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SPRING IS ALWAYS AUTOCAD UPDATE TIME. This year, we had an interesting discussion with Dania El Hassan, Director of Product Management, Autodesk, about what’s new in AutoCAD technology and the latest release.
For readers who missed the news, AutoCAD 2023 was released in late March and contained updates across both desktops—including the Mac version—and web and mobile. You can read our two prior reports here and here.
Artificial intelligence (AI) continues to advance at rapid rates. It was fascinating to learn that Autodesk is putting effort into using AI (specifically machine learning) to help its users streamline their repetitive work processes and gain higher competency levels in AutoCAD itself.
But This is really a powerful automation. It’s the beginning of a story; you can imagine how far we can take it with various automation layers on top of each other.
“When we talk about automation, particularly when we talk about the AI space, one of the biggest things we have been working on is this Markup Import and Markup Assist technology,” says El Hassan. These new features in 2023 build upon the Trace Layer technology added in the past release.
“Last year we introduced the Trace Layer where customers can bring in this low-fidelity input—it’s super useful on AutoCAD mobile because it is difficult to add precision input to a drawing directly with your finger. Now customers can import markups from PDF files, or capture photos of handwritten markups with their smartphones in the field” “The ML [machine learning] now assists in recognizing and converting this data on the Trace Layer to AutoCAD objects,” she adds.
“This is really a powerful automation,” says El Hassan. “It’s the beginning of a story; you can imagine how far we can take it with various automation layering on top of each other.”
AI and Upskilling Users
Another fascinating area where Autodesk is working with AI is upskilling users. The new My Insights: Macro Advisor technology helps users streamline workers by teaching and setting up AutoCAD macros tailored for their specific workflows.
“We can aggregate how AutoCAD users are using the drafting tool and find ways to provide tips to our customers to help them become more proficient as they work,” adds El Hassan. “This is really a modern way of learning so that customers can improve their productivity.”
This discussion turns my attention to the fact that the average skill level of CAD users (or nearly any software user for that matter) is relatively moderate. On a broad scale from A to Z, with six levels of competency starting at ‘beginner’ and moving to ‘advanced expert,’ most firms’ staff levels are at intermediate or advanced intermediate averages.
Dania El Hassan agrees. And this is why these new features are so important. “Education is really a passion for me,” she adds. “I think what is key is meeting people where they are at in the learning process.”
“AutoCAD users are so diverse in where they are at with the software. And individuals might be more proficient at certain things,” she adds. “Someone might be very good at reviewing and plotting while others may be really good at certain aspects of drafting.”
“So the approach we have taken here is that personalized approach, and we have learned this helps.” Autodesk AutoCAD 2023 surfaces insights at different skill levels of users. The software will generate insights that will help beginners gain new skills faster, and also guide advanced users to new ways of working.
While Autodesk is pouring effort into using machine learning AI technology to help users speed up working with AutoCAD, they are also actively recoding core AutoCAD technology to leverage the latest silicon and graphics technologies.
AutoCAD 2023 features a new graphics engine that Dania El Hassan confirmed was an important Autodesk core technology. Notably, as mentioned in our report on the Mac version of AutoCAD 2023, this new graphics engine is a cross-platform 3D graphics engine. El Hassan says that the new engine leverages Microsoft DirectX12 and Apple Metal so that Windows and Mac AutoCAD 2023 users gain new 3D performance benefits.
As for Apple Silicon support for AutoCAD 2023? While important to Autodesk, the company isn’t yet ready to discuss Apple’s M-series processors for the Mac version. “We have had a long partnership with Apple,” says El Hassan, “and are committed to delivering AutoCAD across platforms and devices.” That’s the most we are able to get from Autodesk on Apple’s hit M-series processors and new Mac. So it remains unknown when an M1-native version will come out.
Whether it is AI doing boundary detection in the new Markup features or using AI to recognize repetitive work in a user’s workflow and then advise them of a customized macro, Autodesk is tapping into the power of machine learning algorithms and deriving benefits for customers.
With more challenging economic realities facing a global economy, deploying machine learning (ML) to lift users’ productivity is smart and well-timed.