Well, this a first for me. A CAD conference where English is not the working language. It's the Design Industrial Mexico conference (DIME) in Puerto Vallarta -- in Mexico, next to the wide sandy beaches of the Pacific Ocean in 30C heat (90F). The working language is Spanish, and the translator has taken a break as a beefy man upfront is getting the crowd excited.
But it's not generic industrial design, but design around Rhino, the remarkable freeform 3D surface modeler from Robert McNeel & Associates of Seattle WA USA. The company has been smart enough to target Latin America -- a region of the world ignored by most CAD vendors, whose financial reports only ever seem to report results from USA, Europe, Japan, and maybe other parts of parts of Asia. Not South America (sometimes generously lumped in with "Americas") and definitely not Africa.
But this is not a McNeel/vendor-run user group meeting, as are BE and SolidWorks World. This user conference is planed by users; McNeel shows up and maintains a booth in the exhibit area, but otherwise the event is free of vendor influence. At the same time as this industrial design conference in Mexico, there is an architectural user conference going in Delft -- all about Rhino.
"What is design? Everythng is design. It lives deep within us. It is greater than its creator," says the architect as he shows examples of his sculpture work designed in Rhino. Other speakers emphasize how Mexico is on its way to become an important world design center. But there is a ways to go: the USA has one patent per 1000 persons; in Mexico, the ratio is 1 in 250,000.
'Creativity is the new petrol of Mexico." Mr Espinoza isn't talking to a room full of aging white guys, as some CAD events famously worry about themselves, but 400 teenaged boys and nearly as many girls who paid $100 each to attend. He is done speaking and they are cheering him.
The photo above is symbollic of this conference: the pottery was designed in Rhino 4.0, while in the background a Mexican student uses his notebook computer to access the wireless Internet.
And now it's Bob McNeel's turn on the stage. He is cheered as the audience gets out its cell phones and digital cameras to photograph their hero. He shows a slide: "Here's my email address, direct phone number, cell phone number, IM address, Skype name..." Behind me, his wife groans. "Now we'll get calls while skiing."
Scott Davison is showing features new to Rhino 4:
* Universal Deformation Technology lets you bend, twist, stretch, etc, any model -- in real-time, with no limit to the complexity. For instance, bend the model of a facet or twisted a fluted rod to create a drill bit.
* 2D Drafting tools for dimensioning and plotting sheets -- perhaps added now that McNeel got dropped by Autodesk as a dealer.
* The mis-named History feature, which links models. For example, create three different kinds of cutlery, link them, and as one is bent, the others bend in the same way.
* Wrap objects with the new "cage", which looks like a bounding box. Deform the cage, and the objects inside deform in the same way -- in 3D, in real-time, as the mouse drags control points. "This is just the start of a number of commands that will allow you to edit your models in real-time," says Mr Davison.
* The ability to tear off any viewport and drag it to the second monitor.
Now he's talkng about their new development partner. The big news, first broken by Roopinder Tara of Tenlinks, is that a beta of Rhino for Mac OS X will become available in a few weeks (spy photo below). The audience cheers.
A rep from Apple is asking how many use Mac. A few hands. He makes the mistake of asking how many use Windows. Most hands shoot up. And how many Vista? He feels better that just a few hands are raised. Truly, Vista is Apple's best chance at changing the tide towards itself.
(Disclosure: McNeel Associates provided air fare, hotel accomodation, some meals, some corporate gifts, and some transportation.)