What happens when BIM meets the IoT?

BIM, building information model or modeling, brings all parts of a building design together into one complete system; it's no longer a collection of unconnected parts. The plumbing exists in context with the electrical work and one can see if there are conflicts that will make the construction or renovation process more complicated.

What happens when BIM meets the IoT?

With the Internet of Things (IoT) we're starting to see new devices for buildings like smart thermostats, talking fridges and lights that react to your presence. What happens when we add BIM to this and how does it help the day to day operations and management of the building? This is exactly what the Environment and Ergonomics team at Autodesk Research set out to discover with Project Dasher.


Autodesk Research Project Dasher
Project Dasher connects BIM with the IoT


What seems like a simple question kicked off a whole bunch of work. Many newly designed buildings will have a BIM. For an older building, like the Autodesk office in Toronto, the team had to create one. They learned about reality capture and laser scanned the building. This resulted in the Digital 210 King project.

They then set about creating a network of sensors and software to monitor things in the building like the movement of occupants in the building to adjust heating levels as people congregate and the position of the sun changes, amount of lighting relative to natural light entering the building and levels of energy usage.


Autodesk Research Project Dasher Sensors
Sensors to monitor building performance including, lighting, motion and carbon dioxide.

As you can imagine, this creates a lot of data for building operations people to deal with. The team developed novel ways to represent the data in context of the building. You can see heating laid overtop of the model as well as the paths of people moving through the building.

Autodesk Research Dasher Trails
As occupants move through the building, their motion can be visualized with overlapping trails to highlight the busiest areas
Autodesk Research Dasher Heat
Exploring the heat of a building


The following video shows how some of this works in real time.


Now that I have all this data what do I do with it?

At this point, the team can begin to learn from the data and apply it to other buildings for the ultimate sustainable design project. Designers could use the same tools that building operation people use to simulate the building before it is is built. They can try different sustainability techniques and technologies for optimal building performance. 

You can read more about this exciting work on the Digital Environment page. If you liked this article, please share it with your sustainable design friends through the links below.


Imagine My City Brings you a Virtual Reality Toronto

Imagine My City, a not-for-profit organization driven to enable and increase productive and meaningful community-based collaboration in issues related to our built environment, has been working with a number of partners including Autodesk and George Brown College to create a virtual reality model of Toronto. The City VR project showcases the use of mobile and immersive technologies to empower citizens to reimagine and share their aspirations about the kind of city they would like to inhabit.


Everyone is invited to stop by and see how virtual reality can help discussions around community and city planning at Toronto City Hall's 50th Anniversary on September 13, 2015.

Toronto CityVR Imagine My CityPlease help spread the news on these event by using the sharing buttons below.

Parametric Humans are Coming to Montreal

Autodesk is sponsoring the third International Workshop on Biomechanical and Parametric Modeling of Human Anatomy (PMHA). As part of the Parametric Human Project, PMHA is all about modeling the human body and simulating it to better understand biomedical and human factors.

Parametric Modeling of Human Anatomy (PMHA)The program for this year's PMHA is rich with content and includes talks on:

  • Developing models for how speech, the tongue and swallowing work
  • Virtual Reality for medical simulation
  • Biomechanical models of the knee and spine
  • Muscle modeling and simulation

This event will take place at Autodesk's beautiful office in Old Montreal.


Autodesk Research at SIGGRAPH 2015

If you're attending SIGGRAPH 2015 in Los Angeles, watch out for these presentations from members of Autodesk Research and say hi to the presenters!:

Kitty: Sketching Dynamic and Interactive Illustrations

Monday, 10 August 3:45 pm - 5:15 pm, Los Angeles Convention Center, Room 402AB

Rubaiat Habib, Fanny Chevalier, Tovi Grossman and George Fitzmaurice

Kitty will be part of the UIST Reprise and you can read more about Kitty in this blog post.

Printing Elastics

Thursday, 13 August 10:45 AM - 12:15 PM, Los Angeles Convention Center, Room 150/151

Session Chair: Nobuyuki Umetani

Convolutional Wasserstein Distances: Efficient Optimal Transportation on Geometric Domains

Tuesday, 11 August 10:45 AM - 12:15 PM, Los Angeles Convention Center, Room 152

Justin Solomon, Fernando de Goes, Gabriel Peyré, Marco Cuturi, Adrian Butscher, Andy Nguyen, Tao Du, Leonidas Guibas

This paper introduces a new class of algorithms for optimization problems involving optimal transportation over geometric domains. The main contribution is to show that optimal transportation can be made tractable over large graphics domains, such as images and triangle meshes, improving performance by orders of magnitude compared to previous work.

OmniAD: Data-Driven Omni-Directional Aerodynamics

Wednesday, 12 August 2:00 PM - 3:30 PM, Los Angeles Convention Center, Room 153A-C

Tobias Martin, Nobuyuki Umetani, Bernd Bickel

Introducing OmniAD, a novel data-driven pipeline to model and acquire the aerodynamics of three-dimensional rigid objects simply by capturing their falling motion using a single camera. OmniAD enables realistic real-time simulation of rigid bodies and interactively designed three-dimensional kites that actually fly.

Computational Tools for 3D Printing

Thursday, 13 August 2:00 pm - 5:15 pm, Los Angeles Convention Center, Room 403AB

Nobuyuki Umetani, Bernd Bickel, Wojciech Matusik

This course reviews current 3D printing hardware and software pipelines, and analyzes their potential and shortcomings. Then it focuses on computational specification for fabrication methods, which allow designing or computing an object's shape and material composition from a functional description.

3D-Printed Prosthetics for the Developing World

Thursday, 13 August, 9-10:30 am,SIGGRAPH Studio

Ryan Schmidt, Ginger Coons, Vincent Chen, Timotheus Gmeiner, Matt Ratto

You can read more about this project here.

Autodesk Exhibitor Sessions

Members of your favourite Autodesk product teams will be showing off cool, new things throughout the week.

The Art of Fluid Animation

And you may see Jos Stam wearing a shirt like this - ask him about it :)

Autodesk Research The Art of Fluid Animation


This Nucleus Simulation Shows How Your Brain is Like a Wad of Paper

Science Magazine recently published an article called Your Brain is like a Wad of Paper. When the team at Autodesk Research saw it Jos Stam recalled that it looks like a simulation Duncan Brinsmead from the Maya team had done with Nucleus a number of years ago.

Autodesk Research Brain Nucleus

From the article in Science Magazine:

Suzana Herculano-Houzel and Bruno Mota—a neuroscientist and physicist, respectively, at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil—have found a mathematical relation for folding in mammals' brains that appears to be universal.

It may sound complicated, but that universal relationship is the same one that describes crumpled wads of paper—as Herculano-Houzel showed by scrunching up sheets of paper of different sizes and thickness at her dining room table and measuring their surface areas. The relationship comes about because the bent-up paper settles into the configuration that minimizes its energy. So presumably, in folding, the cortex also simply settles into the configuration of least mechanical energy.

Duncan Brinsmead says, "The process of crumpling based on surface area in a confined space is what we are simulating. However there are a lot of subtle effects that probably make our result differ."

Jos Stam adds, "It is a qualitative demonstration of the theory described in the paper. The cool thing is that Nucleus is able to show the process and the resulting shape. The brain, like a walnut, is an emergent form from basic constraints. That is what Nucleus is all about."

Here's what the Nucleus simulation in Maya looks like:

You can read Nucleus: Towards a Unified Dynamics Solver for Computer Graphics to learn more about how the Nucleus solver works and watch the video associated with Physics-based Generative Design to see some other interesting uses of Nucleus like below.

Autodesk Research Nucleus Physics Generative Design

Designing a Motorcycle Swingarm with Project Dreamcatcher

Question: When does a motorcycle swingarm look like a pelvic bone?

Answer: When it's designed with Project Dreamcatcher!

Autodesk Research Project Dreamcatcher Motorcycle Swingarm

A swingarm is the main component of the rear suspension of a motorcycle. It attaches the rear wheel to the motorcycle. The swingarms you see below are designed with Project Dreamcatcher and get their organic shape as the system iteratively tests the strength of the piece and removes unnecessary material as you can see below.

To set up for this simulation a designer needs to specify their objectives. In this case, the objectives include the forces, the bounding space for the swingarm (as seen in the initial state above - effectively stating that the finished solution must live within this space), the connection points (where the swingarm connects to the wheel and motorcyle) and objects that must be considered in the space (the wheels and chain).

Autodesk Research Dreamcatcher Connections
Connection points for the swingarm
Autodesk Research Dreamcatcher
Obstacles for the swingarm - a chain is placed on both sides to create a symmetrical result

Dreamcatcher can produce many options for a designer to choose from. Here are some alternative swingarms.


From these options a designer could then decide to do further work, such as:

  • change the shape if they want something less organic and more traditional looking
  • develop wings for a footrest or saddlebags
  • add decorations like an embossed logo

Dreamcatcher is a collaboration between the Design Research and Computational Science groups at Autodesk Research. The Computational Science group is looking at the simulation and generation of these shapes using high performance computing options like GPU's and the cloud. The Design Research group is exploring the user experience for designers and how to push beyond the limits of what is possible today. This makes for a lot of exciting possibilities with Project Dreamcatcher - what would you like to design?

Autodesk Research at CHI 2015

The CHI conference showcases the very best advances in computer science, cognitive psychology, design, social science, human factors, artificial intelligence, graphics, visualization, multi-media design and more is approaching with Autodesk participating both as a proud sponsor and presenter. The theme for CHI 2015 is "Crossings": crossing borders, crossing boundaries, crossing disciplines, crossing people and technology, crossing past and future, crossing physical and digital, crossing art and science, … crossing you and me.

This year Autodesk Research has three papers receiving Honorable Mentions (the top 5% of all submissions):

Supporting Subtlety with Deceptive Devices and Illusory Interactions

Fraser AndersonTovi Grossman, Daniel Wigdor (Department of Computer Science, University of Toronto) and George Fitzmaurice look at ways to conceal your usage of mobile devices and stay connected without offending your co-workers.


Room: 402, Date: Tuesday, April 21, 2015, Time: 14:30 - 15:50

Tactum: A Skin-Centric Approach to Digital Design and Fabrication

Madeline Gannon (Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh), Tovi Grossman and George Fitzmaurice look at skin based input through augmented reality for new design possibilities.

TACTUM – Tactile Augmented Reality (Teaser) from Madeline Gannon on Vimeo.

Room: 401, Date: Tuesday, April 21, 2015, Time: 16:30 - 17:50

Dynamic Opacity Optimization for Scatter Plots

Justin Matejka, Fraser Anderson, and George Fitzmaurice explore opacity-scaling for scatter plots to make them more useful and readable. 


Room: E6, Date: Wednesday, April 22, 2015, Time: 11:30 - 12:50

In addition to these exciting subjects, the team will also present:

Your Paper is Dead! Bringing Life to Research Articles with Animated Figures

Tovi Grossman, Fanny Chevalier (Inria, France) and Rubaiat Habib Kazi discuss how scientific knowledge can benefit from moving images in publications. 

Room: 308, Date: Monday, April 20, 2015, Time: 16:30 - 17:50

Panel: Transfer of HCI Research Innovations

There has been a longstanding concern within HCI that even though we are accumulating great innovations in the field, we rarely see these innovations develop into products. Our panel brings together HCI researchers from academia and industry who have been directly involved in technology transfer of one or more HCI innovations. They will share their experiences around what it takes to transition an HCI innovation from the lab to the market, including issues around time commitment, funding, resources, and business expertise. More importantly, our panelists will discuss and debate the tensions that we (researchers) face in choosing design and evaluation methods that help us make an HCI research contribution versus what actually matters when we go to market.

  • Parmit K Chilana, Management Sciences, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada
  • Mary P Czerwinski, Microsoft Research, Redmond, United States
  • Tovi Grossman, Autodesk Research, Toronto, Canada
  • Chris Harrison, Human-Computer Interaction Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, United States
  • Ranjitha Kumar, Computer Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, United States
  • Patrick Baudisch, Hasso Plattner Institute, Potsdam, Germany
  • Shumin Zhai, Research @ Google, Mountain View, United States

Room: 307, Date: Monday, April 20, 2015, Time: 11:30 - 12:50

It looks like an exciting conference - If you're at CHI, please say hello to the team!

Pacific Graphics 2015 Call For Papers

Jos Stam from the Simulation and Graphics group at Autodesk Research will be co-chairing the Pacific Graphics 2015 Program in Beijing from October 7-9, 2015


Pacific Graphics provides a premium forum for researchers, developers, practitioners in the Pacific Rim and around the world to present and discuss new problems, solutions, and technologies in computer graphics and related areas. Pacific Graphics 2015 will be hosted by Tsinghua University in Beijing.

The call is now open for people to submit their original, unpublished papers in all areas of computer graphics and its applications. Suggested topics include (but are not limited to) modeling, rendering, animation, and imaging, as well as visualization, human-computer interaction, and graphics systems and applications. Any interesting new ideas related to computer graphics and applications are welcome.

Important Dates for Authors:

Abstract Submission May 8, 2015 - 23:59 PDT (GMT-7)
Full/Short Paper Submission May 15, 2015 - 23:59 PDT (GMT-7)
Author Notification July 4, 2015 - 23:59 PDT (GMT-7)

The conference proceedings of Pacific Graphics 2015 will be published as an issue of the Eurographics journal, Computer Graphics Forum (CGF), in print and online. 


I don't know who designed this chair but they didn't use Project Dreamcatcher

OK, as a follow-up post to the reddit thread on uncomfortable chair design this title is not quite fair. Project Dreamcatcher is not yet ready for general use and testing but if it was we would see some interesting chairs and other designs.

What is Project Dreamcatcher?

Autodesk Research Project Dreamcatcher

Project Dreamcatcher is a shared research initiative between our Design Research and Computational Science Research groups to make the computer aware of your design considerations, constraints and goals. In this new envisioning of Computer Aided Design (CAD), the computer would crunch through your instructions and give you a whole bunch of possibilities that meet your criteria; the computer aids you by doing actual design work.

Let's look at the exciting possibilities this offers with designing a bike frame. A typical bikeframe is usually made of some kind of metal tubing. Our designers created this cool looking bicycle concept with Alias

Autodesk Research Project Dreamcatcher Bicycle Frame
A bicycle designed with Alias

They then wanted to explore a number of design ideas relative to the more familiar tube-style design:

  • Could the frame be made in a different style?
  • How light-weight could the frame be without sacrificing strength?
  • Could this frame be 3D printed to use less raw material?

Using these questions in conjunction with Project Dreamcatcher, the following, very unique frame was developed.

Autodesk Research Project Dreamcatcher Bicycle Frame Concept
A bicycle frame designed with Autodesk Research Project Dreamcatcher

Taking advantage of the power of scaleable computing, Project Dreamcatcher was able to address all of the design parameters and test all of the solutions. In meeting the wishes to use less material and not sacrifice strength, this web-like 3D grid was created to fill the shape of the originally designed frame. Our designers could then review the possible solutions, knowing all solutions met their goals, and choose a frame to do additional work on if necessary, for example:

  • exploring material colour and decorations
  • looking at a clear coating to prevent things from getting stuck in the frame
  • thinking about equipment that may be attached to the frame and how that would work

Fast Company took a look at some of the possibilites with Project Dreamcatcher and talked to Autodesk CTO Jeff Kowalski who says:

"In the past couple of years, we have experienced such an explosion of computing power that we can completely change the design equation"

Coincidentally, Jeff also talks about chairs and how this might apply to their design. In our previous post on chair design, Mark Gorecki, a design engineer, asks some good questions about design considerations for furniture that will be used in a public space:

  • Leather upholstery and thick padding would be nice to sit on while waiting for your train, but how long before it's ripped to shreds?
  • Using an aesthetic material as the "shell" for your item, can that material be coated so that markers, spray paint, etc. can be removed easily?

These could be applied to the design of the chair, along with other important factors, and then the designer could review the possibilities.

Imagine being presented with something like this for some design criteria that specified strength, material type, number of legs and height of the seat:

Autodesk Research Project Dreamcatcher Possible Chair Designs
A selection of chairs based on design criteria including height and material

As a designer you now have potentially thousands of concepts to explore and you know that your main criteria of strength and material are met. You could now move into exploring things like a decorative curve across the back of the chair, cushions, fabric and possible companion pieces like a table.

Thinking about designing the chair at the train station, what if you were not skilled in ergonomics? What if Project Dreamcatcher was connected with the Parametric Human Project and you could treat the human factors as some of the design parameters? You could have a base of chairs to choose from that were ergonomically correct and you could focus on other design considerations. 

What would you do if you had an assistant designer that was happy to take on the grunt work for you? What kinds of things would you like to apply Project Dreamcatcher to?

Come try Project Draco - our drawing/animation/effects innovation mash-up - at the SIGGRAPH 2014 Studio

We'll be showing Project Draco at the SIGGRAPH 2014 Studio in Vancouver and you can get your hands on it! 

SIGGRAPH 2014 Studio 

Here's how SIGGRAPH describes the SIGGRAPH 2014 Studio:

The SIGGRAPH 2014 Studio is a collaborative working environment where the latest technologies and brightest minds come together to learn, experiment, and create. Attendees of the SIGGRAPH Studio explore wide range of new techniques and media with help from experienced hands. Attendees experience the latest in 3D printing, modeling, and animation software. The SIGGRAPH Studio is made for anyone interested in cutting-edge DIY gadgets, quasi-objects, Rube Goldberg machines, user-generated content projects, software, hardware, processes, workflows, technologies, etc.

Like any good SIGGRAPH experience there are moving pixels to describe the space and event. We're very happy to see Project Draco as the lead piece in this movie!

We'll be in the Studio Sunday through Thursday and have put our offer to you in the form of a short poem:

please stop by

give Draco a try

help us clarify

how we may supply

this technology

to girl and guy

In other words, we are looking for feedback on the technology and seeking input and ideas from people on what to do next. Letting you get your hands on it should help with that.

Project Draco

Project Draco comes from the User Interface Group here at Autodesk Research. Draco mashes up illustration, animation and effects in an easy to use interface. Fast Company says "Autodesk's Draco Lets You Animate An Illustration In Seconds". Take a look at the following illustration. There are a lot of simple elements in a picture that can be made to move and create an even richer experience for the viewer.

Autodesk Research Project Draco Animated Elements

Autodesk is well known for tools like Maya, 3ds Max and Flame that let people create similar things. Project Draco takes some of these concepts and makes them available to just about anyone. The learning curve is very flat and the immediate feedback is incredibly gratifying. Have a look at the intuitive sketch-based workflow:

Autodesk Research Project Draco Workflow Diagram

 More examples of the workflows and things you can create are available in this short movie:

We hope to see you at SIGGRAPH. If you can't be there in person, take a couple moments to let us know if you're interested in testing Draco in the future.