Future of design: how to connect physical and digital entities?

Future of design: how to connect physical and digital entities?

connect-physical-digital

Technology can help us to expand horizons of possible and impossible. I’ve been experiencing this expansion earlier today while watching AU2014 keynote session online while physically traveling to Denver, CO. Twitter and streaming video are quite efficient way to stay in touch with event virtually everywhere. If you missed AU live streaming earlier today, you can catch up on it in recording here.

Autodesk’s CEO Carl Bass was talking about changes computers bring in our lives and how it impacts engineers. He spoke about interaction between physical and digital worlds. Scott Sheppard summarized key points of Carl Bass speech here. I specially liked the following passage:

Computers and software are great tools, but only if the data they are computing is in the right form. When they know what to do, computers can do awesome things, but they are almost useless when we have problems we can’t communicate in terms they understand. Technology is the driving force behind the biggest changes in the future of how we design, engineer, and make things. There are two fundamental shifts in play: (1) The first is narrowing the gap between the physical and digital world — essentially what’s on the two sides of the screen; (2) The second big change is getting the computer to understand the relationships and interactions of the people and companies doing the work.In each case, our ability to represent the problem in the computer determines how well we can use the computer to solve it.

One of the key things I captured is related to understanding of relationships between physical and digital assets. This is where things are getting really interesting. This is also something that connected me to Jeff Kowalski’s story about design for live objects.

It made me think about how future design can be connected to real information we are capturing today online. Google is ahead of many other companies in building online knowledge base about the world we live in. It comes in variety of digital forms – maps, traffic, information about physical entities and many others. If I will try to connect Jeff’s example with self made bridge, I guess information about this bridge, city and traffic is already available on Google in different forms. So, how future design companies will create technologies with information that can be intertwined between digital and physical entities?

Google Knowledge Graph is one of the technological elements to represent a diverse set of information about physical and digital entities. I’ve been writing about it before. A new article caught my attention few weeks ago – Insightful Connections Between Entities on Google’s Knowledge Graph. Read the article and draw your conclusion. Here is the most interesting passage speaking about data connections:

The node in a data graph may represent an entity, such as a people, places, items, ideas, topics, abstract concepts, concrete elements, other things, or combinations of things. These entities in the graph may be related to each other by edges which connect them. Those may represent relationships between entities. For example, the data graph may have an entity that corresponds to the actor Tom Hanks and the data graph may also contain information about other entities such as movies that Tom Hanks and others have acted in.

google-data-graph-nodes-edges

Google Knowledge graph is not the only way to embrace connection in digital world. Facebook, LinkedIn and other web companies are focusing on building of information graphs about digital assets and physical entities. I’ve been touching it in my semantic enterprise graph post. Together with design and engineering information it can provide a view of future physical and digital universe.

What is my conclusion? The border between digital and physical entities is getting blurred. According to Carl Bass, in the future we will capture physical entities and re-use it for design of new products. We will capture experience of live object and build models to make analysis and improve them. It will require deep understanding and management of connections and relations to create a giant model of future hybrid universe of physical and digital world. Just my thoughts and thanks Autodesk for inspiration.

Best, Oleg

Disclaimer: I’m Autodesk employee. However, the views and opinions expressed in this blog are my own only and in no way represent the views, positions or opinions – expressed or implied – of my employer. 

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  • Ketan Suri

    “relationships between physical and digital assets” – very interesting observation Oleg and it took me some time to visualize it and how both entities work together. This was 5 years back when I was engaged more into PDM and getting to PLM.
    With changes into the embedded world and self correcting machines I would agree it is bridging the gap at a much faster pace.
    Thanks for the links and summary.

  • beyondplm

    Ketan, thanks! Appreciate your comments and support for my blog! Best, Oleg

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