Humanity in CAD. What’s next


Problem formalization

Computer aided design (CAD) programs are seems to be the most conservative ones in the user interaction. Common workflow remains the same for many years:

  1. Call the command using command prompt or shortcut buttons
  2. Input parameters
  3. Check the result
  4. For next commands repeat all steps from scratch again

Problem statement

1 Calling commands

1.1 Commands. Thousands of ’em.

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Ribbon of AutoCAD Mechanical 2016

Won’t you get lost within them? User must know most command names and location of that commands in UI. This requires certain time for training and efforts to remember what and where to find.

1.2 Switching between CADs

To switch between different CADs you have to know all aliases or locations of commands in GUI. Sure you can use cheat sheets, or something like that.

But sometimes this could be like exiting vi editor first time. I had to reboot my PC several times.

1.3 Redundant UI

Don’t you think that on first look of inexperienced engineers any CAD looks like that?

2 Parameters input

2.1 Strict workflow

Too strict workflow requires input of parameters in strict order. Imagine that you need to make simple cube with 1m side. So you can’t input them like that:

The right way in AutoCAD:

box_autocad1

Input interface sometimes is enhanced by wizards that allows to input parameters using graphical user interface (GUI). But actually that’s not too far from command prompt.

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3 Check the results

3.1 Camera manipulation

Pan, zoom, switching between saved views requires extra manipulations in UI, that could distract from the main goal.

3.2 Lack of space in UI

It’s to hard to fit all CAD ribbons into Holo Lens. Even simple switch from desktop view of website to mobile view causes great simplification of possibilities. Comparison of desktop vs mobile version of same viewer is provided below.

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Desktop viewer

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Mobile viewer

3.3 VR controls

O.K. Google, we got your Google glass. How would you call AutoCAD command from ribbon?

4 Workflows within the whole design

Sometimes latest CADs suggests following commands – looks like this should push the user to the next step in design process. But this isn’t based on actual user’s operations – this depends on overall statistics.

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Solution

User interface should be expanded by dialog-like mode that could predict the next steps and provide flexible workflow for design process. Like a chat bot. You can now even book a flight from your smartphone and pay for it.

AI can breakdown you query to the probabilities of what you meant. Following request:

Will be interpreted like that:

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and finally broken to the atomic commands:

It won’t be hard to learn the AI to understand you queries. We can use help files for CAD software – all they already filled by synonyms and all possible workflows of using commands.

We have to go deeper and define workflows to make for cars, planes, electrical kettles, etc. Actually this is strongly associated with Systems modelling.

Conclusions

Most of us are mastodons of CAD, but next generation won’t be like we are. If you played first Quake, you couldn’t remember that there was any tutorial in it. We used just to start and play. Hours and hours, days by days.

Nowadays games are different: when you start playing, you are guided by virtual assistant that learns you everything. They have not so much time to spent it at the random method learning. Time is squeezed now.

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Post-Millennials (aka Generation Z) are already accustomed to responsible gadgets and UIs. Most of them will prefer high-level C# instead of Assembler. They won’t deal too much with low-level operations.

It’s not revolution, just user-driven evolution.

Sure, this won’t be integrated in all CADs at once. This will begun from proof-of concept apps, add-ins to available CAD platforms. But one day you will be able to say:

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