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Of Speed and Algorithms—VGM and Marionette
Back in the spring at the Vectorworks Design Summit in Chicago, Dr. Sarkar and team showed off some truly impressive speed gains in the area of 2D graphics speeds due to absorbing 2D graphics into the VGM (Vectorworks Graphics Module). Wanting to know if continued work with the VGM has happened since that time, Dr. Sarkar enthusiastically replied: “We have done huge work there…[since the Design Summit] and it is one of the three things I am most proud of in this release.”
“As you know, and have written about in the past, the VGM was a very big undertaking for Vectorworks,” says Dr. Sarkar, “and with this stage, we wanted to make the whole 2D drawings completely different performance-wise. But we are dealing in some cases with 25-year-old code. Touching that was risky but it was a good experience, and it is done and is a good thing.” With the 2D graphics architecture wholly new in Vectorworks 2017, it remains unclear where the company will next target improvements for its own OpenGL engine but possible areas could include benefitting from OS-specific APIs like Apple’s Metal.
While the 2D graphics speeds are hugely appreciated by veteran users—or so it seems from the cheers at the Design Summit—the company is also taking aims at the needs of its younger, next-generation users. While introduced in last year’s release, Marionette, the company’s Grasshopper-like algorithmic modeling environment, also gained advancements. Dr. Sarkar noted there are many new improvements. “Like Grasshopper,” says Sarkar, “from the Info Palette you can now create the values of the nodes with a slider. And we have solved the real world coordinate scale issue so that all nodes now appear on the Vectorworks design layers at consistent scales.” The company has also introduced several new nodes, many of them user-driven as well as streamlining algorithmic design operations.
With algorithmic design labeled one of the hottest future career skills in AEC, both in architecture and in engineering, many architecture students have embraced the new Marionette technology in Vectorworks. And with the company’s partnership with Georgia Tech, and their adjacent Atlanta office, interesting fruits from this are emerging. “We have a Ph.D. student from Georgia Tech working on some special developments for ‘design rules,’ for example,” says Sarkar.
Between meeting the demanding needs of legions of devoted users to forging future paths for development with the next-generation designers, the company’s latest release and the story of its development clearly, paint a picture of where this company is headed. — ANTHONY FRAUSTO-ROBLEDO, AIA, LEED AP