What’s in the wide, wide world of 3D CAD is going on? I’ll tell ya what’s going on, technology that has been presented over the past two weeks at E3 and various display and developer conferences has completely changed the way we are going to collaborate with people and design projects.

They’re technologies that will seemingly squeeze all the fun out of sitting around becoming morbidly obese and inefficient in our day to day interaction through the wires connected to our computer screens.

Not looking forward to that? If so, have a look at what you’ll what to run away from in the near future. Scratch that.. in the NOW. This is all tech that has debut this and last week, not concept, but in development and production, slated to launch within in the year. Boy are you gonna have fun…

Some may not be looking forward to these types of tech, and sure, they may not be used as shown for what we do in product design and engineering, but the inspiration and influence they will have are paramount. That’s why CAD and PLM have already completely changed. That’s why you need to see all the mess of videos below and see that in all seriousness (yeah, for reals), in all seriousness…

The CAD and collaborative PLM apps of the future will have:

  1. Hands-free Control
  2. Unlimited Multi-touch
  3. Real-time Collaboration
  4. Experiential Reality
  5. Touch-Enabled Software

Hands-Free Control

This area has seen the most attention and buzz out of all the rest. Why? Simply because it amazing. Standing in front of a screen jiggling about isn’t nesisarily the most productive way to get something done, but beyond that this is allowing you more freedom over, what is done. Not being constrained to a hand control with an increasing set of buttons may seem to have it’s limitation and perhaps it does when there are surgical type processes to be complete. This doesn’t take away from the fact that there are possibilities that can be directly applied to how you work and how you design products and how you interact with others online. Here’s the three technologies to watch.

Project Natal

Sony’s Motion Controller

Canesta Gesture Controls

Unlimited Multi-Touch

Forget the plain-old 1-finger, 2-finger slide and zoom dance. There’s companies like N-trig and 3M building device capable of unlimited points of input via touch. Here’s N-trigs example. Don’t be surprised if you hear more news about N-trig multi-touch device and 3D CAD in the near future.

N-Trig’s DuoSense Large Format Multi-Touch Display

Real-time Collaboration

I’ve been having a little discussion about this with Oleg Shilovitsky over at PLMTwine. Google has introduced a new way of collaborating online. An open-source way that makes collaborating in real-time a reality. The below videos speak for themselves and show just how it would bring communication about design and development into a real-time environment.

I like how Chris Kelly states it, “What if models where designed from the ground up as a shared object? Not just passing things back and forth for sequential editing and updates, but really being able to have a model shared that design teams could simultaneously edit?”

Google Wave Intro

Google Wave Screen Preview

Experiential Reality

I say experiential, because the term VR or Virtual Reality is almost cliche at this point. It’s no longer ‘Virtual’ – it’s experiential. That’s important, because with any type of communication, action get performed more efficiently when they are part of the experience. This is mirroring what Google is doing with Wave, except it’s extending the real-time discussion into your environment. Take a look.

Lionhead’s Project Milo

Touch-enabled software/hardware

You may have heard about it. Devices coming out are becoming more touch-enabled each month. Phones, monitors… In order to use software with unlimited multi-touch, you need devices with unlimited support for it. Windows 7 is set to launch October 22nd, 2009. This year. It has multi-touch capabilities that hardware vendors, are not only developing (in Apple’s case), but really want to be on board with.

Windows 7/Monitors

Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF)
Apple Glass Touch-pad Video

Ok, so a lot of videos and a lot speculations as to how this could affect how you design products, but obviously there is going to be a lot of ways this technology can be applied.

In your wildest dreams what could it be? How has this changed everything?


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.