Autodesk, www.autodesk.com
Autodesk Labs, labs.autodesk.com
Pi Mobility, www.pimobility.com

There was lots of excitement in the air and plenty of new software showcased at the recent Autodesk University in Las Vegas. Hot topics included mobile apps, cloud computing, and sustainability.

The free AutoCAD WS Mobile App got lots of buzz because users can view and edit DWG files directly on their iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch. The devices’ touch-and-gesture interfaces let users view, annotate, and revise drawings they have previously uploaded to the free AutoCAD WS online workspace. Users can even share designs with other AutoCAD WS users directly from their mobile devices. According to the developer, the two-month-old program has been downloaded from Apple’s App Store over 560,000 times.

Attendees were also introduced to recent cloud computing programs, many of which reside on the Autodesk Labs Website. For example, Project Neon lets users off-load rendering jobs to the developer’s private cloud of remote servers. This means designers can continue to work on other tasks while the service churns away in the background. Users can even upload multiple rendering jobs sequentially. Currently, Project Neon handles DWG or eTransmit files created in AutoCAD 2010 and 2011.

Another nifty program, Project Photofly, exploits the power of the cloud to stitch together photographs taken with regular digital cameras to make editable 3D models.

Several presenters stressed the importance of sustainability, generally defined as “designing with an eye to the future to help preserve dwindling resources.” One impressive example, the Pi Cycle from Pi Mobility in Sausalito, Calif., was designed in Autodesk Inventor 3D software with the intent to make a better, more durable, and more environmentally friendly electric bike. The bicycle features an arched frame made from recycled aluminum tube. The frame contains the batteries and electronics and is said to be stronger yet more lightweight than traditional injection-molded plastic enclosures. It takes minimal amounts of electricity to manufacture a bike and a finished unit produces just 300 lb of carbon dioxide per 12,000 miles of travel.

© 2011 Penton Media, Inc.