Technology is an increasingly popular subject nowadays. It is advancing at such a pace that it is becoming more and more difficult to keep pace with its development throughout numerous fields. Besides following magazines, news, etc., is to attend events where the latest advancements are presented and the people responsible are in attendance.
This was the case of Dassault Systemes’ event on Design in the Age of Experience, held in Milan on April 4 & 5 2017.
As a design engineer, finite element (FE) analyst, and design (in its broader spectrum) enthusiast, going to this event was quite enlightening. To say that it was solely focused on Industrial design, for example, or design engineering, would be unfair as it would fail to portrait the event’s further reach into technological development and the greater role of design as a whole in society.
The theme, although cantered around the different fields of design and its interactions with other areas within industry, focused on the key role of DS and its new software platform, 3DEXPERIENCE. It also showcased how its products are being applied across different industries by some of the most advanced companies in the world, including some from the very Mecca of technological development, Silicon Valley.
The Venue comprised of a main hall and conference rooms. At the main hall, new tech demonstrations were being carried out by Dassault Systèmes delegates. These had a great focus on Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) coupled to Dassault Systèmes software. Visitors would have the chance to test the VR helmets and AR lenses. There were several conference rooms; a main room would hold the keynote talks, while the other smaller rooms would serve as a possibility to take a closer look at how some companies were directly implementing specific Dassault Systèmes products. The latter ones were called Breakout Sessions.
Driving Cars with Hololenses
Delving deeper into the tech displays in the main hall, whilst all of them were quite impressive, a few could be highlighted amongst the whole. First of all, it would have been difficult not to spot the Onroak Ligier LMP3 chassis on display, where one of the AR experiences was being showcased. The use of AR in this case would allow to simulate a situation that could occur during a race, more specifically LeMans, and provide a virtual experience where the involved participants could solve it. This was called the HoloOak which uses Hololens technology.
Assembling Bicycles with AR
Another interesting display of AR involved a bicycle assembly that could be visualised through a set of AR lenses. Voice activated commands would allow the viewer to interact with the model by, for example, exploding the assembly. The best part of AR is that while you are visualizing a digital model, the space where you visualize it is real. This blurs the lines between the virtual and real worlds and allows us to place virtual objects into a real space, making it possible to have a greater sense of scale of the object with respect to its environment, as it’s no longer being observed through a computer screen.
Walking in a Virtual House with VR
One of the VR attractions in the main hall involved the user experiencing a virtual house, walking through the different rooms and manipulating objects within them. The VR device used was a HTC Vibe. In order to manipulate the objects within the house, it was necessary to use a set of hand held controllers. These would act as our “virtual hands” within the Virtual Environment. As an active gamer, I was quite eager to try VR but had not had the chance until that moment. It was nothing short of what I expected. The fidelity and representation of space were excellent.
Driving a bus with VR
Going to a topic more representative of the FE Analyst’s work, it was possible to experience VR while visualizing a bus in an FE post-processor, used for Electro Magnetic (EM) analysis. This is a completely new way of navigating through FE results. The case study was a bus, where the strength of the Wi-Fi signal was the subject of interest and how big was the effect near the seating areas. The concern would be that the Wi-Fi signal does not cause any health issues amongst the passengers.
The tech displays at the event were a good demonstration of what’s to come in terms of experiencing design and simulation from a more tactile perspective. However, the focus of the event were the talks, with some remarkable speakers taking part in the conference. Among them were the CATIA and SolidWorks CEOs, Philippe Laufer and Gian Paolo Bassi, Dassault Systèmes CEO Bernard Charles, and the Executive Vice-President Monica Menghini.
Entrepreneurs from the US such as META’s CEO Meron Gribetz and Jon Friedman from Freight Farms took part in the talks, together with a small “from a distance” appearance by Tim Houter from Delft Hyperloop. The list goes on to representatives from companies like RIMAC with COO Monika Mikac, former Chief Creative Officer at Pininfarina, Fabio Filippini, and current Head of Design at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Klauss Busse, etc.
The talks were aimed at discussing design from different perspectives, but always cantered around the experience. Because technology is evolving into bringing the user closer to the tools we use, the way is paved for humans to have a closer interaction with our machine counterparts. This means we can observe and experience our designs first hand. It is important, in this case, that design is understood as the whole process undertaken to create. This involves concept, simulation, detail, manufacturing, etc.
One of the big talks came from Meron Gribetz, CEO at META, which is a company based at Silicon Valley focused on the development of Augmented Reality. With a great aim on user experience, Gribetz’s talk discussed less about the specifics of their product, and rather described what would be his vision of the future and our connection to the world through AR. In his vision, the AR interface is so advanced that no more than simple gestures with our body are needed to control the AR device, allowing us to almost intuitively interact through it, without having to learn complex procedures or interfaces.
Its CEO, and Co-Founder, Jon Friedman talked the public through how the demand on farmed goods is expected to grow, and the key role of their product in meeting that demand, and democratizing crop production. Freight Farms are, in extremely basic terms, self-sustaining containers where crops can be grown. So, instead of using a large piece of land to grow a big amount of goods, where climate is one of the major factors affecting the crop, these containers decentralize farming and take climate out of the equation, allowing us to have these containers in the middle of a city if we want, and have the optimum conditions to grow our food. Additionally, bringing it closer to the Internet of Things (IoT) philosophy, the containers can be monitored through an app on the phone.
There were some big members from the automotive industry present at the event. Monika Mikac, COO at Rimac, introduced us to a company bound to break walls in the supercar arena with their Concept One all electric vehicle; a 1,224 HP sports car that has already been shown to accelerate quicker than the LaFerrari and a few other Hyper Cars. With a very powerful contender, and developing their technology from the ground up, Rimac is putting Croatia in the map of high end car manufacturers.
Klaus Busse, Head of Design at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, and Fabio Filippini, former Chief Creative Officer at Pininfarina, made a big appearance and delighted the public with a few slides and videos of some of their work.
In the medical field, authority on the medical device design and Head of Medical Design Research Centre at Nagoya City University Hospital, Professor Katsushi Kunimoto, described the process they undertake for designing their products and how they integrate it with the cloud platform from 3DEXPERIENCE. The whole development revolves around CAD and brings people from different fields (engineering, design, etc.) in a stepped process so that most areas are covered throughout the design procedure. Kunimoto presented the design of their highly awarded Laringoscope as an example.
Renowned French sculptor Anilore Banon presented a perfect blend between art and science with the Vitae project. The idea is to put a sculpture on the Moon. On what could be considered a mutual honour, Anilore has been able to work with scientists and engineers from all over the world, including members from NASA and CERN.
A small scale version of the Vitae sculpture is already undergoing tests within the International Space Station (ISS). Part of the structure is made with a shape memory alloy, allowing it to transform its shape as temperatures rise and fall with the sun cycles on the Moon.
On what personally seemed as a rare use of computer simulation, Associate Professor at the Centre for Information Technology and Architecture, Martin Tamke shared some extraordinary examples where advanced material technology and Finite Element Analysis are applied to art and architecture. Some examples showed analyses performed on large fabric sculptures to see that their performance under different loading conditions was satisfactory.
From an engineering perspective, his talk was enlightening as he went into more detail regarding the results of some of the simulations, and the processes they took to create them and the structures.
On a note that presented the importance of design from a social and economic perspective, Managing Partner at Hybrid Reality Pte Ltd and global strategist, Parag Khanna provided us with a half an hour talk on connectivity and its importance on human civilization towards the future. His vision, which could be considered optimistic, blurs the frontiers between nations, shown on geographical maps, and rather focuses on infrastructure, which presents a completely boundless map of the world, and how focusing our efforts on it and its investment will create a far more equal society.
A lot more could be drawn from the event, like the use of Dassalt Systèmes software for city planning and how complete cities are being designed virtually before turning into reality.
The event was successful at presenting not only a vision of the future, but also how the virtual tools we use and PLM play a key role in it. It was also a more enriching experience where the attendees had the chance of being up close with leading personalities, across different industries, and see how they are transforming the world and steering humanity into a future driven by design.
Special thanks to Sofia Arango from Ainas Magazine for most of the pictures in this article.