By Sunday morning, I’ll be on a plane, bound for SolidWorks World (Jan 20-23, Swan and Dolphin, Orlando, Florida). If I seem a bit dazed and confused when you spot me in the hotel lobby, it’s probably because I’ve come straight from an all-night costumed ball in San Francisco without sufficient sleep. But I’ll be my usual self once I get some caffeine and newsworthy tidbits to perk me up. What, in your view, is the anticipated revelation this year?
Personally, I’m looking forward to two items.
- The first public preview of the next-gen modeler aimed at conceptual design phase.
- The preview of an augmented reality (AR) app for the iPad.
Last September, when SolidWorks CEO Bertrand Sicot met the trade press at SolidWorks 2013 launch event in Waltham, Massachusetts, he weighed his words carefully. He would only dole out three morsels of details about the hush-hush product in development: (1) It focuses on mechanical design concepts; (2) It’s set to unveil at SolidWorks 2013; and (3) It complements SolidWorks.
Some of SolidWorks’ rivals have positioned their direct-editing programs (among them are Autodesk Inventor Fusion, SpaceClaim, Creo Direct (formerly CoCreate), and Solid Edge with Synchronous Technology) as more effective ways to handle conceptual modeling. It’s a sound argument, in my view. By its very nature, the push-pull direct editing software tends to be easier to learn and use; therefore, it’s better suited for the less formal, less regulated conceptual phase.
Coming from the lone hold-out resisting the direct-editing craze, the yet-to-be-publicly-named new product from SolidWorks will have to not only meet but exceed the ease-of-use expectation set by direct modelers. It would make no sense for the company to introduce yet another parametric modeler, which competes against its existing MCAD star SolidWorks. So the fundamental modeling paradigm in the new product has to be something else. Currently, on SolidWorks’ official blog and on user forums, there’s no clues about the new product. So the first glimpse will likely come only when Bertrand takes the stage in Orlando.
We do, however, have a better idea about the second item, a mobile app with AR function. At the SolidWorks 2013 launch event, Rick Chin, director of product innovation at SolidWorks, demonstrated a working prototype of the new app on an iPad. With it, you could merge live video feed from the tablet’s camera with an eDrawings model, allowing you to place virtual products in the real world. It worked well in the prototype demo (captured in this video footage by Ricky Jordan). I’m betting a more mature version of this app will make its big-screen debut to a larger audience at SolidWorks World.
In 2009, SolidWorks regular attendee John Ferguson published a PDF document titled “A SolidWorks World Survival Guide.” Four years later, the common sense suggestions in his guide still holds true. Among his thoughtful tips are “Pack comfortable shoes” and “Be early for everything.” Come Monday morning, I’ll be in my journey-worn Adidas, elbowing my way into the packed ballroom to witness the keynote event. See you there!