Gate Bridge. Built in 1936, the existing Doyle Drive has reached its useful lifespan and is being replaced. Project construction will cause ramp closures and traffic detours for several years, attracting the scrutiny of public officials and community groups." Autodesk
The Autodesk software involved:
PB is using BIM to maximize its ROI. (OK, I wanted to see how many acronyms I could get in the shortest sentence possible.) By using Autodesk BIM solutions, PB has been able to construct the project virtually before it was built in the real world. "PB used AutoCAD Civil 3D to create a virtual model of the infrastructure project and Navisworks for construction planning. PB also used 3ds Max Design to create model-based visualizations of the project. This solution enabled the design team to analyze early-stage design alternatives, evaluate construction plans, and more clearly communicate the design proposals to public constituencies - helping to speed the approval process and allay public concerns about the project." Autodesk
Now on to the fun part. "PB developed a virtual driving experience for the new Presidio Parkway to run on an arcade-style vehicle simulator in order to give stakeholders an immersive and realistic driving experience of the future roadway. Three 46-inch monitors mounted 48 inches from the driver create a 150-degree horizontal field of view (FOV) and a 60-degree vertical FOV that effectively fills the driver’s entire field-of-view. Most large-scale transportation projects develop 3D models as part of their ongoing outreach efforts. These assets can be re-purposed relatively easily into content for real-time simulations such as that for the Presidio Parkway." CE News
"Autodesk 3DS Max is used to model roadways and surrounding context, and for details such as street signs, vehicles, and landscaping. Geospatial data, including digital elevation models and aerial imagery, are imported and optimized in 3DS Max to produce the surrounding terrain in simulated environments. The final step involves porting the 3D content into the Epic Games’ production environment, the Unreal Development Kit (UDK). Both 3DS Max and UDK provide tools to support the optimization of 3D geometry for real-time performance. Lighting and shading, as well as material definitions for 3D content, are all defined and controlled by the UDK engine. Interactivity and artificial intelligence for the various scenarios also are developed using this tool set." CE News
Thanks for the info Kim. The gallery at One Market is open to the public on Wednesdays from 12 pm to 5 pm, and admission is free. Visit us.
Experiencing it before its real is alive in the lab.
It's Friday so I try to stay away from Autodesk Labs specific topics. With this in mind, I thought I would highlight two TED talks that I watched this week. One is Deb Roy: The birth of a word. Deb Roy studies how children learn language. Using his son as a subject, he collected data on his son's development as related to his son's interactions with his father (Deb), his mother, and his nanny. Here are 19 minutes and 52 seconds you won't regret.
Deb concludes with "...As our world becomes increasingly instrumented, and we have the capabilities to collect and connect the dots between what people are saying and the context in which they are saying it, what's emerging is an ability to see new social structures and dynamics that have previously not been seen." Who new that there was a relationship between how a child learns to say "water," and the volume of Twitter posts after a Presidential State of the Union Address?
The other is Salman Khan: Let's use video to reinvent the classroom. This talk was blogged about by my Autodesk Labs colleague, Shaan Hurley. It was also recommended by Autodesk Platform Solutions and Emerging Business Senior VP, Amar Hanspal.
Imagine if I was going to teach you something, but told you that you could not take notes.You would ask "Why not? I have a pen and paper right here." Now imagine if I had the opportunity to provide my instruction via video but did not. You would ask "Why not? Video lets me watch when I want to watch, not when you want to talk. Video lets me pause. Video lets me rewind." The future of education lies in self-paced video instruction coupled with in-classroom collaboration. Fascinating.
Asking if www means the worthwhile web is alive in the lab.
With my vacation to Mardi Gras, I neglected to mention that we had an update to Project Vasari recently (on March 1). If you are ever unsure about whether or not you have the latest version of any of our technology previews, you can always check the updates page. In this case:
This latest update included many new features which the team identified for me so I could create a what's new page:
With apologies to Monty Python and the Holy Grail, we are the knights who say ning.
Slaying technology preview issues based on your feedback is alive in the lab.
Not everyone reads this blog. Gasp! For those members of the Autodesk Labs community who don't but wish to remain informed, we have an Autodesk Labs newsletter called Innovation Edge. Senior Strategic Designer, Doug Look, came up with that cool name.
It started out as a quarterly newsletter, but this year, I may wind up sending it out every other month. It certainly won't be any more frequent than that. So recipients will get either 4 or 6 emails from me a year. If you wish to "opt in" to receive the newsletter, you can log into the Labs community and check a box:
Communication is alive in the lab.
While on vacation at the Mardi Gras in New Orleans, I got an updated RoomRenumbering for Revit ADN Plugin of the Month. On Wednesday (March 9) I posted it to the Autodesk Labs site. Upon my return to work on Thursday (March 10), I even posted another update. With these fast and frequent updates, the ADN team are regular riders of the storm.
As with all plugin of the month updates, the read me identifies what has changed between versions. Based on your feedback, this update includes:
With this March 10 update, this plugin can be used to renumber or re-assign the "Number" properties of rooms or "Mark" property of doors in the order that the user selects while avoiding duplicated assignments. The command allows the user to specify the starting number with the option of the prefix and suffix added.
So give the plugin a whirl and try to set the night on fire and let us know if you don't love it madly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Plugin evolution is alive in the lab.
The Autodesk Labs team that is based in San Francisco is moving from the 2nd floor of our One Market Street office to the 4th floor. Though we'll no longer be on the same floor as the Autodesk Gallery, we will come down the our old floor to visit our former neighbors, see what's new in the gallery, and give guided tours.
Here is a computer rendering of what our new space will look like.
Movement is alive in the lab.
My brother and his family live in New Orleans whereas my sister and her family live in nearby Baton Rouge. After spending time together in New Orleans with both sets of families for Mardi Gras, our plan was to visit my sister in Baton Rouge. The Mardi Gras seasons began on January 6 and ended on Tuesday, so my wife and I thought we'd make the trip on Wednesday. My brother warned us that traffic would be terrible, since everyone departing New Orleans for Baton Rouge, Houston, etc. would be traveling on I-10 West. Ignoring his sage advice, I figured it wouldn't be that bad. Rain had also been forecast for Wednesday.
I surmised that the only thing that could ruin our plans was bad weather or bad traffic, but no problem, there's an app for that. Looking at the weather on the internet on my iPhone, I did see that the morning would be bad. So we planned our travel around leaving New Orleans at 1:00 PM. Lo and behold, at around 6:00 AM, New Orleans got 3 inches of rain in an hour.
Many streets were flooded; however, by 1:00 PM, things were back to normal. Thanks to the internet, to quote Adam Sandler from Billy Madison, "I am the smartest man alive."
Now all that was left to consider was the traffic. So at 1:00 PM I looked at NavTeq.com. This is what I saw:
With this information in hand, we embarked on local streets to I-10 West with no problems; however, when we entered I-10, traffic was bumper to bumper. WTF? We would go 10 feet and come to a complete stop. Repeat. We endured this for 50 minutes and had gone less than 10 miles, so we took the next exit and headed back to New Orleans. They say the only thing worse than not having a watch, is having a watch with the wrong time. I think the same thing applies to web-based services. If the site is going to mark the roads as green (light traffic) when they are clearly red (heavy traffic), then what's the point? Thanks to the internet, I guess my older brother is the smartest man alive.
At least with the web services we provide, we maintain the accuracy provided by our desktop applications.
|1.||Autodesk Buzzsaw||Project Management|
|2.||Autodesk Constructware||Construction Management|
|3.||Autodesk Green Building Studio||Energy/Sustainability Analysis|
|4.||Autodesk Seek||Product content and search|
|5.||AutoCAD WS||2D SaaS CAD and Collaboration|
|6.||Autodesk Homestyler||2D/3D Consumer Home Design & Content|
|7.||Project Showroom||Consumer Home Design, Rendering|
|8.||Project Freewheel||2D/3D Drawing Viewing, Collaboration|
|9.||Project Draw||2D Diagramming Tool|
|10.||Project Twitch||Rapid Application Delivery, Remoting, Trials|
|11.||Project Vasari||Conceptual design for architecture and analysis|
|12.||Project Neon||Cloud Rendering Service|
|13.||Daylight Analysis Tool for Housing in China||Sustainability analysis based on China permitting codes|
|14.||Project Photofly||Cloud Image to Model Computation Service|
|15.||Project Bluestreak||Cloud collaboration platform|
|16.||CommunityCommands for AutoCAD||Community-based command discovery|
Venting is alive in the lab.
The Autodesk fiscal year runs from February 1 through January 31. We just finished fiscal year 2011 (FY11) and are now working on FY12. If you look at the unique visitors that read It's Alive in the Lab by fiscal year, you will see that FY11 was this blog's best year ever.
This chart is cumulative so of course the lines go up and to the right. There's no place to go but up. Ooh weee. What's up with that? What's up with that?
If you look at the raw numbers by month, you can see that this blog consistently enjoyed great readership.
Thanks for reading this blog. If a tree falls in the woods, and no one hears it, does it make a sound?
We get lots of feedback at Autodesk Labs. That is indeed the whole point of the exercise. Small teams of people spend moderate amounts of time developing a technology. They share it with you via a technology preview on Autodesk Labs. You give it a thumbs up or down. For ones that get a thumbs down, we kill it before the team spends any more time on it. For ones that get a thumbs up, the team keeps going.
I sometimes get email from people who have tried a technology preview but are unsure as to what type of feedback we are looking for. We accept the good, the bad, and the ugly. Here are some examples from last month.
With regard to the 3D Annotation for Inventor, I would like to see additional flexibility - text position, changing leader lines, changing which part/face is indicated, etc.
I noticed that the offset xref plugin doesn't offset locked xrefs. I use it everyday and other than having to load it every time I run AutoCAD that's the only thing I noticed as a slowdown.
I've noticed a multitude of apps for the iPhone and not the Android. I was wondering if the Labs have or will be looking into having the same apps available for the Android. Our office is split with iPhones and Androids. Are Apple Apps easier to create or is this more a contractual issue?
I think that the idea of the Point Cloud Tool for 3ds Max is a really good one, but supporting only .pts extension is a great limitation. Most of the photogrammetry apps I've tried and the one I use, deploys the point cloud information in .ply format. Considering how popular .ply format is I think that would be nice to include it in the next release.
Project Galileo has no ability to undo changes (No undo button).
Why can't the Project Nucleus analysis grid come from faces of mass? Why is it generated as a sheet that needs to be modified to have a unique form? It is very hard to manipulate it far beyond a bendy sheet at this point. It looks like it has similarities to the curtain panel by shape tool, could you just modify that tool to produce the simulation grids?
A coworker and I were just talking this morning how interesting it would be if a Subassembly Composer for AutoCAD Civil 3D knew more about the base point station and profile slope. We were discussing it in relation to the idea that when you are limited to a maximum slope of 2:1, when it is measured perpendicular to the baseline and the baseline has a steep slope, you will actually end up with contours that are over the maximum slope. You can fake it by using a perpendicular slope of 2.1:1 but it would be interesting if you could have the subassembly calculate out the perpendicular to baseline slope based on the profile slope (in the increment of the corridor frequency) and the desired maximum slope.
My company uses Freewheel to share DWF files with customers. The files are placed in eRoom. For viewing DWG files we use Cimmetry Autovue but I am stuck there with an old version because there is no support anymore for Autovue on eRoom. The problem is my customers cannot open DWG files of recent AutoCAD versions any more. Now I am looking for the same Freewheel technique for DWG files, only to view, or at the most markup or annotate, not to edit. I read something about Project Butterfly and Project Twitch.
Sharing what we hear is alive in the lab.
Today I am in New Orleans celebrating Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras translates to Fat Tuesday - the day before Lent. Lent is a period of 40 days where Catholics give up something as part of their religion. Since Mardi Gras is the last chance before they do, people imbibe and dance before they begin their period of austerity and atonement. There are numerous parades where masked float riders toss beads, trinkets, and doubloons to crowds who raise their hands in the air and yell "Hey mister, throw me something."
Success is measured one strand of beads at a time.
Celebration is alive in the lab.
Project Nucleus is Project Nucleus allows designers to experiment with "form-finding" in the conceptual design phase by simulating forces such as gravity and wind.
You can download the add-on for Revit Architecture or get Project Vasari which has the nucleus functionality built-in.
Something we have learned from the feedback we have gotten so far is that some people have gotten confused by the lack of a nucleus menu. In response to one of these inquires, Senior Manager for AEC Conceptual Design Products, Matt Jezyk, noted:
The Nucleus tab only appears while you are editing a loadable family (RFA file) as opposed to being in a project (RVT file). Here is how to do that:
Go to the big V button > New > Family
Select the Mass.rft template:
Now you will see the Nucleus tab on the Ribbon:
Revelation is alive in the lab.
"PiCycle PiCycle PiCycle...
I want to ride my PiCycle
I want to ride my pi
I want to ride my PiCycle
I want to ride it where I like"
an adaptation of "Bicycle Race," Jazz, Queen, 1978.
Founded in 2000 by CEO, Marcus Hays, PiMobility is headquartered in Sausalito, CA. The company is driven by the belief that “The electric bike would be a singular tool in enabling us to move away from our dependency on automobiles." PiMobility is a participant in the Autodesk Clean Tech Partner Program, which supports early-stage clean technology companies with design and engineering software they can use to accelerate their development of solutions to the world’s most pressing environmental challenges.
Why make a bicycle for sustainability if it will only find its way to the landfill after a few years of use? The PiMobility perspective is that the longer a product will last is a key factor in making it more sustainable. Hence PiMobility used recycled aluminum for its bicycle rather than more brittle and less reliable plastic. Aluminum also better protects battery and electronic components from the elements and dissipates heat more efficiently than plastic.
When one first looks at the PiCycle, the first thing one notices is its unique looking frame. The frame is the key to this bicycle. Due to an automated process and the simplicity of its shape, PiMobility can form one of these frame tubes in about 30 seconds. Thanks to the less labor-intensive design of the single tube, PiMobility has been able to maintain production in the United States and still be profitable. The tubular frame houses the lithium batteries.
The Autodesk software involved:
After only three weeks, the PiMobility design team produced a 3D digital prototype using Autodesk Inventor. The original design called for a 4” tube diameter that required them to source of a special battery pack to fit that form factor. The 4” diameter spec was originally based on Hays’ aesthetic intuition that this would be the widest tube that would be comfortable for the rider. Using Inventor, the designers were able to analyze the ergonomics of a 4.5" tube and validated that it would work in the design. This freed them up to procure off-the-shelf batteries resulting in significant costs savings. By increasing the diameter of the tube by a half of an inch, they could immediately save $360,000.
You can peddle the PiCycle like a normal bicycle, peddle with powered assistance, or sit back, relax, and let the electricity do all of the work (top speed of 20 mph on a flat surface). The recharge time for the PiCycle is 3.5 hours and costs about $0.07 cents to charge. It weighs ~50 pounds. There will be an option to add Wi-Fi-based "Pi-Q" Smart Phone Interface, which sends data about the PiCycle’s performance (e.g., speed, distance, range, charge level, efficiency) to its rider’s phone. They will be available for purchase at Best Buy in Spring 2011 with a MSRP of $2,995.
Thanks to Autodesk Senior Marketing Manager, Kimberly Whinna, for the information contained in this blog posting. The gallery at One Market is open to the public on Wednesdays from 12 pm to 5 pm, and admission is free. Visit us.
Riding a surge of savings is alive in the lab.
Last night I had crawfish fettuccine for dinner at Copeland's Restaurant. Education Marketing Manager, Amy Mollison, sent employees this message last week. Here's something to wet one's engineering appetite.
The FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science & Technology) Robotics Competition is a program that brings together high school student teams with mentors, volunteers, and technical professionals to design and build a robot in six weeks that meets a defined engineering challenge, in a competitive game environment. The competition combines the practical application of science, technology, and engineering with the fun, intense energy, and excitement of a championship-sporting event. This year marks the 19th season of Autodesk’s support for FIRST.
The Regional season begins the weekend of March 3, 2011 and runs until April 9, 2011. There is a local Regional event being held in a city near you, where you can join teams, volunteers and other sponsors as they watch these teams compete. These events are a lot of fun, a great way to get to know your local FIRST teams and staff, plus fun for the whole family to attend. The season began with the unveiling of the 2011 game at the kickoff events and the short six (6) week build season began at that time as well.
If you work in the San Francisco office, you have the option to go to the following Regional event(s):
UC Davis ARC Pavilion
March 17 - 19*, 2011
Silicon Valley Regional
San Jose State University
San Jose, CA
March 31 - April 2*, 2011
*Day of Final Rounds
Thanks Amy. My wife, some neighbors who are UC Davis graduates, and I will be attending on the 19th.
The Autodesk Gallery has a FIRST exhibit that features a robot from Gunn High School in Palo Alto. Their robot stacks boxes but also has wings that extend to knock over the stacks created by the opposing robot. This is indeed a competition after all.
The gallery is open to the public on Wednesdays from 12 pm to 5 pm, and admission is free. Visit us.
Dancing like a robot is alive in the lab.
My wife and I are off to visit family in New Orleans. Our daughter is even flying in from Chicago. Her boyfriend is flying in from Washington D.C too. Unfortunately our son is still on active duty at Twentynine Palms, California. My brother, my sister, and my wife's sister are all local, so les bons temps rouler (let the good times roll). If you submit feedback that I don't immediately answer, this is why.
As I mentioned in my Project Photofly at TED post, we demonstrated the ability to create a 3D model of a person's head by having 14 cameras take a picture all at once. Though Project Photofly does not require such sophistication, this approach to taking the photos makes it easier because the person does not have to sit still for so long.
There's quite a story behind this.
To get a computer to take 14 pictures at once, you need software to control the cameras. At first we started with a package from Breeze software. This allowed us to auto-focus each camera and snap the picture. Eventually we abandoned it because the program kept crashing, and our support requests went unanswered.
Instead of using Breeze software, our software developer, Eddy Kuo, used the Canon Camera Software Development Kit (SDK). This kit provided the same Application Program Interfaces (APIs) as the Breeze software but without the crashes. Eddy wrote a program to auto-focus each cameras and take the shot.
The wiring of these cameras could be its own story. If you hook all of the cameras each with their own USB connection, each camera takes one sixth of a second to take a picture. This happens sequentially so this would mean the person would have to sit still for 2.33 seconds. If you hook the cameras up using a more direct method, each camera fires in milliseconds. This means the person only has to sit still for about 1 second. The wiring of the cameras required connecting the computer, via USB, to a circuit board, and wiring the 14 cameras to the board. Instead of powering the cameras with batteries, they get their power from a second cable that is wired to the circuit board.
Although we started with the circuit board in a cardboard box, we realized we could do better than that. Technical Evangelist, Gonzalo Martinez, used Inventor Fusion to design a housing for the circuit board, complete with proper screw holes and all, and printed it on one of our 3D printers in the Autodesk Gallery. The printer happened to be loaded with red plastic material, so when it was completed, it came to be known as "the red box."
We are using 14 of the 16 available connections, but only 12 were in use when I took the picture.
To hold the cameras in place, Autodesk Gallery Technical Specialist, Jeff Clayton, welded together some special rigging. We attached the cameras to the rigging with clamps. The lights remove any shadows from the person's face.
In our initial testing we realized that when a human takes the pictures individually, he looks through the view finder each time and makes sure the subject is in view. He then snaps the picture. With an automated process, the computer just takes all of the pictures at one time, even if the subject is not centered in all of the shots. Hence ensuring the correct height of the chair in relation to the person's height became an issue so that the user's head does not get cropped in any of the shots.
All of this came together just hours before we had to take it all apart and ship it to TED. The TED conference runs through March 2. We hope to take what we learn from trying this at TED and stage this as an Autodesk Gallery exhibit soon thereafter. The gallery is open to the public on Wednesdays from 12 pm to 5 pm, and admission is free. Visit us.
Saying cheese is alive in the lab.