I had the good fortune to attend Autodesk University 2006 as a last-minute substitute for someone else at my firm who was unable to go. AU returned to Las Vegas for 2006, but at a new venue, The Venetian. Despite a record-breaking number of participants - 7500 was the last number I heard announced - the facility was up to handling it, making an exception for Tuesday's lunch, when the exhibit hall was not yet open to help spread out the arrival time. No one seemed to miss the long haul that had to be made at previous Vegas AU's between the hotel and conference center at the MGM.
This year's theme was "Agents of Change", based on the idea that AU attendees tend to be early adopters of Autodesk's anually-changing software as they deal with the ever-changing challenges and opportunities in the world in general and their particular industries in specific.
This year not only the curriculum, but the physical location of most classes was broken up into industry-specific campuses. For example, the Building campus was located at one end of Level 3, and a lounge dedicated to the Building campus was located directly opposite the classrooms and staffed by Autodesk BSD employees armed with computers to demonstrate the BSD program offerings during the time that classes were offered. This made it much easier to find others in your discipline, both those you already knew and those you wanted to meet.
The Building Industry Main Stage presentation was held Wednesday morning. While I was glad to hear a renewal of the promise to continue developing both the Architectal Desktop and Revit platforms, I was annoyed at the ongoing marketing spin that equates "2D", "CAD drafting" and "AutoCAD for Architects" with Architectural Desktop and "3D" and "Building Information Modeling (BIM)" with Revit. I say that without any animosity toward the Revit product. The class schedule I inherited had mostly Revit or Revit-based classes and I came away impressed with Revit's capabilities. The main stage example for how you can leverage the Revit Building BIM model was the ability to link to 3ds Max and import the cameras and materials, then do renderings and light level analyses in 3ds Max. What a pity that "2D" Architectural Desktop can not do the same. I suppose they forgot that Architectural Desktop files can also be linked to Viz and Max and that, since the 2004 release, Architectural Desktop has shipped with VIZ Render.
Each industry group had its own reception in various venues on Wednesday evening. The Building reception was held at the JET Nightclub in the Mirage, billed on the invitation as "one of the coolest hotspots" and "architecturally stunning". I found it dark (save for pulsating lights on the main floor), loud, crowded and no more architecturally interesting than most any other night club I have visited. Everyone else seemed to be enjoying themselves, so it is probably safe to say the problem was with me, not the event.
The Thursday evening entertainment was fantastic. Engineer/comedian Don McMillan was every bit as funny as he was two years ago, and the Blue Man Group performance was excellent. Autodesk's Shaan Hurley was chosen from the audience to "participate"; you can see photos in this article in his blog. You can find additional photos from AU 2006 in Shaan's AU 2006 Photo Gallery.
Overall, I had a great time at AU 2006 and came away with a lot of valuable knowledge. I was able to meet many people that I only "know" from the Discussion Groups or AUGI forums and chat with some of the people at Autodesk who help produce the software I use at work, Architectural Desktop. If you have a passion for one or more Autodesk products, I would highly recommend attending Autodesk University. At the Thursday night event, Lynn Allen announced that AU 2007 would also be held at The Venetian in Las Vegas, November 26 - 30, 2007. Mark your calendars and start working on a way to get there!