I saw this on Facebook moments ago:
Today one of my colleagues gave me this:
What does it say?
Curiosity is alive in the lab.
I saw this on Facebook moments ago:
Today one of my colleagues gave me this:
What does it say?
Curiosity is alive in the lab.
Once again, this technology preview provides the missing Linc*. This is a re-release of this technology preview. It is the same as before with a few defect corrections based on user feedback. The re-release is based on user requests for more time to experiment with the technology.
Have you ever wished you could visualize your factory floor in 3D before you configured it? Well if you download and try this technology preview, now you can.
Project Factory.Modz() is our free technology preview for factory animation where you can clearly articulate the working intent of your factory layout to your clients and stakeholders. The technology preview helps you to visually communicate your ideas by animating the movement of material and people inside your facility. It is easy to use and does not require CAD expertise.
Preventing factory layout confusion is alive in the lab.
* Lincoln Hayes was a character on a popular American TV show in the 1970's called The Mod Squad. Are you old enough to remember it? Or should I say are you young enough to still remember it?
One of our newer technology previews is Augmented Reality for Autodesk Showcase. It has been quite popular. The technology preview allows you to overlay semantically in context information (graphics, text, video, sound) on to a live video feed of the real-world in real-time while using Autodesk Showcase.
As our web site notes: Showcase allows you to communicate your design ideas effectively and facilitate decision making via design exploration and 3D presentation for architects, designers, engineers, and marketing professionals. A frequently asked question about this technology preview has been "Why Showcase? Why not 3DS Max or Maya?"
Technical Evangelist, Brian Pene, shared the answer. The main reason we developed a plugin for Showcase vs Maya or 3DS Max:
Showcase is included in all Autodesk Suites whereas 3DS Max and Maya are not. This way we make the plug-in available to a broader group - the broader the group, the better the chance we get feedback to improve the technology.
In summary, because the quality of Showcase real-time rendering is superior to that of 3ds Max or Maya, AND we support both 3ds Max and Maya content via FBX, we recommend you use the Showcase plugin to achieve better rendering results of augmented 3D content to that of similar AR plug-ins for Autodesk 3DS Max or Maya. Your feedback is welcomed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Answers are alive in the lab.
Some of you may recall that we had a Raspberry Pi contest here at Autodesk and announced the winners.
One of those winners was Software Architect for Solver Technology Research, Franco Costa, who wants to teach his parrot to talk. He described his project as:
If I had a Raspberry Pi, I would program it to respond to my parrot when she talks by playing back a recording of my voice saying her favorite phrases, plus some new ones I am trying to teach her. The Raspberry Pi, being a low power device, could sit near her cage during the day, keeping her company while I am away from home enjoying my day at the Autodesk Office. My parrot's name is Billy, and she is an Australian rose-breasted cockatoo, more commonly known as a “Gallah” in Australia.
Well I recently got a progress report that I thought I would share:
Team building is alive in the lab.
Design Night at the Autodesk Gallery is a new thing for Autodesk. The Gallery team has launched this new program that will be held in the Autodesk Gallery at One Market on the first Thursday of every month. At each event, guests will explore a different theme – such as biomimicry, light, or robotics – that challenges the conventionally narrow definition of design. The theme will be reflected in all aspects of the event, from the activities guests enjoy to the food they eat to the music they hear.
I will be attending the event. Join us as we launch the Design Night series on Thursday, September 6, 6-10 p.m. The theme is “Small is the Next Big Thing” where we will explore the frontiers of bio and nano technology. If you want to get in on the action:
Event: Design Night: Small Is The Next Big Thing
Time: 6:00 PM - 10:00 PM
Date: Thursday, September 6, 2012
Location: Autodesk Gallery, 1 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94105 USA
Cost: General admission is $20, and student admission is $10. Admission fees include access to the exhibits, content such as a speaker, music, a hosted bar, and hands-on activities.
To quote Steve Martin: "Let's get small."
Anticipation is alive in the lab.
Technology previews are not intended for production use. After all, they're still in the early preview stage. They are in their infancy and are not fully baked. We are realists and recognize that some customers use them at their own risk. Technology previews are like taste tests at malls. We let people take a sip of Pepsi and a sip of Coke and tell us which one they like better. Regardless of which one they prefer, we are not promising to deliver a lifetime supply of soda. Sometimes people hate the taste of both!
We make technology previews available via Autodesk Labs so people can give us feedback. Most customers try them on test projects. If the technology preview works for them - great. If it does not work for them, no harm/no foul, since the customers are only playing with the technology on test projects. Since technology previews have an end date that is published at the onset of the technology preview, customers try them on projects that end before the technology preview ends. Technology previews have a specific end date so no one confuses them with perpetual functionality that is associated with a product offering or subscription service. In fact, technology previews are offered for free to Subscription customers, non-Subscription customers, and educational users alike. When the previews end, I don't have a way to re-activate them. It's not part of the Labs process.
A technology is said to have graduated when the preview ends, and it is available somewhere else (e.g., Subscription Center, feature in a new product offering, new cloud-based service). A technology retires from Labs when the preview ends, and users can't get it anywhere. It may come back as another technology preview sometime later. It may show up in a future product offering. It is not necessarily dead, but in the meantime, customers can't get it. At the end of a technology preview, sometimes teams decide they need more feedback, so they conduct another technology preview.
Terminology is alive in the lab.
Last night facilities reconfigured my office:
Years ago the company supplied each employee with a Fitbit pedometer. I have used mine every day ever since. This device showed me that although the goal is 10,000 steps per day, I rarely get that many. Last year I actually canceled my NFL Red Zone football package when I moved only 900 steps in an entire Sunday.
To get the ball rolling, I underwent an ergonomic evaluation of my existing sit-down configuration.
I also got a note from my primary care physician indicating that a non-sedentary work environment would be beneficial for my long-term health, and facilities granted my request.
I am now a stand-up kind of guy - no more sitting down on the job. With apologies to John Milton, they also serve who only stand and type.
Standing is alive in the lab.
When completed, the eastern span of the new Bay Bridge, will include the longest self-anchored suspension bridge in the world. Self-anchored sets itself apart from typical bridges that anchor their cables from the bridge to the land. In the case of the Bay Bridge, the supporting cable will be cemented into the roadway, hoisted over a massive center column, and cemented in the roadway on the other side.
So it's no wonder that it is featured as one of our exhibits in the Autodesk Gallery at One Market.
Here's a cross-section of the supporting cable - actually 17,349 individual steel strands. The strand ends have been colored as part of a compression test. The goal for the strands is to stay clustered to maintain structural integrity. The coloring helps identify stands that go astray.
In 2010, as part of my gallery ambassador training, I took a tour by boat to check out the bridge early in its construction:
On Wednesday I had the pleasure of being part of a walking tour of the bridge. Lead once again by the always informative and entertaining, Bart Ney, our group got to go beneath the roadway to marvel at the engineering that makes the new bridge so earthquake tolerant. Though the bridge has many seismic features, something that stood out to me was:
The goal of the bridge redesign is to allow emergency vehicles to be able to use the bridge immediately after an earthquake and to be able to repair it without having to rebuild any sections. We got to see these accordion structures from below the roadway:
and from above:
Another interesting aspect is the pedestrian access. The pedestrian portion extends from the side of the bridge and is one foot higher than the roadway. This will give pedestrians a more pleasant experience.
The new Bay Bridge is being built to withstand 1,500 years of seismic activity. Although not needed yet (since the concrete and steel are plenty strong enough now), the bridge includes cement footings with holes for additional cables. In 150 years when the bridge needs a tune-up, steel cables can be passed through these holes and tightened to shore up the bridge and reduce its sag.
In other words, the engineering infrastructure for a facelift is being put in now. Now that's thinking ahead.
Marveling at engineering is alive in the field.
Sometimes you visit a technology preview page, click on Download Now, login with your Autodesk Single Sign-On credentials, but the download page does not appear.
Navigate your browser to the Autodesk Labs home page.
Since you are already logged in, it will work like a charm. I have a problem report logged with our vendor who supplied the new platform upon which the Autodesk Labs site is based.
Trouble-shooting is alive in the lab.
Watch Autodesk Technical Fellow, Tom Wujec, cover:
Check it out at INKtalks.
Shifting is alive in the lab.
They grow up so fast. Project Vasari has graduated from Autodesk Labs to become Autodesk Vasari Beta 1.
Thanks to everyone who helped shape this technology. The volume of your downloads and insightful feedback propelled this technology to the next stage of its development.
Graduation is alive on the lab.
The old Autodesk Labs site had the Download link in two places: in the upper right and just below the preview image:
When the new site was launched, it was only available in the upper right:
I got feedback of "Where's the download?" from a customer as well as an employee, so I have done what I can to make the download link more visible by replacing just the hyperlinked text with an additional icon and header:
I have also made note of this in the HELP US OUT section.
Over time I think people will get use to the new design. You read about a technology on the left and take actions such as downloading, trying, or providing feedback on the right.
Attempts at deastonishment are alive in the lab.
It's time for another talk in our series of talks known as Project Vasari talk. This is your chance to get together with the Project Vasari team and hear directly from them. You can register in advance and participate live, or you can watch the videotape after the fact. This next talk is:
Session 15: Conceptual Energy Modeling for Early Design Decisions
Date: August 22, 2012
Time: 11:30 AM Eastern time
Content: Understanding big picture energy implications can save time and money by identifying key energy drivers early. Architecture firms can assess the impact of early architectural decisions on energy use. In this episode Lura Griffiths, LEED® AP BD+C, E.M.I.T Senior Energy Analyst at Glumac will showcase several examples of real building designs which were analyzed at early stages of design and explain how conceptual energy analysis was used to help guide the design and make significant impacts on energy use. HSW/SD AIA credit available.
To see the past Project Vasari talks, check out the Wiki:
Everyone is welcome.
Conversation is alive in the lab.
What we do is what we do
It's all the same, there's nothing new
What we do is what we do
It's turnin' 'round on me and you
What we do is what we do
Just different names, it's nothing new
What we do is what we do
'Cause all we do is what we do"
-- "What We Do," Something for Everybody, Devo, 2010.
I was on the phone with my friend, Morten Nielsen, who is a product manager for Contex. Contex A/S is a manufacturer of large format scanners and large format scanner software for both color and monochrome scanning solutions. Contex creates scanning solutions for Reprographics, Technical, CAD, GIS, Graphic Arts, Document Archival, Copy shops, POP/Exhibit providers, Pre-Press, Sign and Billboard production, Architecture and Engineering offices. Contex is preparing for Autodesk University 2012, and that got us on to a discussion of the book What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis.
Using the power of getAbstract, here are my Take-Aways of this book.
The book gets its title thusly: As a corporation, Google offers a valuable example of how to survive and prosper in the Internet age. Everyone, from corporations to governments, and from nations to individuals, must find new ways to evolve in the Google era. To plan your future business activities more effectively, ask: "What would Google do?"
When you do as Google would do, you are looking for new ways to understand a world in flux and to see it. Firms and industries can stay viable by heeding the "Google Rules."
At Autodesk Labs our approach is to provide technology previews, free of charge, so that we can connect with our customers and allow their feedback to shape the technology. We appreciate the set of early adopters who find us and interact with us.
Doing what we do is alive in the lab.
I take the Oakland-Alameda Ferry to work and walk across the street from the Ferry Building to our office at One Market. As I approached our office door on the second floor I saw:
On closer inspection it reads:
So I went to our other door:
I guess someone is telling me to get back on the ferry.
Humor is alive in the morning.
Q: What can you make with an asset management tool, a building information modeler, and a little glue?
A: Maximo Integration for Autodesk Revit 2013 products
It's our newest technology preview. The free technology preview of Maximo integration for Autodesk Revit 2013 products extends the value of a Revit building information model (BIM) into the operations phase of the building lifecycle. Richly attributed data about building assets developed during design and construction (using Revit) can be published during commissioning or at handover (into IBM Maximo). How handy is that?
This is a new area for us. We'd like your thoughts on the effectiveness of extending building information modeling into the operational portion of the life of a build. You can provide feedback in many ways.
|Send an email message.|
|Make a posting in the discussion forum.|
|Write something on my Facebook wall.|
|Retweet my messages or Tweet your own mentioning Autodesk Labs.|
|Post a comment at the end of this blog posting.|
|Leave a comment on the YouTube video.|
Covering our assets is alive in the lab.
Dr. Robert Aish and a team at Autodesk are developing DesignScript for a technology preview later in the year. For now, the core audience for this technology will be fairly limited.
To date, there has been a small group of people (architects and designers) that the team has been working with for the past couple of years – who have participated in workshops based on preliminary versions of the technology. The team is now looking to expand that list.
If you are an architect or designer with programming experience, you can sign up. a team member can contact you, and perhaps you can be added to the set of users playing with the early form of the technology. Only serious applicants need to apply. When a slot is available, a team member will follow up with prospective users using the email list and gather additional information.
As mentioned, further down the road, a public technology preview, much like other technology previews on Labs, is planned. That may have more relaxed requirements for programming expertise.
Yelling "pick me, pick me" is alive in the lab.
Project Simulus is a free technology preview that showcases a number of innovative approaches to mechanical simulation using geometry modification capabilities through embedding Inventor Fusion along with a very intuitive simplification environment to prepare various CAD models for different simulation studies.
You should give this technology preview a try or you won't have a leg to stand on.
The team provided me with an update that I posted to the site. This new version requires a screen resolution of at least 1366 by 768 pixels. This update focuses on the simulation capabilities for Inventor, SAT and STEP-based models by offering: Linear static stress offering a variety of contact types, loading, and constraint options; Modal frequencies and mass participation factors; Steady state thermal offering temperature, heat flux, convection, and radiation type loadings; Thermal-stress coupling; Buckling; and Fatigue. There is also a new read me with the very latest info. You may also want:
Updated Simulation is alive in the lab.
This is my once-a-month copy/paste blog posting to let you know when Autodesk Freewheel will be unavailable. Months ago Project Freewheel graduated from Autodesk Labs. Project Freewheel users are now using Autodesk Freewheel - the production version.
To check it out for yourself go to:
Autodesk Freewheel lets anyone view a DWF file using just a browser.
Several times during the year, new functionality is released into Autodesk’s Enterprise Information Systems to enhance the company’s services to partners / customers and help the organization run more efficiently. The next update is scheduled for three hours on August 18, 2011.
To implement these changes, Autodesk Freewheel will experience planned downtime from 2:00 p.m. PDT on Saturday, August 18 through 5:00 p.m. PDT on Saturday, August 18. In Greenwich, this would be 12:00 a.m. UDT on Sunday, August 19 through 3:00 a.m. UDT on Sunday, August 19.
As I mention every time, 2012 should be much like 2011 in terms of server maintenance.
We realize that any systems outage impacts the operations of Autodesk, our partners, and our customers. We work diligently to minimize the duration of downtime and appreciate your understanding. So take a three hour break and enjoy the down time.
Updating servers is routinely alive in the lab.
There's another issue of Innovation Edge, the Autodesk Labs newsletter, available for your perusal. This brief publication highlights technologies and utilities available on Autodesk Labs. Something people don't always know is that technology previews are free. All we ask is that you try them and give us feedback on your experience. This applies to Subscription customers, non-Subscription customers, and students.
As I have mentioned in other blog posts, the Autodesk Labs site was recently ported to a new environment. I have recreated the mailing list for the newsletter from a variety of sources. If I have inadvertently included any new recipients, I am sorry. An unsubscribe link appears at the bottom of the announcement message. Our aim is not SPAM anyone to death. Opt-in subscribers will only receive 2 more email messages like this over the remainder of the year - one every other month.
Navigate to Autodesk Labs home page.
The Autodesk Labs newsletter sending process will use the email address associated with your Autodesk account. You will get one email message every other month.
As our opt-in page says, thank you for all of the downloads, site visits, email messages, forum postings, blog comments, and social media interactions. By the way, a list of all past newsletters appears on:
Electronic delivery is alive in the lab.
I'll bet The Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail by Clayton M. Christensen is a fascinating read. I say that because I read the summary courtesy of the getAbstract service, and those 5 pages just flew by. The thesis of this book is that the paradox of failure, the innovator’s dilemma, is that there is a point at which the right things are dead wrong. Innovation comes in two forms.
The problem arises because successful companies focus on sustaining innovation at the peril of ignoring disruptive innovation. In practice company managers do not really decide where they will allocate investments. Their customers and investors decide. Customers look for improvement to what they are currently using. Investors look for opportunities with the largest return. So new ways of doing things, perhaps with lower returns on investment, get overlooked or shelved. The getAbstract summarizing author recommends that "although any individual disruptive technology may fail, companies that treat disruptive technologies as a portfolio, making small investments and learning from mistakes, can succeed."
The Take-Aways from the getAbstract summary include:
Autodesk Labs tries to strike a healthy balance. Some of the ideas for the technologies we preview come from customers. Some come from employees. The technologies start small so they are allowed to fail. Regardless of where the idea originated, feedback charts its course. Thanks to all of the early adopters out there who shape our technologies.
Sometimes I will post an announcement about a new technology preview in a discussion forum only to be rebuffed as in "I can't believe you are wasting time on trying something new when you haven't fixed my bug in the existing product yet." This is indeed our dilemma - balancing the needs of the existing customers while keeping our eye on where technology is going. We will be happy to serve our customers using desktop applications and cloud-based services for the years ahead, but we can't do that if 3 guys in a garage develop technology that we should have developed ourselves. We have to work on things besides faster horses.
Balance is alive in the lab.
There was this one time, at band camp... Oh wait - that's another story. There was this one time, at Autodesk University, when CTO, Jeff Kowalski, pulled a 3D motorcycle out of the screen. Well it's time for more antics of that kind.
The newest technology preview on Autodesk Labs is Augmented Reality for Showcase.
The add-on works with Showcase 2013 or Showcase Professional 2013. Basically it works like this:
So please give this a try and let us know what you think (e.g., email, forum, video comments) using the feedback icons that appear on the page on the Autodesk Labs site. Even if you have no plans to try this technology preview, you might want to watch the video, This is just plain fun.
Augmentation is alive in the lab.
The Inventor Simplification technology preview gives you a new and easy way to simplify parts and assemblies for downstream consumption.
If you have not tried it yet:
For those who have tried it, read on.
After a stint as a technology preview on Labs, the shrinkwrap feature was added to Inventor several releases ago. This same team is interested in feedback on various ways to improve its workflow. Whether you need to simplify a fully detailed model to import into Revit or remove intellectual property, the team believes Inventor Simplification can help which is why it is a technology preview on Autodesk Labs now. In their continuing quest for feedback, the team has put together a short survey. If you are one of our cutting-edge early adopters who has tried Inventor Simplification, the team would appreciate it if you would fill out this short survey.
Polling is alive in the lab.
Yesterday I resurrected the free technology preview of Project Scandium for Simulation Moldflow on the Autodesk Labs site.
This technology preview requires that you have a copy of Autodesk Simulation Moldflow 2013. The team gave me new builds that expire on January 1, 2013, so you have plenty of time to evaluate this technology and email feedback to email@example.com or post comments on the YouTube videos or in the discussion forum. I received builds for 32-bit and 64-bit versions. I only posted the 64-bit because I figured most early-adopter-type users are on 64-bit systems. If you need the 32-bit version of the technology preview, just let me know.
Simulation is alive in the lab.
Many of you provided feedback on the Structure Generator for Revit when it was a technology review on Autodesk Labs. Thank you for that. Based on its popularity, the technology is now available as an extension in the Autodesk Subscription Center.
Graduation is alive in the lab.
As a follow up to Into Africa: How Autodesk is Helping Create Archaeology 2.0, my colleague, Gonzalo Martinez, posted this video of he and Shaan Hurley working with Dr. Louise Leakey in Africa.
The thought is that one day the search for fossils could be crowd-sourced using high quality video and 3D modeling.
Archeology is alive in the lab.
One of the goals of the Autodesk Labs site port to the Mosaic platform was to gain more flexibility. The old site had a feedback section that looked like:
One of the drawbacks of this was that each technology preview was required to have an email address and a discussion forum. If I wanted to try a technology preview using just a forum for feedback, I couldn't, because the Email Your Feedback text on the page had to link to something. I had considered this since in a forum, everyone gets to see the questions asked and the answers provided. Though emails get answered, only the recipients see them. Also, only technology preview team members can answer the emails. In a forum, anyone (team members and other users) can provide answers. In addition, the site had small icons for Facebook, StumbleUpon, Tumblr, and LinkedIn that site visitors never used.
Another thing I noticed on the old site was that there was a big chunk of white space on the right side of the page.
I thought we should try using that space. Since I have seen that email and the discussion forums are not the only ways technology preview users give us feedback, I thought I would make that explicit. The new site allows links on the right side for all of the possibilities:
I say "allows" because all or none of these can be present. Each one is optional. As I mentioned at the onset, the new site provides more flexibility.
So given this new set of things to click on to provide feedback, I needed some icons. To launch the site, I created some temporary ones. I made them 104 pixels by 104 pixels so no one could possibly overlook their existence when they come to the Autodesk Labs page for a technology preview. I even prototyped the ability to attach documents to pages:
Social media is very popular these days, and I wanted people to know that they can provide feedback via Facebook comments, Twitter tweets, blog comments, and YouTube video comments in addition to traditional email messages and forum posts. Those big icons make no mistake about that!
I knew these icons were big, but they were only temporary. I put in a request to our web team to get some icons professionally made. In the web team's professional opinion, my icons were too big. Way too big. They supplied me with a set of icons that were only 32 by 32 pixels in size.
Although they were beautiful, I thought the ones supplied were too small. They would get lost on the page. Site visitors would not use them just like the ones we used to have. Plus they wouldn't be using much of that wasted space on the right. So I decided to compromise and request icons that were 64 by 64 pixels in size. The web team denied my request. They hung to their artistic vision of the small icons. So I was left to my own devices.
Although the process I am about to describe was followed for all 6 icons, I will use just the Facebook icon as an example. Although I knew it would pixelate, the first thing I did was simply rescale the 32 by 32 icon from the web team to 64 by 64 pixels. I thought it looked fuzzy:
To avoid the fuzziness, I thought what if I kept the 32 by 32 part the same and just filled it to take up 64 by 64 pixels. I also added text so people could tell what the link pointed to:
The text was hard to read, so I went back to the fuzzy ones. When I actually added them to the Autodesk Labs site, they turned out to be even fuzzier than originally expected because the site template that incorporates the icons scales the images to 104 pixels by 104 pixels - the size of the original icons. It looked like this:
Since I now knew I needed an image that was 104 by 104 pixels, I decided to make images of that size. Since the background of the page was white, I could just take the 64 by 64 pixel images and surround it by white pixels.
Although it does not look so bad pictured above, all together on the page, the icons looked like they were floating, so then I figured I could use the white space to have more legible text.
That black text just looked out of place. I noticed that:
appeared right above these icons and was written in white text on a green background. So I tried to incorporate that for consistency. Boy did the resulting icons look big.
The extra green just took over too much of the page, so I decided to trim it.
I then noticed that I had used a 12 point font for the text but Download Now was in 11 point. So for consistency (and to make it fit better), I redid them using an 11 point font. I also reduced the amount of green to make the overall appearance on the page noticeable but not so big.
I was then able to use my Fotolia account, purchase some artwork, scale them down, and make them look better.
Looking back at the history, I see:
So that's how I got what you see on the site. I agree it is not great. I am not a designer. I don't even play one on TV. My background is software engineering. I now have a program management role which is more like marketing, so I am doing what I can with my untrained eye. It is quite possible ways to improve them will emerge in the days ahead. If you have visited the site before Friday night, you may need to refresh the page to see the new icons.
Paint.net is alive in the lab.
With the emergence of the App store, I thought the ADN Plugin of the Month technology preview had run its course. So last month I was pleasantly surprised when Senior Manager of DevTech Americas, Stephen Preston, shared a new plugin with me for posting to the Autodesk Labs site. This month he provided me with another one for Maya:
This month's plug-in was written by Manager, Cyrille Fauvel, from the Autodesk Developer Network team. From the read me:
"This plug-in can be used in place of the Maya 'Expression' system. Maya's evaluation of 'Expressions' depends on the contents of the expression – sometimes you have to force evaluation - whereas, for a node, the Maya DG will always do it for you when needed. Debugging a Maya 'Expression' is not easy either (no tools are available), and requires a knowledge of MEL. Using the MathNode plug-in, you can use a Python debugger to debug the Node evaluation (see the Blog post for instructions on how to do that. In any case, it is always preferable to use self-contained nodes and connections over expressions whenever possible."
You can find all past plugins on the catalog page. The plugins provide functionality as supplied and also include the source code, so you too can consider developing your own plugins. If you like this plugin or have suggestions to make it better, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Math is alive in the lab.
Our CTO, Jeff Kowalski, got his hands on 8 Raspberry Pi units. He decided to have some fun with them by sponsoring an internal-Autodesk contest. Since Jeff had 8 of the devices, there would be 8 winners.
|WHO:||Autodesk employees were eligible - not family members of employees. (We wanted to avoid employees pawning the whole thing off on their children to build.)|
|HARDWARE:||The Raspberry Pi is a credit-card sized computer that plugs into a TV and a keyboard. It’s a capable little PC which can be used for many of the things that your desktop PC does, like spreadsheets, word-processing, and games. It also plays high-definition video. By default, it runs the Debian OS, but it can also run other flavors of Linux. Those interested can learn all about it at http://www.raspberrypi.org/. There is even a quick start guide for those who are brand new to the concept as well as the device. Jeff has the Model B which features 2 USB ports and an Ethernet controller.|
|WHAT:||Each entrant described what he/she would do if given one of these Raspberry Pi computers. What problem would he/she solve? How would he/she use the Raspberry Pi to solve it?|
|WHEN:||The contest ran through July 31. Only the ideas needed to be submitted by the deadline. The timing of the actual implementations by the 8 winners was negotiated as prospective winners were contacted. Desired time frames are around 3 months.|
|WINNERS:||Winners were selected based on the uniqueness of the idea (the more novel, the better), ability to leverage the capabilities of the device (it is small), and the benefits from the idea's implementation (does some good for the world, makes a great blog article). The winners were selected by a committee from the Office of the CTO. In exchange for the Raspberry Pi that is theirs to keep, each winner will implement the solution and create a two and a half to three minute video demonstrating how the Raspberry Pi addresses the submitted idea and document the steps on Instructables.com.|
This contest was very popular. There were 90 entries from among the many Autodesk offices around the world. Without any further adieu:
Thanks to everyone who entered. I look forward to blogging about these solutions as they are developed. These devices are very powerful but only cost between $25 to $35.
Winning is alive in the lab.
Jon Pittman is our VP of Corporate Strategy and Engagement - reporting to the CTO. Jon is also a Lecturer at the Haas School of Business of the University of California at Berkeley. Jon provided a review of Great By Choice by Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen. With his permission, I am sharing it with It's Alive in the Lab readers.
Great By Choice is the latest book by Jim Collins, author of Built to Last, Good to Great, and How the Mighty Fall.
Collins' methodology -- taking a rigorous, data-driven approach toward understanding what factors drive long-term business success -- has fueled his rise to the top ranks of modern business gurus, and in Great by Choice he and his co-author apply this methodology to companies that have outperformed their peers by 10x in uncertain conditions.
The fundamental premise of the book is that success comes from preparation and disciplined execution. In the authors' research, these two factors outperformed others such as brilliant insight, far-seeing vision, and luck, and enabled strong performance to happen, even in uncertain environments.
As in his past books, Collins translates his most important ideas into easy-to-remember concepts with memorable tag lines; for example:
This is the idea that consistent, repetitive performance -- i.e., focusing on marching 20 miles every day on a trip, rather than worrying about the entire distance -- beats sprints and lags. It's a sort of "tortoise vs. hare" approach that the authors commonly found among the 10x companies in the study.
Fire bullets, then cannonballs
Innovate first with small experiments (bullets) before committing to big initiatives (cannonballs). This lets you discover and calibrate what works cheaply before having to commit a lot of resources. The authors also discuss the basic nature of innovation, and point out that, although these 10x companies were usually first among competitors to innovate, it also took much more than pure innovation for them to outperform their peers as clearly as they did. The idea is to not only innovate, but also to execute extremely well, because such post-innovation blocking and tackling is critical to the process of bringing innovations to volume.
Leading above the death line
Always remain paranoid -- via "productive paranoia" -- about what could destroy your business, and make contingency plans and appropriate course corrections to ensure its survival. To do this you need to build cash reserves and buffers, bound your risk, and keep an eye on the macro and micro factors at play in your business and industry.
Develop a specific, methodical, and consistent recipe, and relentlessly execute it. The more uncertain, fast-changing, and unforgiving your environment, the more "SMaC" you need to be.
Overall, Great By Choice has a lot of great examples, both from business and from the world of mountaineering. As always with Collins, the book seems to be primarily common sense. However, it is written and codified in such a compelling, accessible fashion that it often seems profound. The approach is so simple, it is wonder that so few follow it successfully.
Choice is alive in the lab.