Quick, while nobody’s looking, slip those goggles on that make you look as if you’ve slipped through time to warn yourself about reading this post. “DON’T READ IT!” your future self says, but curiosity grasped your eyelids and pulls them clear over your freshly shaved hairline.

You just can’t start a new decade without throwing a huge, sopping wet wad of presumption at the next one. It would be easy to make predictions about tech in 2010, but after popping out the orifice of one decade, there’s just nothing like rollin’ up your sleeves and heading toward the end of the next one. That’s what we aim to do and we’ve got 10 predictions to make you wonder how it is all going to end.

Who would have thought…

that back in 2000, you would have made it to 2010 and, in doing so, are now able to buy a 32 GB thumb drive for under $100 to store all your cat pictures and design files on? Or, that you would meet online with a customer in Switzerland for a 5 hour design review? A lot has happened and it’s usually nothing like what we thought it would be or necessarily want it to be. Nevertheless, there are some cool advancements that happen along the way. These are a few of my guesses of what a few of them may be over the next ten years.

  1. SolidWorks will release a CATIA translator/converter
    Can ya feel the love? It would be hard to believe now wouldn’t it? However, I think it’s very likely we’ll see something this year – 2010, to get native CATIA files into SolidWorks. I somehow have the feeling that it’s not going to be like what we’re thinking with a typical add-in or translator app. Perhaps something that makes format not matter so much at all. Something that kills the backward compatible/import issue with one big smack.
  2. 3D Design apps on Windows, Mac, Linux or Mobile
    We’ll start to see this manifest itself in simple flash-based applications. We’re already there with AIR and other development Adobe is doing with mobile platforms. To really go beyond the limitations each system has and the peculiar affinities that users have for their platform, ideally, any company would want their product on any platform. Then, it doesn’t matter what mobile carrier, or operating system, you’re using.
  3. More apps via (your head in) the cloud
    Let’s face it, the idea of computing solely over a T1 line is ridiculous. I started writing this in an email, offline because the network was down… a socket, a server, the ISP, the host… it doesn’t matter. Redundancy needs to be built in… and it will. However, while we’re thinking of all these cloud host companies building server farms everywhere, it could actually be a biologically-linked satellite-style redundancy. Data stored in you, backed-up and accessed wherever. crazy talk?
  4. Thumb-drive and web upgrades
    Gone will be the days of receiving a pile of DVD’s in the mail. If you’re sent anything at all, it will be a thumb-drive that automatically detects and upgrades your design software and PDM vault servers. That can already happen and is for the most part, we’ll just start to see more of it. What’s going to be really interesting in this area are the speeds of data transfer and upgrades. You’ll see it already with game console and mobile app updates.
  5. Devices for 3D Product Specs/Design guidelines
    More manufacturers will go along with the using thumbdrives and the web to distribute product data. A lot of this will be available via ebook or mobile equivalents. It will be more than just instruction manuals. You’re car or appliance could have a touchscreen and data port where mobile or USB devices attach to show system analysis and diagnosis for issues or show step-by-step scenarios for different users.
  6. Print replacement parts
    So, after you’ve plugged in a device to get data on your purchase, you’ll be able to see parts available for a 3D print. If you’ve ever needed a replacement part for a heater or dishwasher that exploded over the weekend, you’ll know how useful this would be. What interesting here are the positions for designers and engineers that will develop and support these types of systems and the products produced by them.
  7. People will realize 3D is more than in the movies
    First, I’m tired of all the post skeptical about 3D for movies. Avatar is about to become the #2 top-grossing movie of all time. I had to get my ticket three days in advanced a week after it had been out. It wasn’t even that good, but the experience was spectacular. But wait, that’s just movies. In the next decade more people will start to see that 1) people design stuff in 3D 2) scan stuff in 3D 3) print stuff in 3D and that there are 1) places to share 3D models and 2) places to sell 3D printed models.
  8. A big merger between a 3D Design and a Rendering company
    Autodesk has their share of rendering products in their family of products. My guess here is Dassault and Luxology. They’ve had a strong partnership, development continues to grow within the PhotoView 360 product and the link between SolidWorks and Luxology is becoming stronger. I personally like Luxology, and Bunkspeed, for that matter on their own. They offer more independent from a mother-ship.
  9. A major partnership between a 3D Design and a game console company
    This would be even bigger, because it hasn’t happened yet. My guess here is Autodesk and Sony or Microsoft and Dassault, with the former being more promising. This would allow 3D content to supplement gaming or provide ways for people to start visually augmenting rooms in their house. Sony and Autodesk stand out to me given both of their involvement in the entertainment industry, collaboration on past games and the amount of Sony devices that could potentially serve 3D content.
  10. We will design airplanes via Facebook
    Well, some say they will not design planes on Facebook, and granted, that seems ridiculous right now, but there’s obviously an affect that sites like Facebook are having on how we will design. Just take a look at SolidWorks/Dassault’s vision of the future UI – people and profiles right within your design environment. There are even ways to embed 3D viewers into collaboration apps like Google Wave. Hopefully the interfaces will be slicker, but it’s still likely to happen.

A handful of other thoughts…

PTC will be acquired…
Physical mouse and keyboard will go away…
The last fax machine will burn…
Google will launch a Sketchup web app…
Design, Engineering and Manufacturing will happen simultaneously…

I think we have a lot to look forward to over the next decade. What are your predictions?

Post image via Jessica Mullen (Flickr)
DVD Pile photo via John Ward (Flickr)


Josh is founder and editor at SolidSmack.com, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.