142: ‘Reverse Engineering’, with Emil Poulsen

A conversation with Emil Poulsen.

142: ‘Reverse Engineering’, with Emil Poulsen

About this Episode:

Emil Poulsen of CORE Studio at Thornton Tomasetti and Modelup joins the podcast to talk about the challenges and opportunities of implementing new technologies in the AEC industry, both internally in a firm but also externally as products. We delve into the importance of communication, buy-in, and cultural change when introducing new tools and processes, the culture of AEC tech and the entrepreneurial spirit at TT, Emil’s insights from his experience in developing tools and pushing for adoption within a global engineering firm, the benefits of participating in hackathons like the recent 2023 AEC Tech event hosted by CORE Studio in New York City, and we talk about his work on web-based 3d configurators for digital products at Modelup.

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142: ‘Reverse Engineering’, with Emil Poulsen
Emil Poulsen of CORE Studio at Thornton Tomasetti and Modelup joins the podcast to talk about the challenges and opportunities of implementing new technologi…

Episode Transcript:

142: ‘Reverse Engineering’, with Emil Poulsen

Evan Troxel: [00:00:00] Hi, everyone.

Welcome to the TRXL podcast. I'm Evan Troxel. Just a quick announcement before we get into this one, that this is the last episode of 2023. I've got some great episodes in the production pipeline here at TRXL HQ, and I am so looking forward to releasing them. But we'll all have to wait until 2024 to hear them because I'm taking some much needed time off to reset.

I plan on spending some quality time with my family. I get out on the trails on my mountain bike and do some rock climbing. And I hope that you too enjoy the last couple of weeks of 2023. This was a big year for the podcast. I released 34 new episodes this year, which I think is pretty decent. Considering I moved to a new state during that time, I also launched a new website and AEC tech newsletter, which you should definitely go [00:01:00] subscribe to at TRXL.Co and hit one of the subscribe buttons on the page.

There. I'd like to know your thoughts on the podcast this year, especially what was your favorite episode? You can send me an email at evan@evantroxel.com. Or you can get in touch through my feedback form at TRXL.co/feedback. I want to give a special thanks to all of the guests who have come on the show this year. There are way too many to name, but you can see all of them on my latest website addition at TRXL.co/guests.

I also want to thank my partners and sponsors of the podcast this year. Who included Randall Stevens and Jim Clifton at AVAIL and Confluence, Boris Rappaport and Alex Osensenko at ArchIT. Clifton Harness and Laura Paciano at TestFit, and Corey Rubadue at ArchVision. These are truly incredible people. [00:02:00] And I am so grateful to get the chance to work with them and talk about them on this podcast.

They really are supporting what I'm doing here. And my deepest gratitude goes out to all of you listeners, as we track the co-evolution of architecture and technology together. All right. In this episode, I welcome Emil Poulsen Emil is an application developer and AEC technology specialist, focused on developing tools for the building industry.

With a background in architecture, engineering, and software. His goal is to enhance design processes through technology, from concept to implementation. Currently based in Stockholm, Sweden, Emil works remotely for CORE Studio at Thornton, Tomasetti. He also runs Modelup, a 3d configurator studio on a part-time basis. In this episode, we discuss the challenges and opportunities of implementing new technologies in the [00:03:00] AEC industry, both internally within a firm, but also externally as products. We delve into the importance of communication, buy-in, and cultural change when introducing new tools and processes.

The culture of AEC tech and the entrepreneurial spirit at TT, Emil's insights from his experience in developing tools and pushing for adoption within a global engineering firm, the benefits of participating in hackathons like the recent 2023 AEC Tech event, hosted by CORE Studio in New York City. And we talked about his work on web-based 3d configurators for digital products at Modelup. So without further ado. I bring you emil Poulsen.

Evan Troxel: Emil, welcome to the podcast.

Great to have you.

Emil Poulsen: Thanks. I pleasure to be here.

Evan Troxel: You are streaming to me from Sweden. I, I can't remember if [00:04:00] you're the first Swedish guest, but I just had somebody from Norway on. I'm gonna hit all the, all the Nordic countries here.

Emil Poulsen: That's all right. As long as you don't mention Switzerland. I think you're good.

'cause that's the common mix up, right?

I think they, they, they did an IPO of Spotify at Wall Street, you know, and they rolled out the Swiss flag and everyone

was like,

Evan Troxel: you serious?

Emil Poulsen: what's going on?

Evan Troxel: What? Yeah,

Emil Poulsen: So it's, it's a common mix up. Yeah.

Evan Troxel: I, I've been to Sweden one time. I, so, so Hovar was just on the show and he's in Oslo

and Carl Christensen from Autodesk, from Oslo, uh, also, I believe, and now you're, where, where are you in Sweden? Give us an idea of the geography. Stockholm. Okay. So you're,

I've been to Stockholm one time and, um, I'm my, my mother's side of the family's from Finland.

And that was kind of the impetus to go to the, you know, just to go visit.

Emil Poulsen: Yeah. Yeah,

Evan Troxel: so I had to do it all, had to do all of it for sure. Um, but

absolutely wonderful, wonderful, uh, place on earth to go [00:05:00] visit for sure.

Emil Poulsen: Yeah, no, for sure. I mean, it's, it's a good place, I guess, in many different aspects. Uh, pretty dark, um, these, these days or this season of the year, you know.


Evan Troxel: Yeah.

Not emotionally. Maybe, maybe this, maybe this season. But yeah. I was wondering where you were gonna go with the, when, when you

Emil Poulsen: no, I, I meant actual dark,

like, you know, I think at the peak around in, uh, December, close to Christmas, we have like five hours of sunlight or something like that, so

we got a charge during the summer. And So you survive the winter. That's how it

Evan Troxel: You're at those northern latitudes. Yes. Yes, definitely. Uh, I have experienced that, but I did not go to Sweden when it was this time of year. I went in the summertime. And, uh, so, but I have experienced what you're talking about in Alaska where the sun just moves kind of horizontally across the horizon. It ne, you know, it, it just never goes down part, part of the year and then the other half of the year, like it just never comes up.


it's like[00:06:00]

It's, yeah. And that is a, uh, a mind trip for somebody who lives, you know, the lower latitudes and it's just like, you know, typ the typical structure all day and we can't even get used to a time change. Right. We, we had, we just, we just had daylight saving time. And even that just. Throws us off completely.

It, it, it, when I see things like that where I can't get used to four weeks at a time, one hour difference, or another example, and this is just a a super silly example, moving the trash can from under the sink from one side to the other and remembering which door to open it. It's incredible for me how hard that is to just update my habit of which one to open.

It just gives me a lot of pause when I think about change in the AEC industry and how hard, how difficult change is when I can't even remember which cabinet door to open implementing new [00:07:00] technologies, implementing new C. If, if I can't even remember where the trash is, how am I going to change my business to adopt new technologies to help me do things better?

And it's, I, do you ever think of things like that? Because that, that's what goes on in my mind,

Emil Poulsen: totally. For sure. I mean, I think for a long time in the beginning of my career, I thought it was all about technology, just creating better tools,

you know, more efficient tools, more efficient processes, but really it's a cultural thing, isn't it? Like you gotta get the buy-in from the people you work with. And I mean, if no one really buys in, then is not really much meaning to developing these tools in. So, um, for sure, I mean. Just like having everyone on board, uh, with what you're doing. And I think that's also something that we, we, we do quite a lot in CORE Studio. I mean, one, one part is obviously developing the technology and the tools,

but um, just having that sort of mechanism to reach out and, and, um, yeah, [00:08:00] just like connect with people within the company and get their input and really make a environment where everyone feels involved is, is super important.

Evan Troxel: It's a core attribute of leadership also. And I, I think for those who are in leadership, it feels annoying. But for those who are not in leadership, it's a, it's a requirement to understand is that the same message must be repeated over and over and over, especially when you're going in a new direction.

You're charting some new territory, maybe for your office or for your practice or whatever, and it's, if you're in leadership, you're. It's like social media. It's like I don't wanna post the same thing even twice. I don't even want to talk about my episodes more than once because I, I have this release schedule of every week and it's like, okay, that the, I'm done with the other one.

I'm onto the new one. This is very much how it is in practice with projects as well. Right? But the idea of repetition two form new habits and make sure everybody's on the same page. Not everybody hears [00:09:00] the same thing at the same time. Not everybody interprets it the same way each time. And, and so why I say it's annoying is because like, it's, I don't want to even hear myself, let alone my peers talk about the same thing over and over and over.

But again, like that's the only way things actually change. And so many times we see this with digital practice or IT departments where they, they deploy a new tool onto the firm and nobody uses it. Right? But because there's like this one, like, let's throw it over the wall. And let's just expect adoption.

And that never happens. And, but, but, but we're always in, in that mode. We're always like, because we're onto the next thing and the next thing and we need to implement, implement, implement. And we need to see digital transformation and we need to see the march of change. But if nobody's adopting it, there's no change happening.

Right? And so then it comes back to this idea of communication and buy-in like you're talking about. And, and [00:10:00] it's like, because we don't understand marketing , we don't understand promotion, we don't understand habit forming to it, to its core. Like we're, we do projects and we can treat deployments as projects.

We can treat new technologies as, you know, implementations as project. And we're, we're typically just project minded about it. Okay. That's done next. That one's done next. It's very kind of assembly line. , but understanding the psychological, the implementation of different languages and communication styles that different people in different places need to hear because that's how they will latch onto it best is an art.

And, uh, yeah. Anyway, I I'm, we're totally digressing here and, and getting away from , but, but I, it, these are the kinds of things that I, I I, I love talking about this with, with smart people who have, who have done this, and you're, you're developing at CORE Studio, you're developing things for the industry.

You're developing tools, I should say, for the industry. And we've always seen a gap between [00:11:00] innovation and like deployment of tools and adoption of tools. And, and you're even coming at it from, you're, you're supporting the industry because you're structural engineers and. It, it's gotta be even harder because you're like one from the, from the architecture side of things, you're one step removed from the, the building.

You're, you're, you're building, you're creating systems for buildings.

And I would just wonder if Communicationally, if that's even a word, how, how do you guys deal with that? How, how do you, is it through going to conferences and constantly talking about what this technology can deliver, showing it in use, showing how people are using it, that you continue to kind of educate the market on, on these new tools?

Emil Poulsen: No, for sure. I mean, obviously that's, that's one part. I think it's, it's probably a good idea to separate between the kind of internal push and the external push. I mean, I

would say like probably 85% of all the tools we develop is really

internal [00:12:00] tools and then the um. Process gets somewhat easier because, I mean, you're kind of colleagues with your users, so you can always like, you know, walk around the office, tap someone on the shoulder and like, you know, what's up?

Is it, is it not working? Like, what's, what's going on? Et cetera.

So, um, but that's a process as well. I mean, as, as, as you were talking about, like it's, it's not gonna happen automatically. Like

there has to be some channel of communication and there is, has to be some, some way of kind of spreading the word. Um, and that can be a challenge for sure because it's always like, you know, if you look at tech companies, like you usually have someone dealing with the, like ux, someone dealing with the design of a user interface, someone actually developing the, the front end, someone developing the backend, someone actually being the product manager.

You know, there is like this huge list of different, um, um, roles really. And, uh, typically what happens at, um. [00:13:00] Uh, r and d departments or, um, you know, computational specialist departments at architecture and engineering offices is that you usually have all these people, uh, or like all these roles crammed into, uh, few people. So you, you become sort of a master of kind of handling everything in a way. And that can be quite, um, refreshing I think. 'cause you get to see really like all different, uh, aspects of the, of the process. I mean, everything from idea creation to really implementation and then, you know, adoption and just getting that feedback and, and so forth. So, um, yeah, I think that's, that's really, you know, where we, to most of our. Communication, like, just like internally deploying the tools and you know, getting adoption internally.

And I mean, I guess that's also a benefit of having, you know, 1,500 people working in the same company using the tools. 'cause you know, you can test it out and if, if, if it actually works, if know, um, you can start sketching on the ideas of actually getting it out outside of the company [00:14:00] as well.

Evan Troxel: I want to ask a fores Yeah. I'm gonna foreshadow a question I don't want you to answer right now, but I, I wanna do this to kind of pre bookmark a piece of the conversation, which is you, your, you're practicing structural engineering office and offices, global presence, and you have decided to productize these internal tools and I'm sure that there's a whole decision making process about what, what's useful internally versus maybe even what you would push out externally.

Um, and I don't know how closely those products match, right? Um, but the idea of making that decision to productize and, and deploy software tools, I think is super interesting. Most firms don't do it. If they do. It's kind of, you know, an open source kind of a manner. You're not trying to make it a, a viable income stream necessarily because they're, they're very small, piecemeal.

Uh, things you've figured out how to [00:15:00] deploy bigger things and put them out there as products, you have to support them. Like you mentioned all the key pieces of, of what you're doing. And, and I guess, you know, it's the whole idea of what Thornton Thomas City has done with kind of CORE Studio incubating and accelerating other people's ideas, turning them into products I think is super interesting.

Like I said, I don't want to go there yet. I, I want to get there, so that's why I'm bringing it up now because it was crossing my mind as, as you're saying all those things. Before we do that, Emil, give us an idea of, of where you're coming from and why you've decided this career path for you.

Emil Poulsen: No, for sure. So, um, I studied architecture and engineering at Chalmers University here in Sweden. Um, back, I started back in 2009. I did my bachelor's degree, um, three years. So that's really a mix of, you know, pretty kind of typical structural engineering,

uh, program. And so [00:16:00] that's essentially 50% of the, the program.

And then you have the other 50%, which is pretty typical, um, in architectural

design projects and, and stuff. So. What happens is like you start, maybe not for the first year, maybe like somewhere around like the second year, you start to think about, um, Hey, how can I actually apply my skills within design and architecture, into structural engineering?

The way that you, you know, you

start thinking about engineering problems and vice versa, like, Hey, can I actually bring in some of this, um, um, engineering concepts into my design projects and to kind of bridge that. Um, the way that I see it is, it, uh, at least is, uh, through competition and, and, and tooling really.

And just like being able to kind of sketch mathematically. That's, that's a's a pretty interesting concept. I think just like being creative with engineering and math and programming and I mean, I, I guess I, I, I joined the, the Grasshopper cult [00:17:00] quite, uh, quite soon in my career. Probably, I dunno, 2010 or something like that, and kind of never looked back really. Uh, and that was, I guess the, the gateway drug to getting to heavier stuff. Um, obviously like some, some scripting and, and programming and, um. So, yeah, I did that. I took a gap year between my master's and my Bachelor, um, and, um, moved to the UK where I, um, did an internship at Bureau Happel. So, um, that was a great time.

I, I worked with some really, uh, amazing people and got to work in some really, really interesting problems. Um, mainly like, you know, football stadiums and yeah, some bigger, um, train station buildings and stuff like that. And, you know, there wasn't really any choice there. Like, we had to automate things and processes and, um, I mean, especially if you work for engineering companies, um, one common problem [00:18:00] is just like turning geometry into clean stick models that you can analyze, right?

So that's, that's, that's an important topic. So, um, lots of interoperability, like just lots of automation in terms of. You know, really kind of observing how engineers work and how they design components and systems and try to take their process and, you know, work with that. It's always about context and just understanding how, how your colleagues work and, you know, you can kind of attack the automation, um, aspect from, from, from that angle.

So, um, yeah, kind of did that for a year. Went back to Chalmers where I completed my, um, structural engineering masters and then I continued with my architecture masters. So I have a duo kind of master's degree there. Uh, although I've never actually really officially worked as neither an architect or structural engineer.

I mean, I kind of got into this, um, um, [00:19:00] you know, hybrid basically, you know, competitional design or just, um, design technology. Um. So I joined, um, t Decor Studio, uh, in 2016 and moved to New York where I lived for two years, and kind of started out as a, um, kind of developer slash um, competitional designer. Uh, just helping out in projects maybe like 50% I think it was in the beginning, and then developing tools for the other 50%. But I quite quickly, like, got into full, full-time development probably after like half a year or so. And, um, yeah, it's, it's, it's great. I think it's just a really fascinating, um, you know, thing to do, just like being surrounded by all these smart people working on really interesting projects and just. Be there and help out. Um, automating tools, and as you kind of mentioned earlier, [00:20:00] like CORE Studio is, um, made up of really two parts. We have the application development team and then we have the core modeling team. And what usually happens is that the core modeling team they work with, um, you know, project teams on, on, on projects that are, you know, complicated or geometrically complex. And, um, when they have seen a pattern in enough projects, like they come to us and we talk about generalizing, um, the, the solution. So that's typically how it works. Like just having that kind of, um, um, you know, back and forth dialogue between the modeling and application development and obviously the whole company is, is, is quite key for what we do.

Evan Troxel: going back to your school. The, the idea of a, like an integrated structural engineering and architectural program is really interesting to me because the problem set or maybe the nature of the mind that when it goes after these problems, [00:21:00] those are two very different ways of solving problems, right? Like the idea of design being a very wicked problem, unknown unknowns, discovery process, trying to synthesize a multitude of inputs into a solution.

Nobody knows what that path is gonna be. And as we all experienced in school, in studio, we experienced a different solution from every single person, even though it was the same scope of project, right? Engineering though is, is very different. Right. It's, it's kind reverse engineering that final into like what it actually takes to hold that thing up.

I think that that's, that's very interesting. From a, from a, like both sides of the brain. Uh, problem set. I mean, I haven't actually heard of that, at least in the US of most people go to architecture school or they go to engineering school. Is that really what attracted you or did you just not know which one you preferred [00:22:00] and you kind of figured it out along the way?

Like, like where did that come from in you?

Emil Poulsen: Yeah, yeah. No, that's a good question. I mean, I think I've always been interested in, um, design and art obviously, and, and, um, just mathematics and physics

and all that stuff. I, I don't think I was particularly interested in buildings, to be honest. When I when I actually, um, I started studying architecture engineering. So, uh, yeah, maybe, maybe you're right. Maybe it was kind of an open-ended answer to an open-ended question there. Like, you know, I can postpone my decision a bit more,

but, um, Yeah.

Evan Troxel: yeah.

Interesting. That, that whole world has gotta be, I the, the idea of going to architecture school and doing really wild designs because you can, right? Because everybody's a designer. And then having to have this kind of accountability partner of the structural side of things. Were I was that what projects were like it was you, they were much more grounded in that sense.

Emil Poulsen: Um, yes [00:23:00] and no. I mean, you know, we did a lot of projects that just require some amount of You know, structural mechanics, um, understanding like if you design

a bridge, for instance, like it's just part of the design, like how is it actually going to work?

You know, think of a suspension bridge for instance.

Like there, there is, um, there is a meaning and there is a, um, an idea of the structural concept. So, um, I think that was really part of the, the sketch process, right? Like, you know, you, you, you almost like sketch, um, you know, four diagrams and sketch arrows and like, you know, how are we gonna support this load, et cetera.

So it's, um, I kind of agree that it's obviously, um, different professions with completely like different backgrounds, but, um, I kind of like the idea that, um,

it doesn't necessarily mean that it's completely different in terms of,

uh, you know, procedure, et cetera. Uh, so, um, but no, for sure. I mean, I think I had one project just, uh, came to mind now [00:24:00] there was a Bridge project and I designed a, um, sign, wave bridge, and it was just like sign waves all over the place. I think I just started to learn grasshopper and like went all in for it. And I think I even went as far as deciding the staircase as a sign wave and um, like the, the teacher told me like, people are gonna die in the staircase. You can't do that, like, So it was clear from that point that I, I wasn't gonna be a good architect anyway, but Yeah, no, I

guess, yeah, I was,

Evan Troxel: teachers told you

Emil Poulsen: no, exactly. I was just interested in, you know, tooling and, and

I guess the process really. Um,

so Yeah.

Evan Troxel: There's definitely something really attractive about that visual programming process and watching the math turn into geometry. And I think a lot of times people go into learning a tool like that because they're interested in parametric control over [00:25:00] geometry and updating things and, and, and playing with things in that sense.

Emil Poulsen: Yeah,

Evan Troxel: Using, using that programming too, like you said earlier, like you, you talked about sketching with math, right? Like this idea of sketching through visual programming, I think is a totally valid concept and a lot of people do that, but they don't necessarily think about it as math. Right. They think about it as geometric, like how you're gonna see that geometry in the end and, and being able to control that.

Yeah. And but the idea of . Looking at it like a function, looking at it, right? Because that's kind of, that's what it is. It's like the first this, then this, then this. And it's, it's constantly rippling through until you see the output. And if you go back and change something, you see the update. But thinking about that mathematically I think is really interesting.

And, and people who get into Grasshopper start to think like that. And it, it definitely that the tool reinforces that. And coming, when I went to school, there was no, there was no [00:26:00] virtual visual programming. There was no, uh, it was all just hard modeling, right? It was all polygon modeling, solid modeling, some surface modeling.

But it was purely geometry, right? Geometry was my favorite math class, for sure. Like understanding those concepts. And, and it was a very visual, I think it's definitely a different . Piece of the mind that operates in that grasshopper space. And I think for me, when I got into that eventually, very late way later than what you're even talking about when you were in school, it was just very much, it was like stretching a new muscle.

And I found that really intriguing, right? because it was just something that I hadn't experienced before and it was a new way of searching for design solutions. And obviously there's a lot of power there. To be able to make a small change and watch it ripple throughout is incredibly empowering.

As somebody who did not [00:27:00] learn how to code, did not learn how, like, and, and, and it just made it, it democratized the ability for me and many others to code in quotes, right? Because I.

Emil Poulsen: Yeah.

Evan Troxel: It is coding, but at the same time, it, it doesn't feel like coding. Right. So, uh, it, it's really interesting to, to think about all that and how it's kind of changed the pursuit of architecture, uh, over the years and, and, uh, it's kind of an incredible thing to kind of extract out and look at that, just that piece of it and what David Rutten was, was able to accomplish with a

Emil Poulsen: Yeah, no, for sure. Yeah.

Evan Troxel: The, the idea of, of, let's get back to, to CORE Studio and Thornton Thomasetti. So you, you were in New York, you said, and, and is that really where you were introduced to Thornton Thomasetti and what you're doing?

Emil Poulsen: Yes. Um, yes and no. I guess, you know, I, I, I was certainly interested in the idea of, um, you know, competition [00:28:00] of the sign and programming and technology within the AC industry, um, before that. But, um, yeah, I mean, during Thomas City CORE Studio was obviously my, my first

real job

in a way, right? So, um, I, uh, I got to see how things worked and practice for real, and obviously have, um, learned a lot from just, you know, being there and working with all these great people.

So, um, yeah, it was, it was an eye-opener in many, many ways and still is. So,

so, Yeah.

Evan Troxel: And, and when you were looking for that first job, obviously you have interest in computational design and problem solving. Were you specifically looking for a place to land that that was a core piece of how they did what they did? Or what was that decision like for you? Was, was it based on that or not?

Emil Poulsen: I mean, I think, um, yeah, obviously like having the, um, having the, the opportunity to work with [00:29:00] processes, I think was a, was a key component in this. Um, and, um, I mean, course studio is really just research and kind of developing tools for, for the practice, right? So,

um, I kind of was interested in pursuing, um, a career in academia, um, early on as well, but at the same time, it's just a. Pretty awesome thing to just be around real projects solving

real problems. So I think I think that was certainly something that I, that I was, uh, interested in. And, um, I mean I heard about, uh, CORE Studio for, for, um, uh, yeah, long before I joined. So, um, it was kind of a known, known, um, um, uh, figure in the industry, obviously.

And then I had a friend who had, um, done an internship a year prior, so she kind of connected me and uh, yeah. Um, I was lucky to, to get involved.

Evan Troxel: I, I'm thinking back to the first time that I think that I [00:30:00] heard about CORE Studio, which I, I again would probably not be days for CORE Studio at all, but just my awareness of it, uh, was when, and I mentioned this to you a minute ago, but Daniel C. Graves was presenting at AUSC Bimbo many years ago, probably around 2 20 16 or so.

Uh, and he was talking about asterisk as one of your new tools in development, and it was kind of a preview of, of the kinds of projects that you were working on. And that was the first time that I think I ever was . Introduced to the idea of a practice, structural engineering practice, let alone architectural practice or whatever product starting to productize or thinking about an internal tool being used outside of their practice.

And I thought that was fascinating and it was all done through the web and I think there was maybe some grasshopper components that went along with it to connect those things together. And that to me was, was kind of eyeopening at that point. And that to me showed [00:31:00] the seriousness of Chorus Studio really being this thing inside of a larger practice because it really, when it's all tied to projects, when, when the, the core functionality of a thing like that inside, if, if you think about it as this group of people and they're just supporting projects.

The projects rule everything. Right? So to there, it seemed to me like there had to be, and I didn't get to ask him this, but there has to be this of, I don't know, isolation, not isolation, but, but, but separation from the projects.

And, and you guys said you kind of do two things. You, you support the practice, but you also work on these products and you, and you even work on the pro products first. They're, they're driven out of the needs and the, the patterns that are being

seen by the practice. Can you talk about that? Because your group is not, it's not huge, but it's, I mean, you're, you're kind of standalone, right?

Like, I don't You have, how [00:32:00] many people are in your, in

Emil Poulsen: we're 20 plus.


Evan Troxel: gonna say 20. Yeah.

Emil Poulsen: Something like that. So, no, for sure. I mean, that's, that's always the, the dream, right? Like you, you work on tools and you can build it to a project and, you know, client pays for the, the development and everyone is happy. But yeah, it doesn't really work that way, uh, because, you know, projects have deadlines and they

have priorities and, you know, um, so I think, I think that's an important aspect.

Like if you actually want to get serious with, um, you know, tool development, it

sort of has to be outside of the, the project work. Um, as you said, like obviously it can still be informed and it can be very much, uh, a nice accelerator just like testing out the tools and kind of getting feedback and um,

you know, push the development forward.

But, um, developing

Evan Troxel: a built-in built-in beta audience, right? ,

Emil Poulsen: now, pretty much,


Evan Troxel: have that pool.

Emil Poulsen: yeah, no, for sure. And I, I would also separate between You know, [00:33:00] scripting and tool development,

those are two different things, like using, using computational, um, design tools to, um, accelerate projects. I mean, it's kind of a way of modeling, I would say,

but if you actually want to go into developing robust tools, you know, it's gonna need documentation, it's gonna need testing, it's gonna need, like, all these things that just get very hard to do within the, the scope of a project. Um, so, so yeah, I mean, I think, yeah, we're very lucky to have that environment in, in, uh, Thornton Thomas, uh, Thornton Thomas study and just being able to, um, work on these projects, uh, and um, and tools.

Evan Troxel: it just seems very prescient. I guess, I don't know the right word, but the idea of TT investing in this

Emil Poulsen: Yeah.

Evan Troxel: smaller entity within the larger firm. Obviously, like you said, you get to, it's, it's a great place to be because you have the resources of this very large firm and [00:34:00] you have this layer of . Separation in that I, I would assume like the, the leadership of CORE Studio making decisions about products, about which direction to go.

Uh, and, and then also like TT gets to brag about CORE Studio, right? Like it's this really

cool thing that they do, that they are pushing, they're constantly on the bleeding edge of, of what they're doing. And that positions TT

in a different segment of the market. I mean, there's, there's other firms doing similar things, right?

But, but this to me was kind of like, again, the first time I had seen that. And,

Emil Poulsen: Yeah.

Evan Troxel: and so like the idea of having an innovation incubator inside of a firm that operates semi-independently under the umbrella of tt and having that, uh, I mean, it's a, it's a useful relationship in both directions, obviously. Uh, that, that to me is just something that[00:35:00]

More people need to think about, right? Because when, when you're, when you have a team in-house, like you said earlier, that just support, that does scripting, that just supports prod projects and are constantly helping those teams hit their deadlines or, or whatever, that is a very different thing than product development, right?

And, and it takes a different approach. It takes a different skillset. There's, and so I guess what I'm saying is like, you can't, you can't decide to do it like you guys have done it and, and have it fully integrated. And

because it's just, that would just be something entirely different. A lot of firms are doing that, in fact, right?

And, and, but, but this is, this is unique or than what most, most, most firms do. And I don't, I don't really know where I'm going with that, but I just, I ober observations, things that I've been thinking about as, as I've watched TT. And CORE Studio, kind of the way that you guys talk about the, the work that [00:36:00] you do outwardly is, is really interesting.

Emil Poulsen: No, for sure. I mean, as you said, like I think CORE Studio plays an important role in the, you know, presentation of, of, of Titi as well as you mentioned.

Um, you know, just being able to show, um, you know, all the tools that we develop and all the, um, you know, routines and, and automation scripts and everything like that. Um, like our partners get access to, if they work with us, is a pretty strong motivation and, you know, pretty good sales pitch. So, so for sure. I mean, it's, um.


CORE Studio is, is, um, is uh, has a good presence on, on the company slides, so to

speak. Like it,

you know, it's, um, gotta think about the presentation for sure.

Evan Troxel: Talk about some of the products that you have developed. So I know about Constru and

Asterisk, and I'm, I'm sure there are others, but those are the ones that kind of pop to my mind immediately. Can you just talk about the types of things that you are productizing and putting out [00:37:00] and making available to others to use and, and, and why you've decided to, to make those tools available?

I mean, obviously there's an advantage to you guys where if you are working on a project with an architectural firm, say,

and they're using those tools to talk to you.

But, but beyond that, I mean, I, I kind of assume there's also this, this ability for people to just use that tool and you, you're just applying,

you build the tool.

People push something in, they get something back out, they can use it. I mean, talk about about that, because that, to me is very different than a traditional consultant relationship on a larger design team.

Emil Poulsen: no, for sure. I mean, I think, um, don't quote me on it, but I think the first public tool we made was the, um, to the toolbox, plugin for Grasshopper,

uh, which is, yeah, I don't know how many thousands, thousands of downloads it has, but quite a lot. And that's really just like a good mix of [00:38:00] different, you know, grass, upper, um, components that we thought were good to have.


Um, so I don't know when that was released, probably back in like 2013 or 14, maybe.

Evan Troxel: have to look that up on Food for Rhino. I'm, there's, there's probably a history of, of

Emil Poulsen: Yeah, for sure. We, we actually made a new release like a year ago or something like that. Um, um, yeah, just updating some, some, some good good stuff. Just throwing some, some, some more Good is there? Um, but I think, yeah, um, you know, there is certainly, um, kinda a marketing component to this, right? Like you, um, deploy these tools for free,

like people get to use it.

Uh, maybe that was actually how I actually got familiar with, um,

Evan Troxel: Mm.

Emil Poulsen: Titi and CORE Studio in the first place, actually thinking about it. Uh,


Evan Troxel: That makes sense. Yeah.

Emil Poulsen: um, so yeah, that's, that's, that's one aspect, just like getting, getting the tools out there, getting people to use them, you know, kind of build up that community, I guess.

Um, the [00:39:00] AEC tech conference is probably something we can chat about later as well, but it's, it's very much about just like building up that community and, you know, um, getting partners and, and, and, um. uh, get to know people in the industry, obviously. And, um, yeah, after that, I think Construe was probably the second product that we launched. Outside of, um, um, TI mean from the CORE Studio perspective, uh, there is another, um, component of, of Titi that do more kind of scientific tooling and they, they have a pretty strong background in this, this kind of tool development. Um, but from the CORE Studio side, um, I would say construed, which is really just the interoperability platform. Uh, and that was also, it's, it's, it existed in a different format. Uh, in the beginning it was way more kind of desktop based. Like you would save your, you know, geometry database into a file. You could send this file around or place it on a, uh, network drive somewhere. Um, [00:40:00] and then back in 2015 ish, um, we started to build a cloud solution for it. And, um. Yeah, I mean, as, as we've talked about, um, you know, it's, it's, it's, it's a good opportunity to really test out the, the tools and ideas and, um, you know, prototyping internally and then kind of test the waters, um, outside of the company. Um, so, but yeah, since then, I mean, yes, asterisk as we, as we talked about, it's, um, it's, um, um, really a structural auctioneering tool.

Like the idea is as, as, um, you as an architect or, you know, if you're in a project, early stage project, like from amassing,

uh, can you generate a structural wire framing such that you can make some early guesses about, you know, how much is this gonna cost? Like, what's gonna be the embodied carbon, uh, all these like early decisions, um, about the building system. Um. [00:41:00] So, um, yeah, I was involved in that project, um, mainly on the geometry side, like given this massing geometry, um, how do we actually generate a structural wire framing that we can use for different, um, for different things. Um, so I think that was probably the first time that I really started to work with the, um, the Rhino Common, uh, rhino, API,

Evan Troxel: Hmm.

Emil Poulsen: is, uh, um, a fantastic API.

It just has the perfect level of, um, abstraction for me as a, uh, you know, competitional. Person really just like understanding, you know, uh, not having to, um, you know, revisit mathematics from, from some engineering class, but just like, okay, I have this plane. I want to intersect it with this mesh. Like how do I do it?

Um, so yeah, we really built the whole, um, geometry engine using rhino com, and this was pre Rhino Compute, which um, I think was released back [00:42:00] in 2018 or something like that.

So we had a pretty interesting ad hoc solution to actually being able to put that on a server.

'cause that was the idea. Like you had a, the, the web application and you would, you know, provide your, your, um, um, inputs of the massing and, um, then you can, you know, toggle different inputs and really see, um, you know, a, a visualization of the, the structural model, but also, you know, some, um, quantitative outputs.

Like, you know, um, what's the tonnage? Um,

yeah, how much, how much is it gonna cost, et cetera.

Evan Troxel: I remember that. And when you said auctioneering, it made me think about how you're doing auctioneering. And it was like you, you could choose different structural types, right? I mean, as an it was, it wasn't like you were spitting out a thousand generative steel structures for that mass. It was like you, you had a, a few different types to choose from and then like you said, you, you start to quantify it and you also start, you could put numbers to it that for cost or things like that.

To give [00:43:00] you the whole idea of this tool was to get to inform a designer, at least give them something to base . A conversation on when they're talking about how they, how they're going to make decisions to move forward. So which, which structural system and why.

Emil Poulsen: yep,

Evan Troxel: The earlier I can get that information plugged into my mass, which is just super basic actual blobby mass.

Right. And, and start to see what that structure could look like inside of there, uh, is, I think was, was incredible. It, it is just, it, it gives a designer superpowers because they know more than any other architect would about, about that. Because if they're using a tool like that, they just have more information to work with earlier, which helps them make better decisions.

Emil Poulsen: No, for sure. Exactly. I, I think, I think that's right. It's really about like what's, what's the information and how much do you get at cer at a certain stage in a project and You know, it's, it's always hard, [00:44:00] like how much control do you actually provide here? Uh, so that was something that we,

um, thought about a lot.

Like, you know, is it enough just providing some distance for the, um, um, you know, base sizes here? Or should we really allow the user to provide grid lines? Um, and um, you know, to what level of detail do we specify the structural framing? Like, should we separate between the floors and the columns and the, you know, um, yeah.

Beam systems. Like yeah. There are just tons of different options there. And, and it's, it's, um, you know, some, somewhere you gotta make a decision like, okay, we, we, we will support this, but we'll wait for this

until someone asks for it. Kind of,

Evan Troxel: Sky's the limit when it comes to development. Until it, until you actually have to have people do it. Right? So I'm sure the ideas were plentiful, but what you actually decided to ship in those first iterations of that product had to be scaled back to kind of like the,

Emil Poulsen: Yeah.

Evan Troxel: least, right? It had to be to what is the, how can this add value?

But [00:45:00] also like, let, again, let, let's go through this iterative process of deploying a tool over time. This, we're gonna play the long game with a tool like this. We're not gonna try to cram it all into a version one release and then see what people think about it. So did you get a lot of feedback from firms about the kinds of things that would be more useful to them over time?

Or, and, and these things were already on your list and you're like, yep. Yep. That's potentially on the roadmap, or, or were, or were you actually hearing new ideas that you guys had never thought of?

Emil Poulsen: No, for sure. We, we heard, um, we heard a lot of interesting ideas as, as early feedback, but also, you know, going back to the discussion about like how much control you actually provide. I think we made some pretty crude, uh, assumptions about grid lines. Like, you know, um, our idea was like, okay, we are probably gonna be Better at guessing. Um, I mean, grid lines is a big thing in structural engineering. Like you essentially

have amassing, right? And then, [00:46:00] you know, you you, you place the grid lines in, in those intersections. You place columns and then you kind of work, work from the system upwards. Um, and yeah, that was one of the things that we kind of assumed that we would know better than the user, which turned out to be kind of wrong, I would


Uh, so then we started to experimenting with,

Evan Troxel: I'm just laughing because I'm, I remember moving grid lines like an an inch or Right. All the time. And, and the engineer would be pissed. Right. But it was always like, well, here's why. And, and, and you, you talk through it and Okay, everybody's okay. Yep. You're, we should do that or we shouldn't do that.

Here's why. But, but to your point, like can, it's not an easy thing to just guess where those

Emil Poulsen: No, exactly. And, you know, it's, it's always like, um, I mean, sometimes if you have, um, buildings that aren't completely extruded, you're gonna end up with some additional, uh, grid lines that

are not present on the, you know, ground floor.

So it got just more and more complicated until we

decided to actually,

[00:47:00] hey, maybe we actually need some kind of editing functionality of the grid lines there.

Um, so, uh, but we do actually have a Rhino plugin for, um, asterisk as well, which kind of allows you to, you know, edit the, the, the massing instead of rhino and sort of have the system, you know, compute, uh, compute it really, uh, real time. So, um,

Evan Troxel: So that's computing it locally on, on the user's machine.

Emil Poulsen: No, it's not. So that was a, that was a, um, decision we made to kind of keep the geometry engine, uh, remote. Uh, 'cause the idea was like, okay, you, you use Rhino and the modeling tools in Rhino to kind of alter your massing,

right? And then you can essentially upload it, uh, to the system. Um, and, um, you could still like, have Rhino running and edit it. We even had like a live sculpt mode, which would kind of react to, um, everything you made in Rhino, like all the changes to the, to the massing. Um, but the idea was to kind of still have the ability to [00:48:00] make it available without rhino, so to speak.

Um, so, um, so yeah, and then of course like just being able to kind of see all the different, um, uh, configurations in some diagram, which was obviously inspired by, um, a hackathon project with, um. I think was developed in an ASC Tech probably 2015 or something like that, called, um, design Something. Yeah. Um, design Explorer. That's it. Uh, so really this kind of parallel diagram of like, you know, different, um, permutations of parameters just like visualized in a

intuitive fashion.

Uh, which actually took off and became another product that we've worked on called Thread,

which is really about kind of, um, exploring data and, uh, yeah, BIM data and structural data and, um, yeah, different data associated with geometry really.

Um, so that's a big thing also in structural engineering. Like you have [00:49:00] this, um, you know, base model, like some base geometry, and then if you run structural analysis on it, it's gonna have a lot of metadata about Engineering performance. And that can be a lot, like a lot of data, gigabytes of data sometimes.

Evan Troxel: Mm

Emil Poulsen: And that can be quite hard to, um, get an overview of or just like understand the data. Uh, so, uh, I would say big parts of what we do has to do with, um, just visualizing data in a

meaningful way.

Evan Troxel: Yeah. Let's talk about naming for a second. So this is not a, a meaty part of the conversation, but, uh, I think TT Toolbox was probably one of the default kind of packages that everybody downloaded at some point, right? There's like Lunchbox, TT Toolbox, human ui there, there's a few of 'em, right? And, um, totally an engineer's name like you guys didn't even come up with a good animal

Emil Poulsen: Yeah. No, exactly.

Evan Troxel: to, to name it.[00:50:00]

I mean, good branding for, for Thornton Thomasetti, but, uh, but not in line with, with all the other, uh, animal names. So you get one demerit for that. But then the idea of asterisk, where, where's the name for asterisk come from, do you know?

Emil Poulsen: Yeah, I know exactly where it's coming from. It was like, um, you know, we had some early prototypes and we just talked about how do we deal with, um, potentially solutions that aren't good. Uh, and I rob my boss at, uh, Thornton Thomas study or CORE Studio, he, he proposed like, Hey, maybe we should just put an asterisk under the whole thing, just saying like, Hey, you know, be careful.

So that's where

Evan Troxel: disclaimer.

It's a, it's a disclaimer. That's great that I kind of wondered if that, if that's what it was, because

Emil Poulsen: Yeah,


Evan Troxel: yeah, take, take this with a grain of salt kind of a thing.

Emil Poulsen: Pretty much,

Evan Troxel: we can't be held liable. I think that's, that's an interesting idea about kind of governance of, of this solution, right?

Which is like . Use this at your own risk. [00:51:00] 'cause it, this conversations have come up over the years, which is like, well, what if we make a tool and then somebody makes a decision based on that tool that leads to a bad outcome? Who's liable for that? Right. And so then, yeah, you do have to have the legalese attached to every single thing that you put out into the world in this realm, which is like, uh, you know, use this at your own risk.

There's no guarantees. All of these things that you read in the

the license agreements. Right. Um, is that something, I mean, would that, I'm assume that was a major conversation piece as you guys went into this.

Emil Poulsen: Yeah, for sure.

Absolutely. And I think, you know, always when you work on tools like design tools that are, um, I mean the whole idea is to use it in early stages, right? So there is always like a pretty low resolution of inputs coming in, like amassing.

Um, so yeah, it's just like you gotta be careful about that, really like, you know, low

resolution in kind of low resolution out. So I think our, you know, idea of [00:52:00] just naming it asterisk 'cause really that like, okay, there is gonna be low resolution here,

but probably

Evan Troxel: So much so that you named your product Yeah.

Emil Poulsen: Yeah. But hopefully enough to, to make those early decisions, you know, should we go for timber? Should we like, have

a composite beam system here? Should we like go with this, um, foundation system, et cetera.

Just like this. Um, you know, high level questions,

Evan Troxel: Helping people make those decisions earlier. Yeah.

and and now we live in a world where, I mean, the AI stuff is, is a headline

a few days a week. Right. And talking about this idea of hallucinations, right? Yeah. I mean, asterisk could be hallucinating as well. We didn't call it that back then. Right. But that, that's the idea, is like, we don't know every

Bit of context about your projects. We don't, we, we only know what you gave us. And from there we had to dissect that mathematically to turn it into bays, into a structural system to size beams. I don't know if there's location data included in there or not to kind of give, you know, different regions have different [00:53:00] codes and I mean, there's a, there's a mess of, of AAEC world out there when it comes to all of that stuff.

And so being able to custom tailor a solution is definitely a very different process than what you're offering here in the beginning. But it can help people make those decisions early. And, uh, those could be hallucinations. Right. And, and, and we hear, we hear disclaimers all the time now. It's like, double check, double check, double check all of this, because what it's spitting out may not be

even true.

Right. Okay. Yep. I guess that's something that the onus is on us as users to constantly be reminding ourselves to do that.

Emil Poulsen: totally. No, for sure. And actually, um, funny enough, you know, um, there is an, a machine learning component to asterisk, uh, on a, uh, component level. So we have a big library called Core Structure, which is really, um, just tons of, um, you know, engineering equations and [00:54:00] design, um, like structural engineering, uh, design writtens, uh, that has been developed for Yeah.

Many years. And, you know, the idea is really that, like, it's kind of the, the, um, the entire mind of TT kind of in this

code base in a way.


um, Encapsulated. in the code base Exactly. And,

and, um, yeah, and it works well. Um, but I mean, if you're designing thousands of billions and thousands of columns, like there is a performance aspect to it.

And, you know, if, if you, um, if you're developing these like early stage rapid prototyping tools, you know, it's um, it has to be performance and, um. Uh, just having that playfulness is extremely important and that's, that was something that we realized you don't wanna, you know, press a button and then, you know, wait for an hour to get some results.

So that was one of the motives to actually look into, um, uh, just machine learning, like, [00:55:00] Hey, we have these equations. Can we just like, throw in a bunch of inputs here, get some outputs out, and then train a model to essentially learn how to size beams and columns. Um, and um, yeah, so when you do that, you get results within, you know, a millisecond or something.


um, so that's, um, that was something that we actually started out doing like back in 2016, 17 as well. So, um. Yeah, we, we have been on the machine learning track for, for quite some time. Obviously now it's really started to take off the whole

AI discussion as well. And, uh, we had some ideas of, of how to, you know, start implementing some of that in, in the, um, wire framing logic as well, like the structural wire framing logic.

But, um, never really got there. But, um, yeah, I mean it's, it's a super interesting, um,

um, you know, side of our industry to, to observe these days. I think just like the whole, um, yeah, discussion

[00:56:00] about AI and how, how things will change and, you know,

Evan Troxel: I'm sure. So, so let's use this as a segue into AEC tech and hackathons and, and things like that, because getting outside of your walls, again, this is something that's important I, I assume for you guys, uh, to infuse, like, not only expose. that culture to others who are not part of CORE Studio and, and tt there's, this is kind of like an academic tie in, right?

It's like, this is like being in a design studio, right? It's like, let's do this really intensive project based. You define the project, but then you, you, you assemble a team. You, you go after doing something. And, but I'm sure that like the way that those dots get connected and the way those neurons fire in that environment is just invigorating for, for you.

And I'm sure that, that you at CORE Studio get a lot of value out of putting those events on and you're also contributing and participating in those events at the [00:57:00] kind of user level as well on teams, right? You guys had a, a recent Project Rhino anywhere, right? So I, let's, let's just chat about this, this general area from the high level.

All the way to working on a team and producing a, a, a new idea and, and, and putting a kind of proof of concept together and putting it out there. Let's start at the high level from a value proposition of putting on hackathons, the whole AEC tech thing. Give us an overview of kind of where, where you stand in, in that whole thing.

Emil Poulsen: no, for sure. I mean, we've been running the a, a tech event for more than a decade now,


And, um, it's really composed of, um. I guess three things. Like first of all, you have the workshops is, you know, where we essentially invite people to teach things.

I mean it, we usually have some folks from, from, um, McNeil, you know, uh, the folks from Data Bug [00:58:00] Tools.

Usually there, high Bar has been there. Um, and um, it's just a fantastic opportunity to get this, um, really innovative people, uh, just like showcasing their stuff and like just showing, hey, this is a tool that we've been working on or our feature that we've been working on. Um, and um, yeah, just get that kind of one-to-One connection with the, the actual author of the tool is just amazing. Uh, so that's one component. Then we have like virtual versions of that as well. Um, obviously something that got, you know, more and more important during the, the Covid times and we've kind of stuck with that since then. Um, and then we have the symposium, which is the, um. Yeah, just like keynote speakers, we invite, you know, interesting people.

Um, and, you know, they present their stuff. Um, and um, finally, which is obviously my favorite portion, is the hackathon. Uh, where, uh, you know, people get together. [00:59:00] Um, so it starts out with the lightning rounds. So it's usually around, you know, 10 in the morning, something like that. You get a cup of coffee and, uh, the pitches start.

Um, so you, if you have an idea, I mean there is a microphone, that's why it's called the Lightning Rounds. Like you just present maybe one, two minutes. Just present an idea. Uh, and um. If either if you have something yourself you wanna present, you can do that. Or just like sit back, listen in to other people's ideas. Um, and then there is a group formation, um, process where, you know, people just like, yeah, meet and greet kind of, and, and get together and, um, start talking about, uh, you know, the hack projects and then you have 24 hours to actually produce something out of it. And yeah, it's just a fantastic format to get things done in a way.

Uh, 'cause there really is isn't that much time to, you know, reflect on different Trajectories. So like, you know, should we [01:00:00] do X or Y? It's, it's gotta be pretty fast. And that's, uh, I think that's a fascinating,

um, aspect of an industry that's otherwise quite slow, right? In thinking about like, how, how, how long it takes to, to build buildings and design buildings. Um, uh, so yeah, I mean it's, it's, you know, we, we hosted yearly in, in New York and um, um, yeah, we've kind of built up a pretty good community around it now. So we have a Slack channel, you know, where people com uh, can communicate throughout the year. And, um, I. Yeah, it's, it's, it's just fun. Like there are a lot of new people showing up every year and there are a good group of like core people that always like, show up and, and it's actually growing pretty good for, for, um, for every year now.

And I think we had like, was it 16, uh, hackathon projects,


presented last time now. Uh, and I think it was even 30 plus, um, presentations in the, uh, lightning rounds. And yeah, it's, it's, [01:01:00] it's kind of picking up speed and it's, it's all about like building that community and kind of, you know, discuss problems we have, um, you know, within the company's like, can we get together and solve it and, you know, learn from each other and so forth.

So it's, it's, it's a fantastic event and, um, yeah, I'm, I'm, I'm really glad we have all those three components 'cause we really get together pretty, pretty well.

Evan Troxel: It is interesting to think about how it, over a decade, it's probably shifted quite a bit from workflows to product that that is potential, right? These are 16 potential products could come out of a hackathon versus a decade ago it was like, how do I get this stuff from here to there? Right?

And. And I, I think that that's, that's pretty fascinating because of startup culture, venture capital, um, just ev everything's a pitch deck nowadays, and people have ideas.

You know, there's no end to them. So I think that's really interesting. And I wonder like people who go into this, they've been incubating, [01:02:00] I assume these ideas may be for a little while at least, and they're presenting them like they're, they're probably less on the fly inspiration from that conference, but it's like somebody's had this idea, they've been kicking around in their head for a while.

I'm gonna say it out loud and see who else here is interested. And then I also wonder if there's some, because I haven't been to this event, is there positioning of, in this presentation, because you kind of suss out the different pieces, teammates. Skills that they bring to the table. And is there kind of like this, this, I, you, I, I, I really need you on my team because you're the, you're the WebGL guy or whatever.

Is that, is all, is all that happening as well on kind of behind the scenes?

Emil Poulsen: informally, yes, I would say, but there is no list of competencies that a specific hackathon project,

uh, needs or anything like that. It's,

it's more organic, I would say. And sometimes you get, uh, you get up there, you pitch, and then you start talking with some [01:03:00] people. And then this idea Turns into something completely different.


it's, uh, you know, it's, it's, it's quite fascinating just like having that sort of platform to, you know, you plant a seed and then it becomes something completely different from what you thought initially. And actually, you know, I think, I think there is a good mix of people, you know, thinking about problems, like being really prepared for this hackathon and other people that are just like, Hey, okay, maybe just come up with something like one minute before the lightning round.

So, um, that was actually the case for, um, the Rhino Anywhere project that I was involved in, uh, hacking on, which is really kind of a. Um, yeah, kind of a web client for a three D uh, modeling, using Rhino, uh, using, um, stream, uh, pixel streaming, uh, technology. Um, and, um, yeah, myself and my colleague Sergei, we kind of discussed, uh, different ways to get, um, um, like Rhino more [01:04:00] interactive.

We were thinking about hooking up Galapagos, the, um, generic, uh, genetic solver with, um, like Rhino compute and uh, rest Hopper, which was actually another hackathon project, um, a few years ago. Uh, but then, yeah, we started talking about like, okay, we actually build something using pixel streaming instead that would actually, you know, just like stream the view port to, to a browser and, uh. That was sort of an idea that just came up like a few minutes before the, the pitches. So yeah, I think it's a good mix of, um, you know, people having actual problems that they have encountered in their daily, um, you know, um, daily work, um, they actually really wanna solve. And then, you know, some people that just wanna like, mess around with some new technologists or like, think about different ways of doing things and, and such.

Evan Troxel: There's been some incredible projects, and obviously we don't have time to go through them all, but as some, maybe, maybe a couple of examples, but I want you to land on Rhino anywhere because it's, [01:05:00] I'm sure it's like it's still right there in the forefront of your mind and, and maybe it even has some legs to go somewhere.

Um, give, give some examples of the kinds of projects that have come out of AEC Tech hackathons.

Emil Poulsen: Yeah, for sure. I mean, it's interesting because you always see a theme for every year.

You know, I think back in like 16, 17, it was all about like interoperability. Like, Hey, can I turn this Revit model into, you know, this Tela model or um, you know, whatever. Um, and then there was another year where it was like, okay, I have this three D geometry.

Now I wanna visualize it in a browser. Can we do that? Um, and we had one year, I think it was probably when the, uh, rhino Compute and Rhino Inside stuff was released and everyone just put rhino inside of other processes and

it was like Rhino inside. Yeah.

rhino inside everything. Uh, can you guess what the theme for, for this year was?

Evan Troxel: No, not [01:06:00] at all. I can't guess the two letters that this one was about.

Emil Poulsen: No idea. No idea. Never.


Evan Troxel: Nope. Not, not gonna go for it. Not, I'm not taking your bait right there.

Emil Poulsen: no for sure. But yeah, there were a lot of interesting, like chatty, um,

uh, versions. Like someone built a really, uh, cool, uh, clippy, you remember Clip it from, from,

the old windows. Yeah.


Evan Troxel: looks like you're trying to write a business letter, right?

Emil Poulsen: exactly. So someone made a clip before Revit. Uh, and that was quite interesting to, to see. It was pretty, pretty impressive.

Like you, you typed in, so let's say you have a Revit model open up, uh, and you say, Hey, you know, delete the beams on the top floor or something like that. So what the system would do, it would pick up the prompt, it would generate some code using the Revit. API compile it. [01:07:00] Then execute it essentially.

So, um,

Evan Troxel: Sounds really dangerous.

Emil Poulsen: absolutely. That, that, that should have been called asterisk,


Evan Troxel: you mean? You mean anyone can go into my model and delete stuff? at, in, in mass, right? Yeah.

Emil Poulsen: no, for sure. That was kind of part of the presentation as well, like, you know, major, major warning, like this is gonna mess your, uh, Revit model up like

Evan Troxel: right. You might wanna back up first. Yeah.

Emil Poulsen: exactly. You know for sure.

Evan Troxel: That's cool. I, the, the whole, yeah. I mean my, my, I, my not taking the bait, uh, to say it was about AI was, uh, you know, I hope, hope that landed, but the, the idea of, of chat GPT as a really good interface, I mean, the idea of text prompting to do things does democratize tools to a certain extent. That that is absolutely incredible, right?

To, to give anybody the ability, I mean, whether it's successful or not, to be able to type [01:08:00] something in, in natural language versus find a tool, learn how to use it, apply it like those are two different worlds. And to make it easier for people to . make architecture, make structural models, do all those things, I think is, I mean, there's definitely something there, there,

Emil Poulsen: No, for sure. I am also super interested in that. Um, and, um, I mean, as I said, like it, it's, um, you can even apply it on, you know, software development. Like you're, you're getting into some new library or like some new, I don't know, SDK that you know nothing about.

Evan Troxel: yeah. It's like the matrix, right? This is when Neo says, I I know Kung fu all of a sudden be, I mean it's, it's kind of like that. I mean, it's our, our ignorance has, has . I was putting those projects off. Learning those things is, is now maybe turned into an advantage because I don't have to learn those things.

I think that's really, that is really interesting. And with great power comes great responsibility, right? If, if you literally can [01:09:00] type, delete the structure from the top floor, like that's, I. You're giving somebody great power and also great responsibility. When, when all these projects have so many stakeholders, so many team people working in the models at the same time, and it's like, you did what?

Right? It's no longer just like, I need you to sync to central. It's like, I need you to run all your prompts by me first kind of a thing.

Emil Poulsen: No, for sure. Absolutely. It's, uh, yeah, no, it, it's really fascinating. I mean, I think especially with, um, I'm really interested in the combination of, you know, parametric design and kind of natural language. I mean, the idea of kind of having some sort of configurator or, um, parametric model and using a prompt, it's all about like getting the GPT to create that glue code, right?

Like you have the natural

language here, you have the configurator or some

system here. Like, can the GPT figure out the glue between, um, and, um, yeah. That's fascinating because then you can yeah. Get the GPT to, to write, [01:10:00] um, revit's, um, code or like code using the, the Revit API or

you know, get

the GPT to actually yeah.

Python or just like, Hey, these are my parameters. Like, uh, I wanna create,

uh, an l-shaped building with this type of roof. Um, you know, here's the schema for, for all the parameters go. Uh, so, um, yeah, it's, it's, it's fascinating to, to see how things, uh, evolve there.

Evan Troxel: And we're seeing High Park do that, right? Where, where it's like describing a podium, building

in an L shape with 10 stories above it and, and it's, it is gen, it's, it thinks about it, and then there it is in full three D and is it exactly what you want? Maybe not right?

Probably not. But at the same time, like, uh, that took 10 seconds like that from, from just writing a sentence and, and maybe editing that sentence to get something a little bit different is, uh, an amazing starting point.

Emil Poulsen: Yeah.

Evan Troxel: And it goes back to the idea that Ian talked about in the very beginning, which is why do we always start with a blank page? Why are we forced to start with a blank page? [01:11:00] I mean, this is a, this is a super shortcut, right? To, to having something to bounce ideas off of.

Uh, just through writing natural language.

I think it's absolutely incredible and it's a paradigm shift for the way we approach what we do. I mean, and, and what, like you're, you're talking about CORE Studio. We have ideas for ai, right? This, this wasn't a thing in AEC five years ago. Like this idea of using it as a tool to, to make stuff, let alone,

Emil Poulsen: Hmm.

Evan Troxel: you know, some of its other amazing uses too.

Uh, basically to categorize things automatically based on shapes and locations and room like. We, we see it in so many different ways. Like there's putting, adding structure to our unstructured data, like using computer vision to pick things out of a,

of an, an image and, and tell us what what's in there. I think it's absolutely incredible to see all these things come together and for us to ignore.

That [01:12:00] is crazy to me. If, if firms are actively choosing to ignore that. I think it's crazy because like this, the way that I used to talk about digital practice when I was running the digital practice team in our firm was like, we call it digital practice.

We're gonna just, it's just gonna be practice at some point.

Like everybody needs to think like, and so this is another level of that. This is like, we call it ai, we're, it's just gonna be in everything and you're not gonna, it's, you're not gonna be able to distinguish it as this other thing. Pretty soon, right? It's just going to be, and it already is in so many things and we just don't label it under that label, but it, we see it all the time, right?

In, in so many things that we do. So, uh, for PE-people to ignore it, I think is, is kind of foolish at this point because

it is a paradigm shift. It will change the way that we approach, or it already has changed the way that we approach doing what we do.

Emil Poulsen: no, for sure. And I mean, I think it's easy to laugh at it now, [01:13:00] like looking at some, I don't know, pictures, uh, like AI generated pictures with some deformed hands or something like that. And, but you know, I think it's just a matter of time really. Like it's

Evan Troxel: we're so good at picking out those stupid little things and focusing on that when, when the bigger picture is like, that was magic. Like that you have to. We all have to acknowledge that that was magic, right? That it's, it's that kind of a thing. It's like it, I, and I've told this story before, so, so forgive me audience, but I don't, I haven't talked about this with Emil, but it's this idea of three d printing, right?

And, and it's working all night, building this model for you on your behalf. Like,

yes, you have to babysit it a little bit because you don't want spaghetti, right? But at the same time, like, so , the interaction I had with a senior architect was like, well, why does it take so long? I'm like, what are you talking about?

Like, that is literally magic. Like, and it does it while you're sleeping. What do you mean? Why does it take so long? Right? Like, again, missing the, the forest for the trees. It's like,

Emil Poulsen: Hmm.[01:14:00]

Evan Troxel: I think it's similar with this AI thing. It's like, look at what's going on. Big picture. This is, this is a, a new era. I mean, I, and I hate to say it because you see that all over the place.

It is, this is the next iPhone moment, whatever those things are like, this is a, this is a paradigm shift. And it, and the reason I say that is because it, it. . When was it? It was 2017. I was doing a tech conference in our firm, and it was like, think back 10 years. 10 years ago. Did anybody think that every single person was going to basically have a supercomputer in their pocket?

Emil Poulsen: right?

Evan Troxel: 10 years? That was just 10 years. Right? And nobody could raise their hand and say, yes, I totally saw that coming. Nobody. Right? Um, I think it's, this is kind of like that. It's like, what is this gonna look like in the next five years? What is this gonna look like in the next 10 years? It's gonna be undistinguishable from all of the, it's gonna be tied into absolutely everything.

For good or for, for better or for worse. I mean, there's, you know,

Emil Poulsen: no, for sure. I, I think I had a similar aha moment, [01:15:00] um, when I used, um, Cha chip, petit for the first time. And you realize this, this is not a chat bot, this is a brain.

Like, I think just like understanding that it's, it's not necessarily the interface of me chatting like, this is a, this is a brain that's automated that sits on a server and just do stuff. Um, yeah. And just like having, having that tool in the pocket, like deploying brains for different processes, it's just, um, yeah. Mind blowing,

I think.

Evan Troxel: Second Brain. Yeah.


So, so let's talk about Rhino anywhere. Uh, we still have a couple topics that I want to get to here. So let's talk about Rhino Anywhere, and this idea of, uh, putting Rhino basically into a web browser where you have direct modeling capabilities. You're using fancy terms like pit pixel streaming going on.

And, and so just break that down for, for people who don't know what that is and, and what was interesting to you about chasing after this project.

Emil Poulsen: No, for sure. I mean, I think, um, [01:16:00] I. You know, modeling is hard. Like three D modeling is hard and it's even harder to build good systems that do three d modeling. Um, and you know, that's why you have people like McNeil that have been developing Rhino for, you know, decades

Evan Troxel: 25 years. They just had their 25th, five year anniversary. Right.

Emil Poulsen: crazy.

That's crazy. So it takes time and, you know, you can, you can probably build something simple for drawing, you know, a line starting from point A to point B, but like, if you actually want to get that, you know, fully fledged three D modeling environment, that's hard. So, um, but then on the other hand you have, um, obviously constraints being, um, um, you know, tied to a desktop application, you gotta have the Rhino, um, um, you know, um, rhino installed and there is a little bit of a process there. And we started to think about like, um, you know, what, what if we actually wanted to, well first of all, have [01:17:00] the ability to just get access to essentially rhinos modeling capabilities, um, in a browser, essentially like going to the browser, typing up an address, uh, or domain, get there, and then you have a three D modeling environment. And, um, I mean, we kind of attacked it from the angle of, um, okay, this is kind of a library. It's not necessarily a fully fledged product that's ready to go. It's more like, here is a piece of technology, um, and you can do pretty much whatever you want with it. Um, so we hack together a little rhino interface on the web, really. And the way that it works is you have, um, rhino running on a server. And, um, typically what you do when you want to, uh, visualize three D models, uh, on the web is like you send the entire three D model, uh, to the client. Um, but here we actually wanted to try something different. Um, so what we did instead was just to essentially [01:18:00] mirror the view port that's, that was on the server.

Like, in other words, the rhino view port to a browser. So that was one component, just getting the, the stream, uh, of, um, images really. Um, I mean if you think about it, like a three D view port is just an image,

right? So we take that image, we sent it to a, um. Uh, a web client. And then there is communication going the other way around, uh, as well, like from the browser, like you have all these like click events.

Like if you, if you now actually see the, the thing in your browser, you wanna be able to click on an object or like select something or maybe like draw something. So there is a stream of, um, of, uh, input data really like flowing from the client to the server.

So then you have this relationship like, um, the, the, the browser, the client provides a bunch of inputs, which then the, um, viewport reacts on. And for every change in the view port, you [01:19:00] take that Frame really like the picture of the viewport and then send it back to the, the client. Um, so I mean, we, we started to like sketch out a bunch of different ideas, which you could do with this. Like you can like create a completely new interface for Rhino.

I mean, we talked about like, what if you have this disabilities, maybe you don't have any hands, like how would you do three D modeling then like you can completely override all the, um, you know, typical, um, uh, tooling, you would say in a three D modeling software. Um, or, you know, other ways. I think another idea like how do you do three D modeling for kids? Like, uh, you know, could you like mess around with bigger buttons? Can you like, you know, simplify the user interface a bit more. Just

Like all these different ideas.

Evan Troxel: Tinkercad, I think.

Emil Poulsen: Yeah.

Yeah, Tinkercad, right?

Evan Troxel: Yeah.

the the idea of kind of simplifying an interface, right, in a tool that's been around for so long and just it keeps getting more and more complex over time, more buttons, more commands. [01:20:00] And because Rhino is a tool for lots of domains, not just architecture, right?

There could be a way for you to just pick and choose commands that you want to enable somebody to use and not have to worry about 80% of 'em, or 90% or 95% of 'em, right? And just say with these simple, and this is what SketchUp did very successfully, right? It was just like, how do we dial it back into like eight tools, , that that can do most of what people need to do.

And then they made the tool extensible so people could write plugins and do all kinds of other stuff, right? But the idea in the beginning was just like, simplify, simplify, simplify. Because uh, as CAD technicians and three D technicians with very robust tools. It was too overwhelming for most people, right?

And so the idea of taking a tool that does exist, that has the richness and the depth and all, everything that you could possibly want, and then simplifying a UI on [01:21:00] top of that and doing it through the web browser and making it available no matter what device you have, it is a kind of an incredible feat that you guys pulled off at a hackathon, right?

Like that's, that's, that's pretty awesome.

Emil Poulsen: Yeah. Thanks. Uh, thanks, Evan. I mean, it was a really fun project. I think. Um, we had all the, the components there really, like we had an idea of how we could implement it. We had kind of the pitch. I think that's, that's super important to think about in a hackathon project. Like how do we actually frame this, how we, how do we present it? And, you know, what's the, uh, value proposition here, et cetera. Um, and, um, you know, just starting to build out that case, uh, in parallel, you know, you, you, you work on the implementation and the, uh, the tool development.

Um, but, and then just, you know, just have fun. That's, that's also an extremely important aspect of, uh, hackathons and just, you know, allow yourself to experiment and, and mess around and, you know, fell and you know, pick it up again and,

[01:22:00] and so


Evan Troxel: This was the thing that originally enabled me to reach out to you, was just seeing that, like it was, I saw your post on LinkedIn about Rhino anywhere and, and what you guys had done, and I thought, oh, I, we need to talk about this because just, we haven't broached the subject of, of hackathons on, on the podcast yet.

And so this is a great kind of introduction for people who haven't participated in those, or people who have, have watched from the sidelines maybe for many years of why they might wanna show up at one of these events and get involved. Because again, like this, this work that you guys pulled off is going to go back and it is going to initiate some other ideas in the work that you do in the office.

Even I would assume, like, like you're . You're inspiring people on the outside. You're gonna inspire yourselves. You're gonna inspire people on the inside. And I, that's kind of this magical thing of what hackathons and these symposiums and AEC tech and other versions of that, that [01:23:00] exist out there can do for people.

And I think, uh, this is a really vital part of the AEC industry and the AEC tech community, right. To, to build those relationships and then just hopefully keep that momentum going beyond this one event and this kind of initial proof of concept. It's like, well, maybe this has legs. Like what? So what kind of feedback have you gotten after showing that off, even outside of the event?

'cause obviously like social media posts after these events are, are everybody's watching 'em, so I'm sure you've gotten a lot of feedback.

Emil Poulsen: No, for sure. I mean, it's, uh, it's always interesting to see how people react to it. And, you know, what, what kinds of conversations that get started just

from, from seeing it. I mean, there was another year we, um, worked on a, uh, project called Rest Hopper, which was,

this was just by the time where Rhino Compute came out.

Essentially the idea of, you know, hosting a, um, [01:24:00] rhino process inside of a, inside of a web server. And we ask ourselves, uh, can we run a grasshopper script as a backend essentially?

And, um. Uh, so we did that for, um, you know, 24 hours. I think this was back in 2018 or something like that. Um, and yeah, we were able to develop a quick dirty little prototype.

I mean, it was extremely ugly, but it kind of proved the concept of like, okay, here we have a grass upper definition. I think we had a typical, you know, twisted building kind of things. Like you provide some, uh,

you know,

some, yeah, always like you have the angle of retention and all that. And,

um, you know, again, using the, the browser, uh, kind of an, as an argument to, you know, democratize, um, um, uh, the design process and just like opening up these kind of configurators and like, um, systems to, to, um, to other people that are, might not be on a, um, you know, um, heavy, heavy laptop [01:25:00] with Rhino installed.

Um, and, um. yeah, we were able to build that prototype and, um, uh, posted some, some, um, some videos on, on the internet and, uh, got some pretty good response and to the point we actually started to talk about making a solution out of it internally at, so sometimes that happens as well. Like you

actually, um. It actually, it can turn out to, to be a real, real project sometimes. And, and, um, uh, that's also quite fascinating to see like, um, you know, sometimes it's more like an inspiration and, you know, a conversation starter, like, you know, pixel streaming, uh, which we used in, in the Rhino Anywhere hackathon project that's been around for a long time, but not necessarily that much in the AC industry.

I mean, in, in,

in gaming it's quite common, right? It's like you, you wanna play some really, um, intense, um, you know, first person shooter game on your shit laptop. But, um, and then yeah, you essentially rent, [01:26:00] um, a server, uh, or a computer. Um, and um, yeah, you get access to that power, uh, of, of, um, of computes really.

And then you can play these games. So, um. And, um, yeah, it's, it's, it's just a way of like starting conversations and potentially even like work, uh, continue the, the, the projects either like if you do something in the office or sometimes we see, uh, projects kind of resurrect in other hackathons as well.

Like, you know, you kind of build on top of what's been

developed, uh, in previous hackathons. So, um, yeah, it's a, it's a good conversation starter.

Evan Troxel: That's cool. Well, let's talk about your other project that you've got going on, model Up and what, what that's about and why you, why that's something that you're pursuing as well. Because when I looked at your webpage, uh, I, one of the things that, I think it was in the about section, that model, it's model up.co, is that correct?

Emil Poulsen: Uh, it's mo hang on, it's model up 3d.com.

Evan Troxel: Oh, okay. Model up 3d.com. So tell us about that project and, and what, what you're doing there.[01:27:00]

Emil Poulsen: No, for sure. I mean, I think there is certainly a good link here to what we have discussed previously. So, I mean, it's really the idea of, um, taking. You know, the intelligence of the extremely powerful, you know, parametric design tools that we work with. But I mean, in our context, we kind of have that encapsulated in, you know, our industry.

So when we ask ourselves like, what happens if you actually expose these, um, type of tools in a ified or simplified versions to a bigger audience? So that's what we do. We, we develop three D configurators essentially. You know, you have a view port where you see a three D model, and then you have some controls, um, to manipulate the three D model.

And obviously extremely inspired by how Grasshopper works, right? Like you, you have sliders, you have, you know, buttons and, you know, toggles and all that. And, you know, messing around with [01:28:00] this parameters, we'll update the model. Um, so, um, yeah, what we do, we, we don't necessarily work with. Neither architects or engineers or, um, you know, people in the building industry, it's more about targeting kind of, um, you know, a lot of, um, building products more on the like homeowner side or, um, yeah, we have one company that we work with that produces, um, um, kind of outdoor rooms, like aluminum systems with, with, um, glass really. Um, so, um, yeah, we help them to build three D configurators essentially. And it's really, you know, kind of leveraging the competitional design tools that we've been working on, uh, with, uh, for, for so long.

Evan Troxel: again, kind of productizing something to productize something , right?

Emil Poulsen: No sort of, yeah.

Evan Troxel: it's inception. It's uh, [01:29:00] I mean you're, the whole idea of configurators, again, kind of new to AEC in that respect to we, we see, I've seen it with Shape Diver as well. Maybe we can talk about the difference between what we're seeing with Shape Diver versus Model Up, but the idea of giving somebody else outside of the organization access to a certain number of parameters and options and making it so that they can make decisions based on the inputs that you provide, I think is super interesting.

Right. And it, and it gives . A practice or a firm, the ability to, I mean, drive interaction, include people in the decision making process, but also potentially productize a thing that they've, I mean that the logic that goes into making that is your, I guess that's your IP at that point. Right? And it, it becomes a thing though that

with their decisions, they can send that information back to you and you could probably tie [01:30:00] costs and all kinds of things to that, to, to automatically provide that information to them.

But then you basically have a snapshot of their order in, in quotes. Right. And that becomes a, a, another avenue for you to produce a thing that people then purchase. And it's another, maybe a, a business idea. So.

Emil Poulsen: No, totally. I mean, exactly. I think that's really it. Like the information, like I think for us being, um, you know, comfortable with three d modeling and parametric design,

this is kind of basics, right? Like for, but for someone who has no idea how to use three D modeling, maybe doesn't even have a laptop, um, like being able to generate a You know, visualization of a kitchen


you know, um, a do it yourself table or like all these things and like getting the drawings and, you know, bill of materials, it's magic. Like that's magic for them.

Um, so, um, yeah, I think it's just really [01:31:00] fascinating thinking about pri metric design and like competition of design and, you know, grass, upper logic and putting that sort of outside our industry. Uh, and, you know, see the value that that can provide is, is uh, it's pretty immense.

Evan Troxel: And, and they don't even need to know it's grasshopper. They don't

Emil Poulsen: No, exactly. They don't care. Yeah, exactly. They

don't care about

Evan Troxel: Who cares?

Emil Poulsen: Yeah.

They just wanna build that kitchen or like the, you know, the table or chair or whatever. Like, just gimme the drawings, like, tell me how much in like, um, material, material I need to buy, et cetera. So it's, um,

Evan Troxel: or place an order,

Emil Poulsen: yeah. Over place in order.



Evan Troxel: you're gonna, if you're gonna do all that on your, on your end, that that's really a, a cool idea. And so, I mean, you've talked about a couple of, of ideas, like a chair or a table, like, well, give us an idea of the types of configurators that you've, you've built beyond, beyond furniture.

Emil Poulsen: Yeah,

I mean,

Evan Troxel: you have the IKEA kitchen generator? Do you, have you duplicated the IKEA website?

Emil Poulsen: of course, like [01:32:00] No, for

sure. I mean, I

Evan Troxel: So where's the Volvo configurator? What, what else do we,

Emil Poulsen: Check Yeah. What else? I mean, Spotify configurator reveal

Evan Troxel: right? Yeah.

Emil Poulsen: No, but

Evan Troxel: Playlist. Configurator. There you go.

Emil Poulsen: Um, no. I mean, we have a few projects in the. Pipeline that I probably can't talk too much about at this stage. But it's, it's, um, it's kind of mainly targeting, um, like the home owners and home improvements markets.

Evan Troxel: Nice.

Emil Poulsen: and so that's really like one leg of what we do. So that's the kind of us building our own configurators that will, you know, release more of AB two C kind of setup. And then

we have the other, uh, leg, which is the kind of more typical B two B. Like, you know, we get in touch with, um, companies, they describe their business and their production system and we build three D configurators for them. And, um. that can be also [01:33:00] twofold. Either they just wanna present something for, um, their customers to, you know, increase sales or, you know, improve conversions or whatever. Um, or it can be just automating internal processes related to production. Uh, and sometimes it's actually both even. Um, so, um, yeah, it just has a lot of potential when you actually get into these, um, companies with the, you know, parametric design chops and you can, you know, actually build something, well you prototype, you can prototype it out quite quickly, right.

Using, using Grasshopper. So that's also like one of the, um, I guess sales and marketing mechanisms that we've been using quite a lot. Just like that ability to put stuff together. I. On an afternoon. I mean, it's, it's, um, yeah, it's fascinating and it's, um, yeah, people get impressed when they actually see their products in three D configurable, you know, from, from that short amount of [01:34:00] time.

Evan Troxel: Uh, and, and maybe this is a bit of an aside, but my, my gears are turning in my brain with the new stuff that's coming out with Rhino Eight, which has recently been released, which is like in Grasshopper, being able to reference in Rhino files blocks, having control over all of these different objects, all their LA knowing all their layers, knowing all their materials, and just like further extending the capabilities of, I would guess, these configurators because now they can just

You can pull so much more rich information into them. Like you don't just have to define a curve or d define a, you know, define this geometry or a, a surface or whatever. But it's like, wow. Now you could have a library of objects in their own files that you could then pull in and reference into this. And it's like a pretty incredible x-ref kind of a system at this point, right?

Where, where these thing you, you bring a rle model in, into Grasshopper so that you can spit it back out the other end. I mean, that's just, [01:35:00] it's incredible. The possibilities are truly endless. And so this, the extensibility of the system is just continues to, to blow me away of, of what these tools have made us capable of doing as, as users.


Emil Poulsen: No, totally. I'm super,

Evan Troxel: it. Yeah.

Emil Poulsen: no, for sure. I'm, I'm super psyched about the whole, um, push around the Rhino eight and how they, I mean, the McNeil people actually are able to, um, You know, build this out as well. Like of course, like they have the core business. I, I talked to Brian from McNeil at, at, uh, at some point and he was describing like, um, you know, there is one type of Rhino users, they, they use Rhino, um, and they do three D modeling for different things.

And then you have like the grass opera and scripting folks, and it's actually quite different and

must be quite hard to, um, accommodate both of these audiences and, you know, making sure that both are happy, happy. But I mean, I, I

obviously belong to the Grasshop Opera Automation and writing column on [01:36:00] scripting audience, and I'm happy So, so it's, uh, yeah, it's, it's, it's really good to see like all the cool things that are happening. I mean, as you mentioned with the, uh, the Rhino tab in, in, um, in Grasshopper for, for Rhino eights, and there are some other really nice, um, um, yeah, developments that's been released with, with Rhino Eights as well.

Evan Troxel: Yeah. Uh, absolutely. I, I think we've covered all the bases here. Is there anything else that we're missing that you wanted to put out there for the audience or chat about?

Emil Poulsen: No. I mean, I think, um, yeah, more hackathons come to hackathons and organize hackathons. I think it's just an amazing opportunity to, um, you know, network and get together, have fun, you know, hack on something, uh, dream a bit, actually implementing these dreams and, um, you know, mess around with new technology and tools and, and, and stuff like that.

And there aren't actually that many that organizes, um. [01:37:00] hackathons in, in, in our industry. Um, I mean there are a few, obviously, like CORE Studio being one of them, but, um, it doesn't actually require that much. Um, well, I shouldn't say that because Dave, my colleague would, would hate me then. But, uh, it's, it's, you know, it's not like organizing a conference where need like, you know,

space to sit in and, you know, like speakers and all that.

It's more like, you know, a bunch of people show up, um, and you hack on things and yeah, it's, it's just a fantastic format and in general, just like, you know, building communities and making friends really. So, uh, I would encourage people to, to do that.

Evan Troxel: You gotta bring lots of extension cords and power strips and coffee.

Emil Poulsen: That's true

Evan Troxel: yeah, it's a, it's different than a, than a big conference. But the, but the, it's, there are components that are necessary. I just thinking about like the, the advancements in just laptop computing in the last decade of what has been capable to be accomplished at a hackathon.

Just because hardware has advanced so much is, has gotta [01:38:00] be such a cool thing. Like the things that you guys can hack together in a day is incredible and you're doing it all on a very portable device. It's just, it's pretty neat to watch that happen. Yeah.

Emil Poulsen: No, for sure. And it's, um, yeah, I think also the, if I just look at the hackathons that we have hosted for, you know, um, a decade, like the level of, um, outcomes has been, uh, just evolving dramatically. Like it's so impressive to see like how the bar is raised for every year and it's, it's, it's really fascinating to, to observe and it just continues to raise and, and, and, um, yeah, it's just a fascinating, playful environment that I think is really, really fun.

Evan Troxel: So who is not coming to these hackathons? That should be, I think that, that's a good question to ask 'cause I have an idea, but I want you to answer that first because it seems to me like it's gonna attract the usual suspects. Like they, you've built this community, there's people who are definitely wired for this, but who [01:39:00] should be there, who's not?

Emil Poulsen: That's a good question. I mean, I think there is certainly a level of, um, zooming out a bit. Like I guess you can just like see your day-to-day work and just like grind on and, um, you know, maybe you're not too passionate about what you're doing. Maybe they should actually come, uh,

I mean, 'cause it's, it's really like, you know, you actually get to do fun stuff and, you know, think about real problems from a kind of fun perspective. Um, but, um, I mean obviously like depending on the location, of course there can be some, some, uh, logistical components to it that can be tricky. Uh, but, um. Yeah, so I maybe, maybe that. What did you think of?

Evan Troxel: My idea is that leaders firm leadership who is in interested in digital transformation or the capacity or the like, like what it could do, I think they would get so inspired going to, I. A [01:40:00] thing like that and just being an observer and walking around the tables and watching the passion for this, because I think there's still a separation in, in some firms that, like that there's a digital team and that's, that's what they're just part, they're, they're another team under the umbrella.

And the shift, like I said earlier, going from calling it digital practice or whatever you wanna call it to practice, is inevitable. Right. And so the idea of like this, it's not how we do it. It's like, I, I mean, it's, it's hard. Tools are not a means to the end, but they are the only way that we actually get there nowadays.

Right. So, and so it, it's, it's interesting to me to, to start to shift the conversation around this is a . , firm does digital, our firm does sustainability. And thinking about this as a menu of options versus like, this is the way that we do things.

And shifting that in leadership [01:41:00] is extremely important for those leaders who are not, uh, they don't have visibility into that because they're not seeing it maybe in their own firm or they don't know where to look, or they don't, they don't know who to ask.

Going to a place like this would just, I would, I would think light, an intense fire of, of fomo. Right? Uh, that to me would be,

it could be a catalyst then for change on many other levels in the industry that need it, because of course you have this community that is super fired up about this stuff. And like you said, maybe it's even a reprieve from the day to day and it's something new and exciting and it'll light a fire and get them excited about why they do what they do.

And on another level, we, we need this industry-wide. We need to address the adoption thing and we need to address that, like raising all boats with the tide kind of a thing. Not just unique firms who are willing to invest substantially into this kind of thing. Or individuals who are investing in themselves to bring these tools to their firm [01:42:00] and it falling on deaf ears or whatever.

Like, so, so to me it's like we just need more players in this. And I feel like the grassroots level is there. You're proving it. AEC tech is a grassroots level thing, but, and, and Thornton Thomasetti with CORE Studio is proving the other model exists too, right? Top down because of the, that big investment.

But we really need, I think we need a lot more of that because I think the grassroots side of it's covered, right? Like students learn . How to do this stuff in school. They go to a firm and the firm isn't using it. Right? And so like you sought out a company that was kind of digital first. There are so many companies out there who are not, and people are trying to get tools into the door and they're going nowhere.

And so to kind of flip that, I, I would say like the invitation needs to go out to firm leadership. And not just CEOs, but COOs

and, and other people who are like their, their day-to-day. Like CFOs, like CFOs want to see innovation and change [01:43:00] like they're invested in their companies. And I, I actually see sometimes more passion from a chief financial officer than I do from a chief executive officer as far as innovation and

Cha transforming the way that a firm works because they want to add value to their customers. They want more customers, right? They want more clients, and they want to have, they want to have an innovative architectural portfolio or engineering portfolio, right? And so they're also going to be a key person at the table who's making decisions about digital transformation in their company.

So anyway, that's my, my soapbox

Emil Poulsen: No,


Evan Troxel: episode here.

Emil Poulsen: I think you're totally right. Uh, I think, you know, the, the top press and, and, uh, more senior folks would really have fun at, um, at this kind of events. And

I think it's also, um, I mean, some people think of hackathons, like you gotta know how to write code to participate meaningfully in, in a hackathon.

And that's, that's not true. I mean, there

is so [01:44:00] many aspects to hack Project. Project and, and, um. Um, so yeah, I mean, even if you, if you're a, you know, see, see something, C level executive, um, and you don't know how to code, like, you can certainly like be there and, you know, have a, have a good time actually participating in projects or just hang out, like that's the other model.


so for sure, I, I think you're absolutely right.

Evan Troxel: I, I think that idea of kind of flipping the table of like a c-level person is used to being the talker, the, the decider. The one who is listened to this flips the tables. Like you're, if you go into an, uh, environment like this where the experts are the ones. Driving the laptops, driving the technology and just soak it up.

Just sponge it up. I mean, and, and just like you said, just kind of go and relax and, and watch what happens. And I think that would be an incredible opportunity to actually fade a little bit into the background and not have to be the one on stage performing. [01:45:00] And instead, let the people who are really, really passionate about that and doing that thing, be those people.

And you get to sit on the other side of the table for once. I think that could be, that could just feel really cathartic too. It's like, because then you can go back to your firm and you can enable that to happen

at a, at a, at the highest level. Um, and, and figure out ways to attract that talent to your firm, uh, and figure out ways to get that culture going in your firm.

I mean, that, that to me is what leaders have to do, uh, to be relevant in the future anyway. Right. So this is a great place to kind of get infused with that on a very. in a very meaningful way, in a very short period of time.

Emil Poulsen: No, for sure. I think you know, you You get impressed by how much you can accomplish in just 24 hours with, you know, um, good energy, like a good team, a clear mission. And, um, so I mean, we've had, um, sort of internal innovation tournaments [01:46:00] at Titi. We don't call it hackathons, but, um, so that's another way, like, um,

just deciding, okay, for two days we're just gonna, you know, innovate or like, you know, have ideas, tournaments and, you know, see where we can take it in, in, you know, one or two days. So that's the other, um, takeaway I think, uh, that can be interesting that you get a kind of a sense for, uh, when you attend a, a hackathon.

Evan Troxel: I think that's really important is to actually separate . Innovation in air quotes from the day-to-day job, because it's, I think there's an expectation on some level that innovation just happens, right? And it doesn't, it does not happen. It's like we're just trying to solve problems. There's no guarantee innovation again, in air quotes will happen.

Um, and every company wants to say they're an innovative company and they're in innovating with technology or in design or sustainability or whatever they, whatever it is, right? But to separate this thing out and have these tournaments and actually say like, okay, this is, we're not worried about billing to projects right now.

[01:47:00] We're, we're just interested in incubating ideas and the value of that process and stretching those muscles and getting that to be part of the culture. That's a great way to do that. I absolutely agree that that's really, that's really cool to hear that you do that internally as well, uh, in this tournament style.

Emil Poulsen: Yeah, no, for sure. It's, it's fun. I mean, it's, um, it's I think what I find fascinating, and as you said, like you always have a bunch of context in your daily work, right? Like, you, you work on this project and you know, these are the constraints in hackathons, it's not really like that. It's,

it's more like you're starting out from a blank piece of paper, right?

So it's, it's,

um, that's really enabling, I think. Um, just like I can do whatever I want now.


like, yeah, blue sky, like, no, no legacy code base to support here. Let's just go for it. Kind of

Evan Troxel: right, right. Well, very cool. I, I [01:48:00] appreciate this conversation. It's been really fun to talk to you, Emil. So, uh, I'm gonna put links to hopefully everything that we've talked about. Uh, so we'll have . Thornton Thomasetti. We'll have CORE Studio, we'll have the Hack, AEC Tech hackathon, we'll have modelup3d.com.

Is there anywhere else that people can follow along with what you're doing? I'll, I'll put a link to your LinkedIn page as well, but, um, I think, I think that might cover it all, but if there's anything else, let me know.

Emil Poulsen: No, I think that's, that's perfect. I mean, I, I, I use Twitter and LinkedIn mostly, so, yeah.

Evan Troxel: Okay, great.

Well, thanks for this conversation. It's been great.

Emil Poulsen: Yeah. Thank you so much Ivan. Uh, pleasure to be here chatting with you.