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Bentley Hosts 2,000 for Annual Conference in Atlantic City

Roopinder Tara, rtara@tenlinks.com

See Also

  BIUC A-OK, AC NJ - coverage of Bentley's user conference, Ralph Grabowski, May 28, 2002
  Bentley website
  MicroStation Directory - by TenLinks

ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey, June 4, 2002 - Gaming towns have become very popular sites for CAD user conferences. Bentley System chose Atlantic City, New Jersey for its 2002 user conference but not before both Autodesk and SolidWorks chose Las Vegas for theirs. I've never thought of CAD users at the gambling kind but I may have misjudged as Bentley managed to draw approximately 2,000 attendees to this year's event.

The conference started on an upbeat note. Charles Ferucci, Bentley's VP of Corporate Marketing, and emcee of the event, summed up the post 9/11 environment: "The storm has rattled the windows but the roof has not fallen in."

Giuliani Offers Wisdom

A major draw was keynote speaker Rudolph Giuliani. Fresh off the most dramatic mayoral stint in recent history, Giuliani offered his 5 tenets of leadership, much of it put to practice during New York City's most harrowing time. Audience reaction was mixed. While none would have missed seeing Time magazine's Man of the Year, a more cynical member of the audience remarked that he could have acquired the wisdom Giuliani was dispensing by reading fortune cookies.

In summary, Rudy Giuliani's 5 Principals of Leadership (soon to be available in book form): 1. Philosophy (ideals) 2. Courage 3. Relentless preparation 4. Balance 5. Communication.

It was rumored that Giuliani's fee was $100,000.

MicroStation Assists in Pentagon Rework

Perhaps more on target for MicroStation users was Walker Lee Evey's keynote on the work done on the Pentagon, before and after the 9/11 attack. Evey, who claimed to have received no remuneration for his appearance, gave an unabashed endorsement of MicroStation. While other CAD programs may be in use at the Pentagon, MicroStation "does everything we require." MicroStation drawings were used to determine the extent of the physical damage, assisted crews in finding people and sensitive information as well as helped in the reconstruction.

In addition, users were treated to a variety of useful sessions on several topics, such as using MicroStation as well as on vertical application. A user who faithfully attended these user sessions (as opposed to the gaming halls of Atlantic City) was sure to get their money's worth in terms of increased productivity.

Greg Bentley Speaks

Bentley did not miss the opportunity to try to sell the assembled audience on its own products. Several Bentley execs prepared slick demonstrations on Bentley products and technology. While high minded approaches to content management and web publishing are no doubt concepts that will benefit the CAD community eventually, the presentations reminded me of parents telling their kids to eat their vegetables.

Greg Bentley, President and CEO, took a turn on the stage. Bentley had announced that they will be doing an IPO (see extended coverage), Bentley was not able to say much in the so-called quiet period about how the company was doing. But judging from the way money was being spent at the conference (the packed auditorium included several giant screens, a roving crane camera and professionally done videos), Bentley Systems was very clearly out in full plumage.

Bentley expressed sympathy for the rival camp, Autodesk and their users, who will have to deal with disparate and incompatible applications (he was referring to Autodesk's acquisition of Revit). He was proud to state that the majority of the world's public works get their start on a MicroStation screen.

A Million Points of Light

A number of 3rd party vendors were on the show floor. I saw 3 laser scanner systems.

Let's get this out of the way first. these systems are not cheap. The Cyrax system costs $125,000. But what it does is pretty darn impressive. The laser that shoots out of the tripod mounted box will generate a million data points in a flash. Move the points around on the screen and you can actually make out the surface of the scanned area. It takes a bit of imagination sometimes but not as much as trying to make out mythological figures in the night sky. The software supplied has some smarts that allow it to infer shapes from points such as pipes and columns so that the associated points can be discarded. Also, views from different angles can be merged together to complete the picture.

Cyrax representative assure me that the laser is "eye-safe" and can be used around people. Still, if someone offers to make a point cloud of me, I would prefer to have my eyes closed.

Laser scanning seems perfect for creating 3D models of process plants, many of which may not have accurate 2D drawings, much less 3D models. This would be quite a labor saver compared to a laser measuring device, which despite its accurate measurements only yields one point at a time and involves repeated calculations for even simple modeling.

Cyrax claims a 6mm accuracy over 50 meters (about a quarter inch).

For more information, go to www.cyra.com.

Also present with their versions of tripod mounted laser scanning systems were Optech <www.optech.on.ca> and iQsun <www.iQsun.com>.

Bringing Renderings to Life

We've all seen human figures adorning architectural renderings. They provide scale and help give a scene a "lived in" look. Just one problem: they don't move. ArchVision has solved this problem with realistic moving figures. I take that back, the people are better than realistic since they look better than your average Joe. Figures moving around in a rendered scene are, well, stunning. It's a giant step forward in realism, like color television was to black and white.

ArchVision has 40 libraries of finely crafted humans, cars, trees and so on. Their VW Bug looks like the real thing and will forever spoil you for inanimate, primitive models that look like painted balsa wood models. And don't stop there. We're talking about kids with knapsacks, executives calling on phones, a woman putting on glasses, - all with natural movement. You may be thinking "So what." But just try two identical presentations - one with traditional models and one with RPC models - and see which one draws the crowd.

Underneath it all is RPC (Rich Photorealistic Content) technology, which according to the ArchVision website, can generate a richness of detail -- presumably without undue strain on the model. Autodesk, Bentley and other CAD software have already enabled their CAD software to take advantage of RPC and others ought to soon follow.

For more information, go to www.archvision.com.

GDM CADD TOOLS INNOVATIONS

For those of you trying to implement CAD standards, GDM software sells software that helps automate that task. You can either test your DGN file against the National A/E/C CADD Standards (as published by the CADD/GIS Technology Center) or against an in-house standard checks drawing.

More information at www.gdmsoft.com.

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