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Ten CAD Challenges (19 May 2005)
Improvements have been achieved largely by adding new functionality, enhanced graphic design, and better flow of control. However, systems are not easier to use, and the demands on the user today might be even higher than 20 years ago. The complexity of designs, data, and geometry are growing as fast, or faster, than the power of the tools to handle it.

Nevertheless, some things are changing, and these changes will afford the potential to break out of this situation. For example, more than 10 years ago, Nicholas Negroponte challenged people to imagine what would be possible if bandwidth was essentially free. The only thing that matched how amazing and unlikely that concept was at the time was its prescience.

The parallel challenge today would be, “Imagine what would be possible if screen real-estate were essentially free.” Already, paper movie posters are being replaced by $10,000 plasma panels. Imagine the potential impact when the cost of a comparable display drops two orders of magnitude and it is cheaper to mount a 100-dpi display on your wall than it is to mount a conventional whiteboard today.

Large displays will be embedded in the architecture of our workspace. We will stroll through and interact with such spaces with agile small, portable, wireless devices. And many of the changes that are going to affect the future of CAD will emerge from the evolving behavior of both people and devices as they function within them. Within this context, a divide-and-conquer approach will be used to address the complexity posed by today’s CAD systems. While power will come in numbers, most will be relatively inexpensive and target a particular function. The isolated gadgets that first emerge as addons to existing systems will morph into the keystones of a new mosaic of integrated technologies that will transform the process. To realize the potential of this, the following three challenges involve thinking about evolution in a human-, not technology-, centric way.
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