Skip to content or navigation

AIA24: Digital Tech at Expo Part 3

In this third of several Expo reports covering AIA24 in Washington DC, Architosh delves into Autodesk Forma, Workshop XR, and Trimble’s SketchUp product line.


We continue our coverage of what we saw at the 2024 AIA National Convention in Washington, DC. This report focuses on Autodesk and Trimble. Part 4 will be entirely focused on Chaos Enscape, and finally, Part 5 covers Snaptrude, SketchPro.AI, Dell, and a few other tech companies at AIA.



Typical of every AIA National Convention Expo, US-based Autodesk has a very busy booth. Key applications in the Autodesk booth that we chose to focus on included Autodesk Forma—the company’s AEC industry cloud and AEC future—and immersive and visualization technologies Autodesk Workshop XR and their Twinmotion integrations in Autodesk Revit.

autodesk forma

The award-winning Autodesk Forma continues to mature as a cloud-based platform with new embodied carbon features and a growing set of API-based integrations.

Autodesk Forma was our prime focus, as this is the future of AEC in the cloud at Autodesk. We again awarded Forma an Architosh AIA BEST of SHOW award honor in the Innovation category for its implementation qualities and efforts at driving sustainability deeper into the architect’s workflow at the onset of the design process. Forma’s APIs have helped facilitate a growing array of application integrations, including those at the design front-end of the process like McNeel’s Rhino and Grasshopper. Exciting new integrations include Codesign Connection by Cerulean Labs, Dynamo Player by Autodesk, Envelope Analysis by FenestraPro, EvolveLAB, an AI-powered visualization app for Forma, and numerous other interesting integrations.

autodesk forma with naviate

“Naviate Outdoor Area” is a plugin integration for Autodesk Forma by Symetric AB.

As Forma began as a pre-design and early-phase planning tool directed at both developers and the architects who work for them, the “extended site” is a critical factor in the planning process. This was very evident back when the product was Spacemaker.AI. Symetri AB has an app integration with Forma called Naviate Outdoor Area (in beta), and this tool will assess the site limit and available outdoor area to see if it meets compliance targets for sun, noise, and terrain steepness. As noted earlier, Rhino is also a plugin for Forma, or, rather, the other way around. You install the Forma plugin in Rhino (this plugin is only available for Windows, unfortunately) and push your Rhino models to Forma for analysis. To make things more interesting, with the ShapeDiver integration from ShapeDriver GmbH of Austria, users can run their Grasshopper scripts directly inside Forma using ShapeDriver’s cloud service.

We have not written about ShapeDiver before, so an introduction is needed. ShapeDiver is a cloud-based online service for building web applications based on Grasshopper scripts. Users who are skilled at building Grasshopper-based tools can take those tools to the web and share them without exposing their original code. With the ShaperDriver integration, users can load and control Grasshopper algorithms from within Autodesk Forma projects, bake the resulting geometry into the Forma project, and then run Forma’s analysis tools on the resultant geometry.

Autodesk Workshop XR is the new name for the technologies that came along with The Wild acquisition. Workshop XR isn’t a direct carry-over of what The Wild was. In fact, some of the features inside The Wild are no longer in the product. Autodesk tells us that features that are no longer there were not central to the collaboration workflow in the new product. Yes, while graphically, the application looks super familiar to The Wild, there is now a very specific workflow.

autodesk workshop XR.

Pete is giving Autodesk Workshop XR a spin at the Autodesk Booth at AIA24.

The Workshop XR workflow centers on multi-user collaboration. It begins with your Revit or Navisworks model virtually sitting on a virtual table in a room like a scale physical model. This overview allows project stakeholders to discuss the project from an overview. You can rotate the model, zoom in, and gain a holistic view of the design. Then, you can venture into the model virtually at a 1:1 scale, gaining a true spatial understanding of the building, spaces inside, and its environmental context if also modeled.

When you are inside the model at a 1:1 scale, we call this immersive, and when you are outside the model, and it exists as a digital equivalent of a scale physical model, Autodesk calls that the “workshop.” Whether in the model or the workshop, the console is a virtual interface where you can access live files, manage issues and filter the model to control what you see. Models stream into Workshop XR via Autodesk Construction Cloud.

Trimble SketchUp

Our press and private demos of Trimble SketchUp technologies included both public and not-yet-announced demos. SketchUp 2024—which also won a nod in our Architosh AIA BEST of SHOW cloud category—has a brand new graphics engine behind it, and we were able to see parts of the future of this graphics engine. We would love to show you images of this new graphic engine’s future, but sadly, we can’t yet. Needless to say, it’s pretty exciting.

sketchup 2024

SketchUp 2024’s new graphics engine with Ambient Occlusion. You can see how the edges of faces get a softness rendered into them. This is adjustable with sliders that control the distance of this AO effect.

The latest graphics engine’s speed is impressive —that part is not new news. The cloud-based link-share features and Matterport-style tagging of items in the model are also very compelling. With the new ambient occlusion (AO) features in the new 2024 release, a user can design and model an environment that feels more realistic in terms of how light may interact with space and form. The user can use a slider to dial up or down the AO intensity in the main modeling window. And the new AO features carry over to the iPad version of SketchUp and to LayOut.

SketchUp for iPad.

Inside of the latest SketchUp for iPad, you can create a View-only link to share with others. This feature is also available via SketchUp for Web and SketchUp for Desktop version 2024.

The ability to share a link to the model and navigate through the model with another project stakeholder—say it is a client currently in a different city or country—is a big new feature. These links are view-only versions of your SketchUp model in SketchUp for Web’s Viewer. Yes, there is a SketchUp for Web for creative work, but the Viewer itself is for people like clients and others who don’t use SketchUp and just need to view the model. In many ways, what we saw at AIA24 was a way to have a client meeting where the architect could walk through the SketchUp model, and, as that happens, the Viewer on SketchUp for Web updates almost in real-time. If the architect or designer changes the sun settings, the client sees it nearly instantly. The same is true for model design changes. One might ask, “Why do that when I can just have a Zoom session with a client with SketchUp running?”

SketchUp for iPad.

Here is a view of how a client might see a View-only link inside the SketchUp for Web Viewer. Notice the thumbnails on the saved views at the bottom on the simplified user interface and limited tools on the left. The goal is for non-users to be able to experience the model scene on their own in an intuitive way.

The answer is simple. Once that Zoom session ends, the client can no longer see the SketchUp model. With view-only shared links instead, the client can continue to look at the SketchUp model and navigate it through saved views or using the orbit and zoom tools. SketchUp for Web, iPad, and Desktop can all share a view-only link. If you continue to work on the model, the next time your client opens the view-only link, they will see all the updates.

Other new features in SketchUp 2024 include the Ground Mesh Tool, which quickly converts a terrain point cloud into an accurate quad-faced based, ground mesh with various fit options. The new Add Location tool builds on previous geolocation features with both high and low-density options for the data you bring in. IFC gains new features as well as new 3D file formats for import and export, including both USDZ and giTF files. There is a new Draft Mode in LayOut 2024, which defers the rendering of entities as you navigate, thereby speeding up performance. These are just the bigger updates in SketchUp 2024. Read more here.


INSIDER Xpresso 
Monthly newsletter with a focus on emTech (AI, machine learning, AAD, AR, robotics, 3d printing, and smart cities) its impact on CAD professionals.)

Subscribe now — it’s free!.

INSIDER Xpresso keeps CAD industry professionals up-to-date on next-gen emerging technologies (emTech) that will revolutionize the worlds of AEC and manufacturing and design. As an Xpresso reader, you will hear from some of the most important voices inventing and using the very latest tech in areas such as AI, machine learning, algorithm-aided design (AAD), AR, VR, MR, 3D printing, 3D computer vision, robotics, and SmartCities technologies.

Each issue arrives in your inbox on the first Sunday of the month. Issue #1 arrived on March 3, 2019. Full archives and easy navigation for your pleasure. Enjoy! 

Sign-up for our monthly newsletter
architosh INSIDER Xpresso.

  • Architosh will never pass any of your information onto third parties.
  • For more information read our privacy policy.
  • It is easy to unsubscribe at any time. Follow the links in the newletter footer.

(Recommended. These infrequent sponsored emails help us to provide our Xpresso newsletter for free.)

INSIDER Membership

Read 3 free Feature or Analysis articles per month.

Or, subscribe now for unlimited full access to Architosh.