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Winning big in Vegas

posted Dec 3, 2011, 11:15 AM by Michael Reilly
Okay, I should probably clarify right away:  I'm not talking about gambling, I'm talking about learning.  It's just that good storytelling starts with something catchy, right?

For those who don't know, I was offered a scholarship to attend Autodesk University in Las Vegas this past week, to share what we do in CDAT and to learn from others.  In short, amazing stuff.  They recorded all sessions too, so I will continue to "attend" for weeks as there were too many sessions to attend.

Walking about from it, the "cloud, crowd and creativity" were the big ideas in my head.  The "cloud" is the concept of working in computing without physical limitation.  For example, you can "rent" 10,000 hours of computer processing time for $1 to do a long task.  Or, you can now rent 10,000 computers for 1 hour for the same price. Why?  Because the "cloud" is an infinite number of computers that can delegate time and tasks well.  If we do 3D in CDAT, and want to render a movie or video game, it usually takes hours, if not days.  Now it can take minutes.  

The "crowd" is the world.  Wikipedia is the biggest example most people know, an online encyclopedia written by the world, that is more accurate than most printed encyclopedias.  But there's more.  My favorite example is the Fold.IT, where gamers solved an AIDS protein science problem in weeks, after scientists have tried for years.  Of course, this depended on the "cloud", a series of computers sharing software and ideas.

The "creativity" is the key to all.  I had the wonderful privilege of meeting and listening to Sir Ken Robinson (twice!), such a down-to-earth, funny guy, but considered the world's foremost thinker on creativity.  An excerpt from his new book "Out of our Minds" says it so well:

As children, most of us think we are highly creative; as adults many of us think we are not. What changes as children grow up? Organizations across the globe are competing in a world that is changing faster than ever. They say they need people who can think creatively, who are flexible and quick to adapt. Too often they say they can't find them. Why not?

With all of that said, the Autodesk folks invited me to their conference because they think we're doing it right at CDAT!  We're encouraging them to work together in teams effectively and to see the strength in a "crowd".  We've got Google accounts to collaborate with anyone and our own rendering farm to use an entire computer lab to do our work effectively.  And if you haven't seen our Autodesk projects yet, you have yet to see great creativity. 

We still have work to do, and I hope we always will.  I am sure we're doing something right, and have made connections to help us grow.  Thanks to all of my new Autodesk friends (that includes those cool teachers too), and I am excited to get back to my students with what I've learned!