REAL 2015 redux

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Earlier this year Autodesk held an exclusive event at Fort Mason in San Francisco’s marina area, to examine the emerging technologies and applications of what it calls ‘Reality Computing’. Now everyone can watch the talks online for free. By Martyn Day.

Nearly all design systems have moved beyond lines, circles and arcs and now provide 3D modelling, ‘intelligence’ and the capability to import geometry or point clouds from data capture devices. This merging of digital modelling and reality, combined with manufacturing advances in 3D printing is being touted as the next big leap in all design environments.

In many respects, this is the intersection of two mature market segments, the CAD world and the data capturing market. The former looks to model the real world, the latter aims to capture the real world.

The data capture market has mainly served the plant, surveying, mapping and terrestrial markets, through terrestrial or airborne laser scanning and photogrammetry and events around that technology have tended to focus on those application areas. However, new technologies, such as the rise of the UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) market is also offering new opportunities to scan building sites to monitor progress, locate materials and compare actual vs modelled, which again works well with the industry’s migration to BIM.

Autodesk’s interest in the area of reality computing can now be seen in many of its products. AutoCAD and Revit can both work with point clouds, 123D Catch enables meshed models to be created from multiple models, Recap is a newish survey alignment tool and then there is Memento, a brand new product that can take video, pictures or point clouds, create meshes, enable editing and then 3D print the result.

At the Real 2015 event in San Francisco, it is just that idea that Autodesk wants to promote — harnessing reality capture means there are not only new ways to design but unlimited possibilities for working with real-world objects, either man-made or naturally occurring.

Autodesk has been active in applying the reality capture technology in many areas: museum curating, monitoring coral growth, capturing buildings of historical significance, surveying and city modelling.


Real 2015

Possibly the first exhibition organised by a team of programmers, Real was the brainchild of Autodesk’s Reality Computing group, which wanted to pull together technology developers, researchers, artists, fabricators, product designers, educators, biologists and architects for a total cross-industry event to share and cross-pollinate ideas to build a community and start a discussion on how reality computing can solve problems that were just too hard for previous generation design tools.

The concept of the show was succinctly explained in the marketing: “From drones to autonomous cars, industrial robots to major engineering works, and game consoles to tomorrow’s mobile phones, 3D sensors are suddenly everywhere. And several decades after first grabbing headlines, VR and 3D printing are hot again, attracting billions in investment, and moving beyond early adopters to professionals. But it is the sum total, where sensing meets making, where big change is brewing.”

With over 40 industry speakers, 1,000 attendees and 30,000 sq ft of exhibition space, the ticket-only Real 2015 provided two days of great presentations from across a phenomenal range of specialisms. The great news is that all of these have just been made available for free online, on demand here.

Flicking through the videos there is a veritable host of fantastic talks, from rebuilding old cars, 3D printing planes, quality, makers, digital fabrication, BIM, archeology, capturing coral reefs, environmental design to designing DNA-based cancer killing robots.

This collection of over 50 videos is like the TED of the reality capture market and well worth a browse.

Real 2016

The good news is that the event is happening again, in Fort Mason, San Francisco, March 8-10, 2016. Based on the first outing, and the quality of the talks, we highly recommend this event if you want to meet the movers and shakers of the data capture world and get inspired by cutting edge applications in this quickly developing market.

For notification on next year’s show, sign up at

Reality capture in review

In participation with REAL 2015, AEC Magazine and its sister publication for product development, DEVELOP 3D, produced a special report which examined the technologies and emerging uses of reality capture. It is available for free download here.

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