My father was engineer. As a child, I’ve been coming to my dad’s office to watch how engineers designed metallurgical plants and heavy industrial machines. Back that days, the design was all about drawing boards and paper. Fast forward in our days. Lots of things changed. Our design interaction is not with a paper anymore. Computers made a revolution by transforming design interaction completely. Since first graphical displays were introduces back in 1960s, the idea of how people can interact with design system evolved into completely different process.
First, it moved from paper to 2D CAD. Later it transformed from 2D into 3D. It started from graphic pen and digitizers, evolved into use of different styles of mouses, moved to multi-touch displays. Finally, modern devices introduced a completely new way to interact with design systems and computers. We started to think about how to design using some magic hands gestures.
Earlier this week, I watched a very interesting video by Elon Musk, founder of Tesla motors. Read this post – Elon Musk on the future of design: motion gestures, 3D viewing and 3D printing. Thanks SolidSmack for sharing this video.
Here is how this technology explained – SpaceX is exploring methods for engineers to accelerate their workflow by designing more directly in 3D. This device is integrating sensor and visualization technologies to view and modify designs more naturally and efficiently than we could using purely 2D tools. This is just a beginning, but eventually SpaceX hope to build the fastest route between the idea of a rocket and the reality of the factory floor.
This video made me think about distance CAD industry passed since first invention of graphic design interaction. It was always about simplicity and user experience. The very early appearance of graphic design interaction is dated by 1963 when Ivan Sutherland presented his Sketchpad.
Here is a description of the technology. This work was seminal in Human-Computer Interaction, Graphics and Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs), Computer Aided Design (CAD), and constraint/object-oriented programming. It is important to remember what type of the computer you see in this video. It was TX-2 computer (built circa 1958) on which the software ran was built from discrete transistors (not integrated circuits -it was room-sized) and contained just 64K of 36-bit words (~272k bytes).
Now, let’s move forward 30 years. Back in 1990s, Microsoft Windows became a mainstream platform. SolidWorks was pioneering in creation of design interaction using standard Windows technology. The idea was to make it easy to learn and use by engineers. Watch another remarkable video (thanks Rick Chin for making it available on Youtube). In this video John Hirschtick (SolidWorks founder) and Rick Chin are demonstrating SolidWorks on Windows together with Bill Gates.
I found Rick’s commentary to this video on Youtube interesting. In 1998, Microsoft had an event to show the world that Windows NT was ready for industrial strength enterprise work. Jon Hirschtick was invited to demonstrate SolidWorks to Bill Gates on stage as part of this event. I was incredibly fortunate to join them and be a part of the demo. As you will see in the demo, Jon Hirschtick is a master at making the complex simple, compelling, and very relevant to everyone watching.
What is my conclusion? It is amazing to see the speed of innovation in design interaction. These three videos demonstrated a huge distance computers and design technologies passed for the last 50 years. However, you cannot stop the innovation. Just look around. New computers, new interaction devices, cloud, mobile – all these elements can create a new generation of design interaction these days. Just my thoughts…