Next Generation Product Development Tools, Part 16

In Parts 7 and 8, I applied a “Web 2.0” filter to software in general, and then CAD in particular. With that filter in place, I’ve been primarily focusing on tools. At this point it’s time to pan the view and focus on people; especially the up-and-coming generations who will use and primarily benefit from these tools.

As CAD interfaces evolve, 3D input methods mature, and users become increasingly sophisticated – through ubiquitous access, cultural osmosis, and various other reasons – individual barriers will almost certainly continue to fall. Recent reports of devices interfacing directly with the brain, including this one from the BBC demonstrating a potential system for authoring music (Link), seem to ensure there are plenty of surprises in store for all of us. Ease-of-use, sophisticated human-machine interfaces, and an intrinsic familiarity with computers, however, will not be sufficient to spur widespread use of these applications.

As with most acquired skills, there will need to be compelling reasons for average people – those presently not directly involved in developing tangible goods for manufacture or digital content for mass media – to make the effort to learn how to model three-dimensional shapes. Obviously, making money will inspire a few people in the same way that selling MySpace graphics and Second Life avatar skins has prompted interest in Photoshop and GIMP, but not enough to spur the adoption levels I’m imagining; word processor and videogame kinds of adoption.

Besides earning money, two other generally compelling reasons for learning these applications come to mind: social reputation and personal empowerment. In my next two posts I’ll discuss both incentives.

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