Over the last several decades there have been quantum leaps in terms of advancements in software. Today there’s literally an “app” for everything, and I mean that in the most literal sense.
In the past few years, however, it’s been breakthroughs in hardware that have dominated the headlines with lots of media momentum around tech trends, such as 3D printing, wearable technologies, and the Internet of Things.
Software giant Autodesk just today announced the Spark Investment Fund, which will provide up to $100 million in seed money for 3D printing companies over the next several years. Earlier this year the company announced a new open-software 3D printing platform called Spark that will make it easier to connect digital information to 3D printers.
Earlier this week, HP announced the debut of its Sprout PC, which combines a desktop PC with a 3D scanner that can digitize physical objects and a projector with a 20-inch, touch-sensitive mat. Both the 3D scanner and the projector point at the touch mat, creating a workspace that enables the “physical” manipulation of digital objects.
Despite the great strides on both sides of the equation, product design has yet to benefit from many of these emerging trends. Gaps still exist between the left hand (software) and right hand (hardware) of technology that prevent the seamless connection that will provide designers with a truly intuitive design experience.
A recent blog post on Inside3DP.com discusses this quandary. The author, Eviathar Meyer, says, “What we need is a new technology revolution for design software that makes design intuitive, yet just as powerful. I don’t want to tell designers to throw away their mouse, keyboard, and design software anytime soon. I would, however, like to propose some up and coming technologies that we should embrace as designers, to create a far simpler future.”
These technologies include:
Touch experiences – Today, this is the most mature non-keyboard and mouse user experience out there. When the iPhone was introduced in 2007, Sutherland’s SketchPad vision from 1963 came to life. You can express yourself digitally faster and easier, like you would with pen and paper, thanks to apps like Autodesk Sketchbook and FiftyThree Paper.
Motion Sensing – Using your body as a user interface and controller seems like science fiction, but after Microsoft introduced Kinect to the world, this idea has come closer to reality. Leap Motion took this approach further and focused specifically on hand movements. It still takes time to understand and adjust to this kind of experience, but it has the potential to become an easy way to demonstrate your ideas and make it more collaborative to work on 3D designs.
Virtual Reality – Our entire digital design world exists only in a 2D environment, far away from our real-life design experience, like sculpturing, construction, and other design experiences. What if we could actually live as a 3D presence in our digital design world? Oculus Rift brings this experience to life with a headset that makes you feel like you’re in different world. Imagine designing a new house in a 3D space while being able to walk through your newly decorated house. Take a look at this cool 3D sculpture app using the Oculus Rift headset.
Augmented Reality – Although we know very little so far, quite a bit has been written and speculated about MagicLeap. According to some resources, MagicLeap’s new hardware technology could project 3D models in front of us, without the need for any accessories. Similar to Oculus Rift, this could change the way we interact with displays and how we experience 3D design today.
Computer Vision – Do we really need to design everything from scratch? Let’s just use what already exists. New devices equipped with 3D depth-sensing and scanning technologies will help us work and iterate on existing real-life objects far more easily, making review process on 3D designs much simpler. There are already large 3D scanners, and you can watch Google Project Tango in action to understand how the experience works.
Artificial Intelligence – As human beings, we know that we’re imperfect and that we have limitations. While software may have some flaws, it has the potential to produce highly-detailed designs in a matter of seconds, something that would otherwise takes us days, weeks or months to produce. Take a look as Autodesk’s “Dreamcatcher” project generates multiple options of a chair design. Just define the area you want to be designed, and the software will take care the rest.
Though the mouse and touch screen were invented in the 1960s, it took 20 years for the mouse to catch on commercially, and more than 40 years for the touch screen to hit its stride. Adapting new user experiences that combine software and hardware for design tasks will take some time, but we do not need to wait another 40 years. We will be able to see and experience these new paradigms in our lifetime. We can’t wait for these technologies to evolve and change the way people perceive and use design as a way of life.
Read the blog post, “Design software is stuck in the 80s – But not for much longer” in its entirety here.