Each day of SolidWorks World kicks off with a General Session. Each day had surprises. Of course, to experience all of this requires getting up early enough in the morning. The crowd quickly filled up the area outside of the General Session auditorium of the San Diego Convention Center. Even on the first day, I developed quite the talent of surfing through the crowds to get closer to the doors into the General Session auditorium to get a good seat when the door swung open.
It was standing room only in the General Session. Even with thousands of seats, hundreds of people where left standing. Estimates ranged over 4700 attendees.
On Monday, the surprise guest was Danny Forster, whose trademark is expressing his deep fear of heights. He is the host of Built it Bigger on Discovery Channel, and a prominent architect and engineer. Despite the fact that he did give a rather interesting and engaging presentation that discussed everything from home design to the marriage of architecture and engineering that went into the University of Phoenix Stadium, I am surprised he didn’t get booed off of the stage early on as he made it a point to state that he used AutoCAD to design one of his buildings. SolidWorks users must be a more forgiving bunch than I would’ve thought. I know he did it on purpose; the rat.
KIVA Systems made an interesting presentation where they showed off a robotic system that replaces the need to send people into a factory to retrieve items. Another robot highlighted at the conference in the SolidWorks intro animation was of a robot being designed and built. It turned out that this robot is a built-it-yourself kit and being sold for the ages 10 and up crowd. Included with the robot is SolidWorks Student Edition! Talk about hooking the kids young! More on this later on.
There was another surprise on Monday; one that was both fascinating and a bit scary at the same time. See, there’s this guy named Theo Jansen. He is a kinetic sculptor that builds “Beach Beasts”, based on skeleton like designs that are powered by nothing more than the wind. He’s designed the creatures (as he also called them) to become so sophisticated, they are able to mechanically sense their environment, and mechanically respond to it. For example, if one of these creatures walks up to the ocean’s edge, it knows to start going the other way to avoid the water. It does this without the use of any electronics at all. It’s all plastic tubing. During his presentation, Mr. Jansen appeared to be one of those people that successively balances the line between genius and insanity. However, off stage was a different story. I talked to some of the facilities contractors for SolidWorks World 2008 later that night at one of the local bars. They where the crew that helped Mr. Jansen assembly one of the creatures for an on-stage demonstration. Those fellows couldn’t wait to tell me that they think he had crossed well into the realm of insanity, often talking about his creations as though they where actual pets; and that he wanted his creatures to survive long after he passed on. He was definately the most provocative presenter during the Monday session. The video about him is too long to post here, so check out this YouTube link.
At the end of the General Session, everyone filed out into convention center’s maze of hallways, filtering into the many different Breakout sessions, Hands-on sessions and the Partners Pavilion.