Opening the Doors to the High-Tech Future of Architecture

At Doors Open Toronto, Autodesk showed how architecture is evolving through technologies like VR, generative design and the internet of things.

We used VR in designing our new space at the MaRS Discovery District to help visualize the space and help people understand what it would look like. At Doors Open, we showed how anyone could access VR on their mobile devices and let people take a sneak peak into our new gallery and event space on the ground floor.

A number of people asked how hard it was to create such an experience. We talked about how people could do this with tools like 3ds max, Maya and Stingray, Autodesk’s game engine. Now even easier, designers can take their digital building model from Revit and easily send it to Revit Live for an immersive and interactive experience.

Some people asked how you could do this if you didn’t have a digital model. Using your camera, you can take photos of a space and convert it to a digital model with Autodesk ReCap. We used a similar process when we created a model of our previous Toronto office, connected with the internet of things, to start the Dasher360 project. Dasher360 allows building operations personnel to use the digital model to explore how the building is using resources like electricity and how people are moving through the space.

Also on display were examples of generative design for architecture. We showed how our floor plan for our office at MaRS was created and the following video tells some of the story.

We also showed how the University of Southern California used generative design to prototype solutions for a multi-building site in Los Angeles.

Of course, a lot of visitors were interested in things beyond architecture. We had people who were also interested in creating digital tools and similar experiences for other industries like gaming, manufacturing and construction. A couple quick points of note for those folks:

  • Forge provides a number of 3D design capabilities for web developers
  • There is a lot of development happening in the Toronto office and people should check out the Autodesk Careers page




If an AI doesn’t take your job, it will design your office

ARRANGING EMPLOYEES IN an office is like creating a 13-dimensional matrix that triangulates human wants, corporate needs, and the cold hard laws of physics: Joe needs to be near Jane but Jane needs natural light, and Jim is sensitive to smells and can’t be near the kitchen but also needs to work with the product ideation and customer happiness team—oh, and Jane hates fans. Enter Autodesk’s Project Discover. Not only does the software apply the principles of generative design to a workspace, using algorithms to determine all possible paths to your #officegoals, but it was also the architect (so to speak) behind the firm’s newly opened space in Toronto.

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The Promise of Generative Design

Computational design promises to have a profound, far-reaching impact upon the architecture profession by automating the creation of bespoke building plans that solve specific project challenges. The latest generative design software developed by companies such as Autodesk is capable of independently producing customized architectural plans free of any further human interaction following the setting of initial parameters and the launch of programs. Architects can adjust the software to produce an endless slew of architectural designs that satisfy the specific criteria associated with a given project in terms of cost, constructibility or performance dynamics, at a pace and level of productivity that would be impossible for human beings to match.

An outstanding example of the tremendous potential of generative design as a problem-solving design tool is Autodesk’s development of a new office and research space in Toronto’s MaRS Innovation District. One of the key goals in developing the new office and research space was the creation of a spatial layout that would foster happenstance interaction between the diverse range of talent setting up shop in the MaRS district.

“Our focus was on space planning – we wanted people to travel easily around the office, yet we also wanted to create these zones of congestion where people could interact and meet with each other,” said Nagy. “We developed the architectural concept of breaking up shared spaces into amenities zones that in turn break up the office.”

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Autodesk Welcomes the Vector Institute

Autodesk is thrilled to have the Vector Institute – an independent, non-profit research institution dedicated to the transformative field of artificial intelligence – moving in as a new neighbour at MaRS. The Vector Institute will build on Canada’s outstanding pool of globally recognized AI expertise by training, attracting and retaining more top researchers who want to lead the world in machine learning and deep learning research, while having the flexibility to work on commercial applications with companies or in their own startups.

Minister of Finance Bill Morneau, Ontario Minister of Research, Innovation and Science Reza Moridi, Mayor John Tory and Ilse Treurnicht, CEO of MaRS Discovery District, stopped by to see what Autodesk is doing with AI for design from machined parts like the motorcycle swingarm being held by Minister Moridi to the floor plan of the new Autodesk office being shown in the background on the television screen.

Gord Kurtenbach, Senior Director of Autodesk Research said, “We just announced the Autodesk AI Lab last month when Mike Haley, our Head of Machine Intelligence, spoke here at MaRS so this is really exciting news. It shows the value in being part of the strong and vibrant innovation community here at MaRS. Autodesk is an expert in design and visualization technologies. When we pair this with AI, there is huge potential for large advances.”

Ramtin Attar, the Head of Design and Social Impact at Autodesk added, “A lot of what is done with AI, in fintech, for example, is removed from people. At Autodesk, you can touch and interact with the things that AI has helped to create. Our office is a great example – it’s the first floor plan in the world designed with AI and people can come in and see how cool it is.”

A rendering of the new Autodesk Toronto office showing a number of floor plans designed with AI

The Future of Making Things: AI in Design and Manufacturing

Whether you are talking about the design of buildings, cars, movie characters or even entire cities, recent advances in artificial intelligence (AI) technologies have opened up new possibilities and revolutionized the creative process. And it doesn’t stop there. As the manufacturing and construction industries become more and more digitized, AI can simplify and increase the efficiency of how things are made.

At this event, Mike Haley, who leads Autodesk’s Machine Intelligence research group, will explore a range of “design-to-construction” cases to look at how AI is being applied in real scenarios. He’ll showcase both how it makes processes more efficient and how it allows us to investigate previously unimaginable designs.

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