Autodesk University is awash in superlatives: biggest, loudest, most diverse … And it really is. Nearly 10,000 people here in Las Vegas and another 20,000 or 30,000 tuning in online. Manufacturing, construction, architecture, movie-making, robots, drawings, oh my. The keynote session included footage from the movie Gravity, the unveiling of a sexy new car, the joy of making stuff and a dancing robot.  With a mirror ball. You can catch a short video glimpse by clicking on the image:

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The entire keynote session will eventually be posted at and it’s worth watching if you can. CTO Jeff Kowalski talked about looking outside your normal way of thinking and doing to find new approaches and CEO Carl Bass gave a lot of examples of customers doing very cool things with Autodesk’s solutions. But there were lots of other sessions, too, some of which are webcast. I attended the AEC Innovation Forum and, if it’s anything to go by, the rest will be awesome.

I’ll write in more detail after the event, but the big takeaway so far is cloud cloud cloud — but not for the sake of a shiny, new thing but rather as the enabler of technologies that weren’t possible or accessible before. Take CAM. Autodesk today announced CAM 360, which hits Beta in a few weeks. Eventually it’ll be free for 2 1/2 axis, $75/month/user for 3 axis and $150 for a version of 5-axis machining.  That’s less than $1,000/user/year. CAM 360 includes CAM-specific CAD capabilities via Autodesk’s Fusion 360 product and is aimed squarely at the mid-market. Why cloud? For access to the compute power to calculate and simulate complex paths, the ability to collaborate (since design and manufacturing aren’t often co-located) and access to data from anywhere at any time. Autodesk’s aggressive pricing clearly will play into adoption, too. If you’re interested, give the Beta a whirl; sign up at [Fusion 360 also includes styling; that’s not likely to make it into the CAM product.]

As you know, I have a complex relationship with Las Vegas. Hate the smoke and get uncomfortable around the gamblers, especially when I’m jonesing for coffee at 4AM local time. AU is in the Venetian this year, the hotel with the giant indoor canal. That canal has proven to be a marvelous exit route for me, since I can get out of the hotel without having to go through the smoky casino. Yes, I have to dodge lots (and lots) of shoppers, but I can very quickly get to this:

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right outside the hotel. Lovely. Makes me like Vegas just a little bit more…

You really should tune into the live or rebroadcast AU sessions –even if only for a short while– to get a sense of the energy of the event. It’s not so much Autodesk selling (although there is some of that) as it is people doing cool stuff. You might just run across something that’s completely different from your daily job, but which challenges your typical way of thinking. That can only be good.

More soon.

Note: Autodesk graciously covered some of the expenses associated with my participation at the event but did not in any way influence the content of this post. The image and video of the robot above are from an Autodesk Instagram account; the bottom image is mine.