152: ‘Left to My Own Devices’, with Kean Walmsley

A conversation with Kean Walmsley.

152: ‘Left to My Own Devices’, with Kean Walmsley

Kean Walmsley joins the podcast to talk about his background both in computing and in his career journey leading to and while at Autodesk. We also talk about the development and applications of the VASA (voxel-based architectural space analysis) toolkit for Dynamo, the impact of AR and XR in the AEC industry, the significance of real-time feedback during the design process, and much more.

About Kean Walmsley:

Kean is a Software Architect & Senior Manager focused on the research area of human-centric building design. He has previously worked on projects exploring the integration of IoT data with BIM (Digital Twins) using Autodesk Platform Services, as well as Generative Design in the AEC space. He has worked in various roles—and in various countries—during his career at Autodesk, including building and managing teams of software developers in Europe, the Americas, and Asia/Pacific. Kean engages regularly with Autodesk’s developer and computational design communities, providing technical content and insights into technology evolution.

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152: ‘Left to My Own Devices’, with Kean Walmsley
Kean Walmsley joins the podcast to talk about his background both in computing and in his career journey leading to and while at Autodesk. We also talk about…

Episode Transcript:

Evan Troxel: [00:00:00] Welcome back to the TRXL podcast I'm Evan Troxel and once again, if you are a regular listener and are enjoying these episodes, please subscribe Please subscribe on both YouTube and in your preferred podcast app to let me know that you're a fan of the show being a subscriber Which is completely free directly influences two things which are my ability to attract sponsors that help keep the show going and My ability to attract high profile guests, which is great for you and our industry

so if you haven't subscribed, I encourage you to do so. As I mentioned, it's free and it's a great way to support what I'm doing here. Your support is incredibly valuable for the sustainability of the show, and I deeply appreciate it. In this episode, I welcome Kean Walmsley. Kean is a software architect and senior manager focused on the research area of human centric building design. in this episode, [00:01:00] we discuss Kean's background, both in computing and his career journey at Autodesk, where he's a well known figure because of, well, his work there and because of his long running blog at keanw.com and his talks and contributions at various AEC tech conferences, including Autodesk University, where I recently caught up with him. We also talk about the development and applications of the VASA toolkit for Dynamo. The impact of AR and XR in the AEC industry, the significance of real time feedback during the design process, and so much more.

Of course, this was a fantastic conversation with Kean and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. And so now without further ado, I bring you Kean Walmsley.


Evan Troxel: I'm joined today by Kean Walmsley, and I am very happy to have you on the show, [00:02:00] and I've been following you for a long time. I, stalking, lurking, I don't know what the right word is, but, uh, you have a great blog, and obviously you've been with Autodesk for, for quite a while. And you just recently attended the hackathon that happened in, in Zurich. Maybe, before we jump into your story, how was that for you? And, and what, what kind of things did you see there?

Kean Walmsley: Yeah, I mean, it was fun. I always loved the AEC hackathon events. You know, it's just amazing to see people come together and trying to solve the industry problems. Um, I. I was only really there on the Friday. Um, I already had a kind of personal commitments during the weekend. So I just came in for the Friday talks.

It were mostly around open source technologies, um, and then the kickoff of, of the hackathon itself. Uh, but I found it very interesting. It was really a, you know, I actually was kind of surprised at the number of people that I knew there and had the chance to catch up with some sort of unexpected. Folk, uh, that I'd, that I've met over the years.

Um, and also some people [00:03:00] that I've been in contact with but had never met in person. So it was very good. Yeah. But, you know, short and sweet, I was only, you know, I was only there for, well, I was there for five hours or something, but still, it was not for the full weekend.

Evan Troxel: It's great that you're just close to that. I mean, that's the limiting factor, I think, so often for hackathons, right? Because they are so great in person. You want to be collaborating closely with your teammates on the hacks. I mean, remote is one thing when it comes to that, but you being within a couple of hours of Zurich is incredible. And reading your bio, you've been all over. The world, it sounds like. And so I'm really interested in your story, and I know you, you're in Switzerland now. Correct? And we

saw each other in Vegas at au. Uh, and, and so, so you're traveling a lot maybe, but, but you've also been all over the place with, with what you've been working on and you're trajectory.

So maybe take us [00:04:00] back, tell us a story about what that's what your experience has been.

Kean Walmsley: Yeah, no, for sure. I'd be happy to. Um, I don't, you know, just to say though, I don't travel as much as I used to now, which is quite nice. Uh, my, you know, I think COVID was good for that in the sense


Evan Troxel: Settling things

Kean Walmsley: yeah. And, and it's picked up, it's certainly picked up of course, since then, but it's not, not as, not as bad as it was before.

Um, but yeah, so my background, I mean, going back far enough, I mean, Um, yeah, maybe we go all the way back, but I mean, I, growing up, I was always interested in computers and, you know, so this was in, in the, you know, I'm born in the, the, I can suppose we can say mid seventies, but early to mid seventies, um, you know, first computers, actually first computer was a TRS 80 model three, um, but also had the, the more sort of, uh, entertainment focused, you know, home PCs, you know, ZX Spectrum, et cetera.

Um, Yeah, just fascinated by [00:05:00] computing technology from an early age, you know, I used to, and actually, you know, the, the memory that I have that kind of made me, because I think back to which sort of, I can see how my early career sort of fed from that in some way was, was like typing in. Lots of programs from magazines, right?

Because that was just the, the, the, and

yeah, just line, you know, character by character, et cetera. And there was, but there was a bug in one that I, you know, the, the, I, I debugged and it was like this moment where I was like, wow, I wasn't yet coding, but I would, I figured out

Evan Troxel: But you

Kean Walmsley: what wasn't working. And that was like this kind of aha moment where I was like, you know, this is, this was really interesting.

Right? And then,

Evan Troxel: I just want to pause because this is such a fun piece of, of your history. My, I started with the Apple IIe. We had Apple 2s and Apple 3s in school, right? But my dad got an Apple 2e and, [00:06:00] and learning kind of basic programming. And he would, he was going through the process of learning it and he would show me and I wasn't very interested.

I was interested, but I wasn't actually doing it, you know, print screen, go to line, you know, and, and just, it was really, really simple stuff. And then I ended up buying my own computer. Which was a Commodore 64 and I bought it at Toys R Us, right? Like that's where they sold the Commodore. That was one of the outlets because back then computer stores were, there maybe was like Newegg computers.

I don't think there was, there wasn't many options back then, right? I'm not even sure where he bought the Apple IIe, but it was, it was like you. Getting a book on programming games, copying it character by character and hoping you didn't mess something up. And if you did, it was like, Oh man, now I have to forensically go back.

And I don't know if it's too different than programming today still, but obviously GPT copilot and things have really changed the game when it comes to

writing code. But, uh, anyway, that, that [00:07:00] was a fun aside because you, when you, you're talking about Atari and, and it's just like, it just brought me back because, uh, that's,

that's, that was our. That's when we came up, came through, started our journey on computing. I mean,

Kean Walmsley: well exactly, yeah, yeah, and yeah, it's a, it's interesting, because even that is. You know, I mean, talk about copilot and things like that, but just like being able to copy and paste text into, you know, from one environment into another was huge instead of like, I mean, so, you know, I'll talk a bit about that as my, my first job in an engineering office, which is kind of interesting, which I'll come back to, but actually on the, on the Commodore 64 side of things, um, that was an awesome machine.

I never had one growing up. But, um, I did kind of discover them a bit during COVID in the sense I, I went online on, on the Swiss version of eBay and, uh, and I managed to pick up a Commodore 64 with 300 floppy disks, um, and a, and a functioning [00:08:00] floppy drive. And so what I,

Evan Troxel: And the drive is enormous, right? The floppy drive is

Kean Walmsley: some, well, it wasn't like a proper, like whatever, 18, it was like five and a quarter, but it was deep.

It was big

Evan Troxel: Yes, yes, that's what I mean. It was like a shoebox size. I mean, and it was a five and a quarter floppy, but it was an enormous physical space. It was like almost as big as the Commodore itself, right? I mean, just

going in the other direction.


Kean Walmsley: yeah, exactly. So, so actually I ended up doing a, uh, a little YouTube series on my, on, on my channel called Floppy Fridays, where basically every Friday I'd take some random floppy disks and try and load them and see what happened. And a lot of them were kind of hit or miss, but it kept me. You know, we did, I did 64 episodes during, during the pandemic, you know, cause it felt like a good number.

Right. So, and it's a little, and it was every Friday, including, you know, the holidays. So it was literally, um, yeah, uh, 52 plus the, the remaining 12. Um, but [00:09:00] yeah, by the time I was done, I, you know, it was, I learned a lot about the, the, the platform called the Commodore 64 platform. And it really had a lot of fun, but yeah, that might be something to look at when you have a few, um, You know, boring, bored moments, um, but yeah, my first job in an engineering office was, um, when I was, I guess I must've been 15 or 16, but around that age, I was still at school and they needed somebody and they were paying, they, you know, they're basically, you know, they're paying two pounds an hour or maybe it's four pounds an hour, but it was like a small amount of money.

Uh, you know, back then it was, it seemed huge. Um,

Evan Troxel: everything,

Kean Walmsley: it was, it was freedom. Um, but then can you put a price on that? But it was, um, my first job was to actually take, uh, old, um, engineering calculation programs that were running on a pet machine and type them in. Into a PC because [00:10:00] they just got a number of 386s, Oh, 286s actually then, uh, and they wanted to effectively transfer these basic programs from the, from PetBasic into GWBasic.

So it was a very modest amount of re work needed, but basically it was just data entry. It was just typing. Um, but yeah, it was, that was actually fun because within that drawing office, then. They got AutoCAD, so they got three seats of AutoCAD and they realized that they couldn't really do what they wanted to out of the box with it.

So they had me, you know, take a look at the Autolist manual and figure out how I could actually create some customizations for the drawing office, um, to make them more efficient. You know, it was, it was a, Plastic man, plastic vessel manufacturer that was, uh, effectively creating, you know, pressure vessels, et cetera.

So there was a lot of, you know, 2d, plans [00:11:00] and elevations of, of nozzles and flanges and things like that. So, you know, to go in and essentially clip, um, the nozzle so that it would, uh, you know, join appropriately the, the point on the, you know, on, on, on the roof of this, of this vessel, et cetera.

So yeah, it was really kind of, there's a lot of geometry, uh, you know, a lot of, you know, fun problems figuring out how to do that stuff in Autolisp. Um, they ended up Getting a third party or, you know, an independent package in addition to AutoCAD that would do 2D, um, 2D constraints. And, uh, yeah, so that was around, that was a product called Dimension N.

So it was an early, um, you know, geometric package that allowed you to set up, uh, an overall drawing and then, you know, configure it. And I was really kind of pushing. The boundaries on that package. I was constantly on the phone with the folks, [00:12:00] um, over in Peterborough. So this is about, you know, 35, 40 miles away from where I grew up.

Um, you know, trying to figure out whether what I was doing was the right way to do things and how I could, you know, you know, and, and that actually led over time to me. Getting a job for them as well, so I went in, still, while still at university, I was studying computer science at university at the time, and I went in and helped document, um, one of their, uh, the packages that they were developing.

Um, I also got to, that was actually my first trip to Switzerland for them, I went to the Swiss Railways to demo, um, some software for the Swiss Railways in Lausanne. Um, so that was actually really fun. To do that, even as a student still, uh, you know, and speaking French for them as well, which was also pretty wild to think about back then.

Um, because when I was studying, I guess, you know, in a nutshell, my interests as a young [00:13:00] man with to really to with computers and speaking French. So in, in the UK we have A levels. So we, you know, I think still now, um, but we sort of filter down to a very small set of subjects, even at the age of 16, right?

Um, so I was doing computer science, maths, and French at that point from 16 to 18. And when I went to university, I chose the university really based on. Um, the ability to do an exchange year in France, um, as part of the program. So that was always my goal was to work for a software company in a French speaking country, which I always thought was France at the time, because, you know, why not?

Um, but then I discovered Switzerland and I realized that actually French speaking Switzerland is, is, was the place for me.

Evan Troxel: Wow. How cool.

Kean Walmsley: So, so then, and yeah, and it was really fun because then while I was still at university, I mean, I was [00:14:00] applying for jobs all over the place and it wasn't that I wanted to go into the CAD industry at all.

I mean, I'd had some experience, uh, low, relatively low level experience with, with AutoCAD and with other, other packages, but I was, you know, applying for any sort of computing related job, even some management consulting jobs. I mean, my life would be very different if I'd got one of those. Um, but I ended up, um.

Yeah, I ended up getting a, an email in my fourth, well, I was in my fourth year. So wrapping up my, my, uh, studies in the UK and it was my future boss who mess, you know, emailed me and said, well, I was just speaking to your former boss at this smaller software company. I'm building a team that is, um, going to be essentially a European developer support team.

So we would. Uh, you know, the, the, the people in the team would be answering technical problems. So talking back to the debugging, you know, magazine listings, [00:15:00] but also, um, you know, giving training around our programming interfaces, speaking at conferences and seminars and, um, you know, so there'd be quite a lot of travel, quite a lot of interaction with people.

And by that point, I kind of realized that my destiny was not necessarily to be a heads down coder. Um, just doing, um, development on one feature or even one particular area, um, that I wanted more variety. And I also wanted that human connection. Um, So I was like, sign me up. When can I start kind of thing?

Well, you know, obviously then had to go for an interview. And my first round interview was in the UK in our office in Guilford at the time. So this would have been in July of June or July of 1995. But the second round interview was in Switzerland because that's where he was based. Um, and he told me, um, you know, when we were talking about logistics, he said, don't bring a big suitcase.

And I said, okay, well, I'm only coming [00:16:00] overnight, but I won't. And sure enough, you know, it's because he picked me up from the train station in his little Miata sports car and didn't really have space for me to, to put a big, um, bag in the trunk. And he drove me down, uh, to the Bolak Hotel, which is on the, on the lake front.

And. You know, and that first night before the interview, I was kind of left to my own devices and I remember walking down, um, by the lake, kind of all nervous, nervous energy. And I just sat there and saw this kind of, uh, dry, uh, thunderstorm over the Alps, the other side of the lake. And I just said, Oh, you know, this is, this is where I want to be.

Um, and so I, I, I got the job. In the UK originally, so the job was in the UK, despite the fact that by that point I decided I wanted to be in Switzerland, and it took me maybe two and a half years or two years to convince my boss that he'd be better off, you know, moving me across to [00:17:00] Switzerland.

Evan Troxel: He'd be better off.



Kean Walmsley: Well, maybe that's maybe


Evan Troxel: you would be a better employee if you

Kean Walmsley: Well, that's right. Well, anyway, I was I was really pushing hard. So, um, and that's what happened when I moved to, to Switzerland in, in March, February, March of 1998. And I thought that would probably be it. But then at some point along my journey, um, and by this point I would, I'd switched across to use some slightly different product, you know, working with different products originally when I joined.

Autodesk, it was to support, uh, work Center, which was a document management product which look, which at the time looks a lot like Vault does today. So you can think about Vault as being a, a sort of a, a very different product, but it has very similar principles to Work center. So I was supporting the API to work to work center.

Um, and then I sort of was working with AutoCAD as well. But over the years I ended up doing JS software, doing a lot of work with architectural [00:18:00] desktop, um, which is my first kind of exposure to. Um, AEC software, I suppose, other than AutoCAD. Um, and so yes, by, so then I was, I was working in Switzerland, um, enjoying that a lot.

And then the, an opportunity came up in the team, the same team as the European team, but in the Americas. And actually the manager of the Americas team, uh, was leaving. So I was asked. To, you know, would I be interested in applying? And so I did along with a few other folks, and I ended up, um, getting the position and then, um, yeah, meeting my girlfriend around the same time, which was strange timing.

So this, she, she was also working for Autodesk. Um, uh, she was a student working for Autodesk as a, as a, you know, temp job type thing. Uh, we met and. I started going out and at some point I said, well, I've got this job [00:19:00] in the U S I know we haven't been together very long, but do you want to come? Um, and so she was like, yeah, sure.

Let's try. And so she just came with one backpack ready to leave at any moment should things not work out. And we kind of moved across together.

Evan Troxel: Travel light so you could escape. Yeah. If you need.


Kean Walmsley: Because you never know. Anyway, so that was early in our relationship, relatively. And it was also a very interesting time to move to the U. S. Um, because it was in the, so it was in, in 2000, in, must have been in the late summer.

Yeah, towards the end of September, October time, actually, in, in year 2000, which you will remember. Very well as the time that George W. Bush got, um, just won the election. Um, so that was kind of very interesting time to move to the Bay Area in particular. Um, and then of course [00:20:00] it was also the tail end of the dot com boom.

So hiring was, was a disaster. You know, I had to build this team. Um. Um, or rebuild this team from people who'd left, et cetera. And so recruiting was really challenging, uh, which was my first taste of, of that particular, uh, challenge overall. And it was, and it set me in good stead for later years, but it was, it was not easy.

And then September the 11th happened, of course. Um, and yeah, things for us went very strange, especially. Being French speakers, even though I'm not, it's not my first language, it is my wife's first language, she's also fluent in English and we mostly speak in English, but, but the, the sort of the, I don't know if you remember, you will remember the whole sort of Freedom Fries thing,

Evan Troxel: Yeah, that's right.

Yup. Yup. I

Kean Walmsley: right, the whole, And it's not like we necessarily felt this sort of, you know, less welcome in the Bay Area, but it [00:21:00] was a strange time to be in the U.

S. generally, I would say. And it kind of made us realize that for us, it wasn't the place that we wanted to start a family. Um, so we, we did get married in the U. S., um, in, November of 2001. So not long after after 9 11, but actually at Autodesk University. So just a few days before, in fact, because we're going to be there anyway

Evan Troxel: Yeah.

Kean Walmsley: for AU 2001.


yeah, we

Evan Troxel: Was that in Vegas?

Kean Walmsley: Yeah, we got married in Vegas by Elvis. Uh, which for us, which is, which for us is, is, is cute and kitsch. Whereas I know, I think for most Americans it's a little trashy, but

Evan Troxel: What's funny is you're like, I don't, I don't think that the U. S. is the place for us to start the family, but we're doing this wedding thing with Elvis.

Kean Walmsley: yes, exactly. Well, it's, it's, it's, yeah, I know that [00:22:00] when you say it like that, it does seem a little bit incongruent. I get it,

Evan Troxel: I

love it. It's a good story, man.

Kean Walmsley: but it's just, it's just how it happened anyway. So we got married, um, and then. At that point, uh, you know, I was kind of putting out the feelers within Autodesk to see whether, um, whether there are opportunities else inside the company that I could, you know, you know, move into, but, but back in Europe effectively.

So, and, and so I was really happy that somebody in our consulting division sort of came to me and said, Oh, you know, I heard you're looking to move back to Europe. Um, Um, and he was like the head of the European consulting team. So I thought, okay, it's perfect. I'm going to get a job in Europe. No problem.

He actually said, well, um, the good news is I've got an opportunity for you that less good news, depending on where you want to be, is that I've now got a global role and I'd really like you to go to India to set up a development [00:23:00] team for my organization.

Evan Troxel: wow,

Kean Walmsley: And well, it is, you know, it came as a little bit of a surprise, um, but at the same time, you know, I said, well, where in India?

And he says, Oh, Bangalore. And I said, well, you know, my mom is actually from Bangalore. I had family in Bangalore, like my grandmother and uncles and aunts. Um, so I was like, you know what? So I talked about it with my wife and they said, well, You know, if you go for two years, normally with these kind of deals, first of all, it's an expat deal.

So the money was attractive. It was actually more than I was getting in the U. S. And the cost would be lower, of course. Um, but they also said normally they'd move me back to the U. S. afterwards. That would be the deal. But I sort of said, well, if you change it so that you can move me anywhere in the world afterwards with no guarantee of a job, but just.

To, to, to, to relocate me, then, yeah. Okay. Maybe we can talk more about it, because our intention is not to come back to the US afterwards.

Evan Troxel: Yeah.

Kean Walmsley: Um, and so that's how that kind of, how it went down. [00:24:00] We, we ended up going to Bangalore in, uh, uh, uh, uh, I think October of 2003 is when we moved pretty much. And so there I was helping set up a team that could deliver consulting projects.

for Autodesk Worldwide from India. So this was kind of the early days of, um, IT offshoring, I suppose, um, you know, there was that, that, that kind of wave that was hitting and there's a big boom around

Evan Troxel: Mm hmm.


Kean Walmsley: hiring people in much the same way as hiring people in the Bay Area, uh, had been challenging.

Hiring people in Bangalore at that time was super challenging. Um, so that was really quite interesting as

Evan Troxel: Just because there was so much demand at that time. I mean, same thing with the dot com boom. You didn't say bust, you said boom, right? So I

assume it's a, it's a it's a supply and demand issue where, where talent is going to the highest bidder and, [00:25:00] yeah, I can imagine.

Kean Walmsley: Exactly. So it was really that it was like you just, and nobody wanted to come and work for, uh, for, well, at least in the Bay area at the time, like nobody wanted to go and work for a bricks and mortar software company that was founded in the eighties. Everybody wanted

to go and, uh, yeah, pets. com or whatever.

I don't know whatever the thing was at the time. Um, so, you know, in India is slightly different. I mean, Autodesk remained reasonably attractive. Um. Um, you know, uh, target for people who are looking to, to, to get a job, but not, but the same, not really, because it was also quite a, um, flat sort of hierarchy within Autodesk.

It's always been that way in many ways, and one of the things that we found, um, with People coming, wanting to, to, to do a job, you know, work for an employer, a multinational employer, they were looking for much more [00:26:00] hierarchy and the ability to progress, uh, you know, regularly have a job change or, you know, title change, which is not necessarily.

what's important or was what's important inside? Autodesk wasn't really that at all. It's really about, you know, yes, you look at compensation, you look at the work you're doing, but you don't really look at the title that, that somebody's given you. But, so that's where we had to adapt a little bit to the local market and sort of find ways to sort of be attractive as an employer to, to people who wanted to come to us.

Um, the other kind of wrinkle to that whole story in many ways is that we, um. Um, arrived in India and found the, found out that we were expecting our first child. So my wife was pregnant. Um, and I just signed a two year contract to do this job. And we were like, well, what do we do? Do we go back to the UK?

Well, go back to go, [00:27:00] go somewhere else, go back to Switzerland, go to UK, whatever. Um, or do we sort of stay and go all in and have the baby in India? And. I kind of said, well, if you want to have the baby in Europe, we, you know, we can certainly go back and do that. But, um, I did feel this, you know, commitment.

I'd made a commitment for two years and I said, well, I can come back regularly, but we won't be together all the time. That's just, you know, that's not realistic. I can't, at the time, there's no way I could have done the job from Europe. I really needed to be there in Bangalore. So we made the decision to.

Look for an apartment that was really close to the office, within walking distance, so they didn't have to deal with, um, you know, I could come back really quickly if I needed to, um, you know, we looked at hospitals and found one that, that worked for us, and yeah, decided to have the baby in India, which was, which was kind of a big deal, um, and yeah, it was, I mean, I had local support, [00:28:00] of course, with family, so that helped as well, but, yeah.

It was, uh, it was still kind of a challenging period.

Evan Troxel: Yeah.


Kean Walmsley: Yeah, it

Evan Troxel: it just sounds like it's going all over the place like you, you literally don't know where you're going to be in two years because of this, you've bounced around already so much in the story. It's, it's incredible.

Kean Walmsley: Yeah, I had a clue though. I mean, I knew I wanted to go back to Switzerland afterwards, really.

Evan Troxel: You send another email to it, to your boss and

Kean Walmsley: There you go. By that point, he'd left. So it was a different, well, a different boss at that point. But I was, I was kind of lucky in the sense, well, that's also the good thing about being on a time limited kind of engagement like that is you can set, set an expectation of what your intentions are and look for opportunities back in, back in Europe.

So I, at the time then was able to sort of, yeah. Kind of figure out what the next move would be. And then by the time I was [00:29:00] about to finish the two years, I was kind of in a global role at that point because there had been restructuring. And I was, um, you know, I was in our developer network organization.

We'd actually, I'd actually been part of that all the way through, but we'd been. It was a bit complicated, but we were part of consulting for a time. And so while, you know, the team I had was working on consulting projects, they were also providing developer support. So there was still that kind of continuity.

Um, but yeah, so my boss, and you may have come across Jim Quancy over the years anyway. No, maybe not. Okay. Well, he's, he's the senior director of, of, um. Um, of our developer network inside Autodesk and he's soon to be, soon to be retiring actually, but he, he, um, was the person I was reporting to at the time and I became a senior manager with a worldwide responsibility.

And then moving back to Switzerland was straightforward to, to [00:30:00] justify at that point. Um, so that's what we did. Uh, I moved back in 2006 and I was at that point having managed. A team in the Americas and a team in Asia. I was now managing, you know, 20 to 30 people in a, in a worldwide. So I then had teams, um, all over the place, which was really fun.

Um, so, you know, traveling to Japan and China, et cetera. yeah, so that was the trajectory in terms of my offices that the end, I ended up working in. And then, so by that point I was back in Switzerland and we. You know, I had a couple more kids, um, and so increasingly less likely to, to want to, to carry on traveling really.


um, yeah,

Evan Troxel: That's great. And so you've been, you've did this giant loop around the world

and, and got back to the place where you really felt like this was the, you wanted your roots to be. And that's, and, and [00:31:00] just, just to speak to your last part there, like it's less likely to uproot when you're actually putting those roots in. And it just sounds like a perfect. Place for you. That's, my wife and I were looking for something similar. It was just like we were done with being in la We were just completely done with it. And I, I don't think I've told this story before, but one night it was, we were in the midst of selling our house, listing it, doing the photography, staging everything, you know, and, and doing all the things that you do. And I was just like, you know, wondering, am I actually making the right decision? Just I need to do a check here because I think once you kind of make a choice and then you start getting the snowball gets bigger and bigger and bigger and then it's like you're less likely to do a check and see because because you're already on the path.

And so I. I was like, Oh, I'm going to just, I walked outside at midnight into this beautiful backyard landscape that we had just completed to enjoy. You know, it was right [00:32:00] after COVID. And it was one of those things where it's like, we did this project so that we could enjoy our space in the backyard and built this wonderful deck and a fire pit and outdoor dining and all this.

And I sat there and I was, I just was like contemplating this and. Then I heard the helicopters, and I heard the traffic, and I heard sirens, and I heard the train, and I heard, like, all of these, just the noise pollution alone, it was so convincing to me at that moment that I was absolutely making the right choice, because we hadn't even decided, really, where we were going to end up, but we knew it had to be different than this, and I think, coming up as a designer in architecture, I work with clients throughout the decades who always wanted something that was the complete opposite of what they had.

They didn't know what that was, but they knew it wasn't what they had. And so if they had a room with no windows, they wanted a room that was all glass. If they wanted, if they had a room with a low ceiling, they wanted a really high [00:33:00] ceiling. And that was how I felt in that moment. It was like, I know I don't want this. I knew I wanted to get more connected to nature. I wanted to be close to trails. I wanted clean air. I knew I wanted no noise. I wanted dark skies, all of these things. And so we, we had an idea of where we were going, but it was that moment that like really sealed it for me. And I think that that is such interesting kind of things that we have to also juggle in our professional lives, right?

To is, is the family, the roots, where are you going to put your roots down? And there's all of these. There are parts of us that are a part of that equation and navigating all that, like there's no playbook for any of that. So, I'm appreciative to you for telling this story because I think it is a big part of what everybody deals with.

And even though this is a podcast about tech and AEC, like we have to acknowledge that there's these other things out there and I mean, a big reason why I do this podcast is because when [00:34:00] I was starting a digital practice at a firm that only had IT up to that point, I mean, there was no playbook. And that's why I've done this, right?

It's like to give people the tools to not only just hear about how other people are dealing with things, but how to implement things. But also now, I think I'm very interested in, in broadening the reach of the types of information and stories that we tell on this podcast. To make it more whole. I mean, that to me is, and so I appreciate you telling that story because it was, uh, it was a beautiful story and I'm, I'm, really jealous of where you are.

I mean, I, I've, I've seen the Alps, right? Like I've seen your skiing trips that you've posted a couple of pictures of here and there and it's just, it's an incredible, incredible location and I can see why you were so drawn to it.

Kean Walmsley: yeah. I mean, it was been, it is a lovely place to live and it's, and it has to be said that I, you know, and I, [00:35:00] I got some advice and again from Jim, so Jim Quancy, he gave, gave some interesting advice quite early on in my career and that's, you know, Which I've kind of taken to heart to some degree, but he sort of says, you know, figure out where you want to live in the world and move there, you know, don't worry about work.

Don't worry about whatever else, you know, just, you know, that, that stuff takes care of itself. And I think that's increasingly true now, right.

in in the, in the sort of more online post COVID world that you can find a way. Um,

and that

sort of environment is really

Evan Troxel: the story that you started with, and like, you would get on the phone and you would talk to the software support, right? There was no internet when you were

trying to figure out how to push the limits of the CAD package, right? And now, look where we are, right? Over the, that 25 years, it's absolutely And to your point, I think a lot of times we flip that.

We say we have to have that [00:36:00] figured out before we go or else we can't go. And the advice that was given to you was go and the other stuff will fall into place. I think

that that's a, that's a, a nice perspective to have. And it's, it runs antithetical to what a lot of people think or hear from. from the people they're asking.


Kean Walmsley: yeah, yeah.

So you have no regrets about moving to Oregon?

Evan Troxel: Well, it's only been a year, right?

But, but no, in this year, it's, it's been incredible and incredible from a sense of like, I can't see my neighbors

and not that I, like my wife is much more private than I am. I have a podcast that goes out to a global audience, right? And so, but, but at the same time, It's like we have our space, and we have the dark skies, and we don't have the noise pollution, and we have amazing air quality, and I like to go mountain bike riding, and I have incredible world class trails here, so, um, it's just been, it's been an amazing experience [00:37:00] so far, and I'm proud to call myself an Oregonian, and what's funny is there's a lot of Oregonian, X Californians here.

And so I don't feel too out of place because we thought, you know, what's that going to be like, there's definitely places in the US that are like, go home Californians stop ruining our state. And it's, I would say like 95 percent of the people that I talked to who have been here for a while now came from California.


Kean Walmsley: Oh, really? Interesting.

Evan Troxel: there's a lot of X Californians

here. So,

Kean Walmsley: just within Autodesk, I know a number of people who've, who've, you know, moved up from San Francisco to, or the Bay Area generally to, to, you know, Portland, we have a big office there now, so, and even before then, you know, when we had an office in Tualatin, that was where, Lake Oswego after that, you know, the people would, would often sort of go up there for the quality of life perspective and to just get, you know, a bigger place, but also just be, as you say, connected to nature in that way.

Evan Troxel: Yeah,

I've interviewed Gabe Paez, who is out of Portland, who is on the XR team, and obviously [00:38:00] was the founder of The Wild, and, um, and there's actually an Autodesk podcast host he lives here and so

we've gotten together a couple of times too, which is fantastic.

So, uh, it, it is interesting to build, to be able to build your network internationally, but then still find these close relationships happening because of that. that it's just like kind of reversed funnel, right? It's, It's, it's,

really interesting. Eve, one of my old students, when I used to teach at the university in Southern California, lives less than a mile away from me.

He's an architect, right? And it's like, how, how did that happen? I, we, we found each other on Instagram. He posted a photo. I'm like, that looks like this valley. And he's like, it is, where are you? And, and it was, it's just one of those serendipitous things that I find that so interesting how. How those things happen.

I have no idea how they happen, but it's so interesting that they do.

Kean Walmsley: Yeah. No, it's really interesting. I think there is that aspect of the, you know, being connected more [00:39:00] globally of course is just sort of surfacing these local connections that are, that prove to be really valuable that you wouldn't otherwise know, right?

Evan Troxel: So, let's talk about what you're doing now, and, and I know, I got to attend your, uh, class on voxels and Minecraft. Uh, those were kind of the big, the big, uh, topics that, or, or, I'll just say those were the kind of the defining characteristics of, of your talk. You're working a lot with, what I would see is like, you get to play around.

That's what it seems like to me. So you're, you're doing things that are categorized under research, but I think you're, you're having the time of your life playing around. So maybe you can definitely explain it a lot better than I can, but, but I think it's kind of fascinating the types of projects that you get to work on within Autodesk.

So take it from there and tell us kind of what, what's been going on in your world.

Kean Walmsley: Yeah, so it's an interesting, and even that's a bit of progression. So sort of, um, you know, back when, and actually it's, it's [00:40:00] interesting. A lot of the explorations that I've done over the years have ended up being driven by the blog, which is, which is, which was interesting. So when, when I first started it, so that was, and actually sort of connects quite well with.

The story of how we ended up in Switzerland and around that time, as I said, I'd become kind of a senior manager within the developer network team and we were exploring ways to, um, grow the developer network and to give people better information. And one of the things that came up in a brainstorming was the idea of starting a developer blog.

You know, so back at that time, I think there was a couple of Autodesk blogs. Maybe Sean Hurley had started Between the Lines and he, another Oregonian. Um, so he, he had started Between the Lines and it was proven to be super successful with our, with our user base and our customers. And so we said, well, we're not sure that there's enough of a.

Uh, a market or interest for us to start a developer blog, but let's look at [00:41:00] starting one that's based on auto, you know, developing with AutoCAD with the, and at the time the NET interface to AutoCAD was under documented and was super interesting and powerful, but there just wasn't enough information about how to use it.

So we said, well, let's, let's try this. And I've actually volunteered to do so because I love to write and I'd already had some. Um, experience of blogging when I was in India, uh, I actually did an internal blog about my living in India and, and the challenges that we had while we were there. That was, I used to get a lot of really fun feedback from the sort of Indian community in the Bay area, particularly used to just laugh at my, uh, uh, fun.

Um, yeah, I actually, that's a bit of an anecdote, but I remember at the time, one of the, one of the fun ones was, um, Um, having to get a birth certificate for my son, uh, our son, who, uh, you know, who, where we, when we wanted to travel for the first time outside of India, um, there was a whole process to follow, um, in order to [00:42:00] get it and you had to go through all these, you know, I mean, it's amazing, uh, dusty offices inside this sort of, you know, old sort of empire, British empire type, uh, building with where we're in, you know, you have to go from one office to the next, um.

Um, and so I created a flow chart sort of describing the process, but then also the shortcuts you could take and how much it cost in the bribes to, to speed up the process each time. I'd have to dig it out. I have it somewhere.

Um, but it was really kind of fun. So it's things like that, that I used to post.

And so I had some experience blogging and then I thought, well, let's, uh. Let's try. And I, and I, and I, so I started blogging in June or July of 2006. Um, it was also for me having become a senior manager, I was feeling a little bit further away from the technology and also from our customers. So for me, it was a good way to reconnect with the community, which has always been really important to me.

Um, and it ended up being quite. [00:43:00] I mean, I think at some point, you know, obviously the whole blogging, the blogosphere from Autodesk blogosphere sort of exploded from 2004. Um, onwards, uh, and I dunno how many blogs there are now, but at one point it was probably the third most visited Autodesk blog. I think it's, it's, it would not be the as as you know, as, as high ranked at this stage because of the shift in content over the years.

And people still do come for a lot of my old content, but as my job has changed, I end up blogging, um, less about technology and how to sort of use our, our products and APIs and more about my. You know, adventures or what I'm up to, um, so, um,

Evan Troxel: have to keep it fresh though. You have to keep it interesting for you. And

Kean Walmsley: yeah, well,

Evan Troxel: if it's, yeah, you, you go through those, through those different shifts in what, what you're interested in putting out there. I used to have a YouTube mountain biking channel. I would love to post more videos to that, but it's one of those things where it's just like, I think that [00:44:00] there is a lot of value in. these little side hustles like this, right?

Whether it's sanctioned by the, the mothership or not,

because it, it It ignites the curiosity in you, which then feeds back into the business ultimately. It makes you an interesting person who also, you know, you have this direct line with an audience. And there's a feedback loop there, which also informs the work that you do.

I think it's a really cool thing. Sorry to derail

Kean Walmsley: no, no, but it's really, it's really, that's a really, you know, insightful comment. I mean, I always felt that, um, you know, having this role and then showing a Kind of a human face to this sort of what you don't want to be considered a big faceless corporation, right? But always has the risk of going in that direction, but sort of showing, you know, giving, uh, some, a connection point for people, right?

I think that that, that is, that was valuable, but it's very true that having that. [00:45:00] Having that kind of unofficial feedback loop with people in out, you know, out in the real world, um, is really valuable, you know, getting that validation or the, the, the, you know, just sort of that, that input can, that can feed into what you're doing is really

Evan Troxel: right?

Kean Walmsley: Um, so, I mean, the blog actually led me to. Exploring all sorts of technologies over the years, such as things like functional programming and, and things that were kind of emerging. The connect, I used to, you know, I connected in the Connect, um, into AutoCAD quite early on when somebody had hacked it. I only remember in 20, oh, hang on 2000, I think it must have been 2008.

When, when the Kinect came out and very early on, somebody created a little DLL that allowed you to get data from it. So I kind of found a way to host that inside AutoCAD so that you could essentially use the Kinect cam, um, you know, sensor as a reality capture device. Um, but also. Allowed, you know, use it to detect gestures so you could, you know, move [00:46:00] your hands through space and draw inside the AutoCAD canvas.

So that was kind of cool. Um, and then, so all sorts of fun experiments like that, um, kind of paved my way to getting more connected with CTO's office. Um, and. I had a really interesting time when Robert Aish joined the company back in the day. So Robert joined, um, to build, uh, at the time we were talking about DSharp, but it became a design script, which is now obviously part of Dynamo.

Um, and this is essentially a language that, uh, that allowed you to, you know, create, you know, designs inside, well, now inside Dynamo. But at the time we were trying to integrate it inside AutoCAD. So over the course of, um, About six weeks, I did a very quick prototype with, with Robert, just to sort of show the potential for having that kind of language integrated inside a tool like AutoCAD.

Um, and [00:47:00] that led to other opportunities. Like I ended up moving into the AutoCAD team for a while as a software architect, um, which was really fun. Uh, again, mostly, yeah, I was a software architect on, on our AutoCAD based verticals that were mostly quite mature. So I, it wasn't like a. Frank, I kind of joke about it now in the sense I was a software architect for a number of products that didn't need a software architect.

So I was mostly, it was mostly about keeping the wheels on the bus when there were changes inside the platform, you know, how, what, how would things happening inside AutoCAD? Changes inside AutoCAD impact these, these vertical products. Um, but it was very interesting. I enjoyed that time and I continued to do my explorations with the blog until eventually in about 2016, I shifted across into research and that became more of my sort of day job as well.

Evan Troxel: I have a, I have a, a selfish question. When did, what year was it that Auto AutoCAD came back to the Mac? Because it, it was on the [00:48:00] Macintosh very early.

And was it, was it released 12 maybe? That it went away? Maybe it was, it was, it was pretty far back because of, it was like a floating point thing. I remember there was just like, Nope, we're not doing that anymore.

And, and, and most people were on PCs at that point

anyway. Right.

Especially in architecture.

Kean Walmsley: I wanna say that the, I, I don't know exactly when AutoCAD. I chose to, you know, when it, when it drops, when the engineering team dropped support for the Mac, but I mean, it might, it probably was a bit before support for DOS was dropped and, and, and it would have been R13 was like the last version of AutoCAD that I remember that, that was on DOS.

And so it would have been R14 was Windows only from then on until, and this is where it gets a bit tricky for me. Um, I can't remember exactly what, I mean, I remember the, the process in 20, I, I'd have to look it up, but I can't remember exactly, but it might have [00:49:00] been around, uh, 2010 or 11, um,

Evan Troxel: I was going to say 2013 was my guess,

Kean Walmsley: Yeah,

Evan Troxel: I don't, I don't know. I don't know.

I honestly, that was just, I don't know why that number sticks out, but I remember when it did, there was, I follow, you know, follow Anthony's blog at Architosh.

com and several people who are obviously always tracking the Mac and AEC and

I've always been one of those people as well, but

it's, uh, that was a big deal.

I mean, and, and it was beautiful. I mean, to have a. Big 27 inch iMac screen or whatever running, uh, a really beautiful looking product AutoCAD that everybody was familiar with on, on the hardware that they wanted to run it on was a, was a big

deal for that to come back.

Kean Walmsley: absolutely. And it was really, I mean, what's interesting about that was that I was more excited about the sort of re architecture work that enabled that and the potential that came off that. And I'll sort of tell you a bit of a, let's do a potted history of the AutoCAD architecture. [00:50:00] But, um, in, so R13 was, so prior to R13, everything was, was, um, yeah, was, was not.

object based, it was, you know, a lot of the code was written in C. Um, It was rewritten, many parts of it were rewritten during the R13 timeframe to make this sort of more flexible object based framework where you could plug in new objects and allow, and, you know, external developers could create their own custom objects that effectively extended the, the AutoCAD, um, Object set and you could create and it enabled all these various, um, vertical applications that came on top of, of AutoCAD and the vertical based products.

So everybody remembers R13 as being the worst release of AutoCAD ever, right? But

for me, for me, it's, it was in many ways, the most impactful, like if we hadn't done it,

Evan Troxel: Yeah.

Kean Walmsley: Autodesk would not exist today. I can say that fairly

Evan Troxel: [00:51:00] Yeah. Yeah.

Kean Walmsley: it enabled everything. Um,


but it just enabled all this, this, this growth, um, into, into new markets, enabled this whole developer, vibrant developer community around the world to, to, you know, to, to flesh out this ecosystem of products that was so, so important to our customers.

Um, so despite the fact it was painful for customers, it was like the, it was, and it might've been executed differently. You could argue that. You know, it shouldn't have been released when it was, it could have taken a bit longer, but it was super important. So that was the, one of the refactors. Another one kind of came around the 2000 timeframe when we went from having, um, single document AutoCAD to having multiple documents loadable.

And so there was a whole kind of encapsulation process that allowed us to have, um, Yeah, to unplug, we even had called it DWG Unplugged at the time, but unplug [00:52:00] the engine that loaded DWG files. Um, although we had to stop because I think we got a cease and desist letter from MTV, if I remember correctly, because they didn't like the

use of that

Evan Troxel: That's, well, yeah,

people would definitely confuse those two things. I

Kean Walmsley: so DWG Unplugged, I know, right? Um, became, became Object DBX. Uh And, and so that

Evan Troxel: I mean, AutoCAD, Eric Clapton. Yeah, I

Kean Walmsley: Yeah, I mean, it's just so, so, so surreal, but you know, I mean, that's where the inspiration came from. So what I can understand what the

concerns might've

Evan Troxel: That was the problem is you, you let that be known that

that inspired you and

Kean Walmsley: Yeah, well, not me personally, but yeah, the product managers anyway.

So they renamed it. Um, but anyway, so that was a really, another important sort of step in the modularization of AutoCAD was, is to have this sort of separate component that could manage DWGs, but then when we went to the Mac, we had. A process that [00:53:00] was what was called at the time, the big split. And this was not just the reading and writing of DWG, but all, almost all the commands that are south of the border in terms of the UX, you know, the UI for it layer would be encapsulated in a way that could be rebuilt across different platforms.

And so this was a really arduous process. And they ended up having to go back, looking at, um, code that, uh. You know, code from AutoCAD that existed prior to becoming Windows centric. Cause as soon as we went Windows centric, all this Win32 crud kind of, you know, Win32 API calls ended up coming into, into the code base.

So they had to kind of purify it essentially and cleanse it from all these, these, um, platform specific API calls. And then, um, but then eventually they ended up with this really beautiful code base that could be rebuilt for the Mac. Um, it could be run headless inside a terminal window. [00:54:00] on, on the server to do operations.

So it's also driving a lot of the Autodesk platform services or Forge capabilities around design automation. And it could end up being sort of built into a package that can be loaded in the browser. So it enabled AutoCAD web as well. So

Evan Troxel: And is that when it made it onto the iPad as well?

Kean Walmsley: I think so, well, I, you know what, I'm not, in terms of the timeline, I think they did have a different version of AutoCAD, they definitely had a different version of AutoCAD that was on iOS and, and, you know, uh, the iPad, um, right now, I imagine that is using the same code base, but I don't actually know for sure what the, what the situation is there, but definitely having this kind of rearchitecture, but definitely having this kind of rearchitecture, Has led to support for all these different platforms.

And then on each platform, they have their platform specific UI, you know, UI capabilities, then call into this core, core code base. Um, so AutoCAD's become this like super resilient, uh, code base over the years [00:55:00] that is, I mean, it's, it's, you know, for me, it's quite miraculous that, that, you know, some code that was written in 1983, uh, is still running.

Inside Chrome or, you know, whatever, onside your,

Evan Troxel: It's incredible to think about how hard it is to change the behavior of the user as well. So you talked about kind of this modularization and the ability to load multiple documents. There's probably still a lot of architects that just draw everything in one file, right?

Like, you've got the plans over here, you've got the elevations, Pulled off of those plans and all the different orientations and you've got sections off to the right and you've got the site plan up and to the left and it's all in one file.


And, and then they're still operating that way today. I mean, it's like to, to pry those habits out of there. They'll have to, you will have to pry those habits out of their cold dead fingers, right? [00:56:00] Because it's just the way that they do things. And this has always been something that I've. I've been super interested in, which is, how do you, how do you enable adoption of new features, new tools, new paradigms, new platforms, when the way that I do it works for me, I know it, I'm, it's like my, in some ways, your identity is wrapped up in some of those things, because, the cost is too high to spend the time to learn the new way or to spend the money or whatever it is.

We, we, we have so much tied up in our old files that we still need to get access to every once in a while and maybe get something out of or go back and revisit, you know, because our projects take so long, um, man, it's a, it's a. There's a lot of nuance and, and, I don't know, to, to your point, like there's a lot of cruft built up in, that's just inherent in the system that makes it very difficult to move [00:57:00] forward for, for many people.

Kean Walmsley: Yeah. And I mean, I see it myself, um, you know, in my day to day work, you know, I mean, I, you know, tools come online and I consider myself to be reasonably, uh, interested in adopting new. Ways of working and

workflows, but we all have our habits and I totally understand that. So I think in, it's one of those things where you, and there's probably been studies around this, that, you know, I, this is by no means, you know, truth, but it's, but it's the, you know, what I sense is that you kind of have to have this probably order of magnitude improvement in your efficiency to be worth.

Going to that next level, right? It's like you need some significant change. It can't just be, you know, I don't think it

can be half the time. Yeah,

Evan Troxel: heard

10x. It needs to be 10 times better

to get somebody to pay attention. And then that first run [00:58:00] experience needs to be pretty good, right? If it's, if it's a terrible first experience, but it's still 10 times better, I don't think it's going to happen, right?

It's one of those things where There's multiple things that all have to be going in the right direction for it to even be a consideration and it's still easy to kill. I mean, there's, especially early in that journey from one way of doing things to another way of doing things. It's very easy to kill.

Kean Walmsley: yeah, yeah, no, I can, I, that resonates with my feeling as well about this. Um, and you know, and I think that one thing that I'm happy about over the years is that, you know, As least as a company, we have been able to, um, maintain a set of products that work for the people who've been with us since the eighties, right?

So, you know, I think that the AutoCAD team has done a really good job at that. Obviously other products have come online since, and we haven't always kept every product that we've [00:59:00] had, but there is a certain sort of core offering, um, that remains attractive. And, and while having kind of new things come online as well, um.

Evan Troxel: Yeah.

Kean Walmsley: Yeah, but it's, yeah, I mean, AutoCAD still is, people still use it. And I don't, I mean, I, I look, I don't look at it from a user perspective. I look at it more from an, you know, from a, um, an internal architectural perspective, I'm, I'm very impressed with what that team has pulled off over the years. I mean, it's, it's, it's similar in some ways to Microsoft Office and what, what that team has been able to do, which is something quite similar around sort of.

refactoring their code base so that it can run across platforms and then just keeping up to date mobile technology, um, various other, I mean, Microsoft is amazing what they've done with, you know, the sort of 365, uh, co pilot stuff as well and, and how they're integrating AI. Um, it's, it's really an amazing company, but, um, you [01:00:00] know, I, I, I'm anyway, so hats off to the, to the AutoCAD team for that, at least.

Evan Troxel: For sure. So now you're working, the class that I got to attend at AU, you were talking about Minecraft and voxels. And I thought that there was a lot of really interesting opportunities there. Um,

and, and the, the thing that I mentioned after I attended to you, when we caught each other in the hall was this idea of Kind of the intersection of VR, XR, with the work that you're doing as a possibility for wayfinding inside of buildings because the example that you were showing was like path of travel using

voxels to kind of determine path of travel through three dimensional space in a digital environment and mapping a path of travel and then being able to see it in, in space, you know, on the computer. And then I was thinking, Oh man, how great is it to have an AR headset or something where then that [01:01:00] path could be transferred to my eyes and I

could follow it to get somewhere. You know, I could see, I used to do a lot of work with schools and, and if you have a orientation for a student, it's like, where is the office that I need to get to in building 18F that's in some basement. You know, who knows where that is, right? And, and it just seems to me like there's a lot of interesting applications to the research that you're doing there. And, and it's funny because you're tying it back to Minecraft, which I have

a 17 year old who loves Minecraft, loves it. Again, talks about the nuance of Minecraft, and it's lost, completely lost on me because of, I don't, I don't follow it, but At the same time, it's this incredible environment to make things, right?

For, and, and that's what I love about it on his behalf is that he's actually making things on the computer, not just consuming and not just playing. He is doing it through play, which I think is an important aspect, but, [01:02:00] but it's, it's, it's a creation engine, right? And I think that that's what we're doing as architects as well.

We're, we're building these digital environments and, and now you're looking at kind of an intersection of game, play, slash, building environment, right, which is based on cubes, and the work that architects are doing, and, and how those merge. I was really intrigued with your talk, and I would love it if you would kind of take the opportunity to give an overview of what you were talking about

Kean Walmsley: No, absolutely. So, yes, I mean, the, the, the, the class is really around a, um, toolkit that we've built inside Autodesk Research called VASA, which is a, you know, voxel based architectural space analysis. Um, so it's really a, and, and think of it as a. Toolkit, um, and it's inside Dynamo, but we also have sort of, you know, versions that we run separately as well.

Um, where you can take a sort of 3D geometry, break it up into, into cubes and it will analyze, you know, the, this space, [01:03:00] not so many cubes, actually the voxels are often like long and thin for whatever, for reasons, but you can look at the, the, for people who are interested, the, the, my AU talk explains a little bit more about this, um, but effectively, um, this toolkit will break up a building model, allow you to run certain spatial operations to understand how, Well, human centric it is, and I'll talk a little bit about that term, I suppose, what we see that term as well, um, but yes, how, how How easy it is for somebody to get from one place to another, um, how, how much daylight they can get because they happen to have proximity to a window.

Um, what, you know, we can start to, to, to analyze the space and to, to make sense of it and see how well adapted it is for its occupants.

Evan Troxel: And because it's voxels, it's inherently 3D, right? And I think, I just want to put this out there early, is

that a lot of the things that you're talking about, we are traditionally used to looking at in 2D representation, right? Daylight [01:04:00] analyses, views, right? We're talking about isovists and,

and, and path of travel. All of these things are usually on a set of. PDFs or

as imagery that we look at in 2D, but, but the, the bridge that you're building here, here is really taking that into the 3D environment.

Kean Walmsley: yeah, that's right. And actually the original sort of work that was done before VASA was in 2D. So we had a 2D version of it called Space Analysis, and it had those same capabilities. One of the interesting things about Space Analysis is that, and VASA as well, it is really based on this idea of sort of discretizing.

Um, a space, you know, breaking it up either into a grid in 2d or into a, you know, a voxel grid in, in 3d, um, and then, you know, performing operations on those. So there are definitely kind of, you could do the same thing using more. Geometric approaches like ray, [01:05:00] ray, you know, um, so the typically you do ray tracing or ray casting to, to check visibility for an ISOVist, you know, so you draw a line, infinite line in a certain direction, and then you check to see whether it hits anything.

Um, whereas Breaking it up into a grid will allow you to have much more predictable performance for that particular resolution, especially if you're doing repeated operations. So that's one thing that we found with this 2D space analysis package. So it's Reece Goldstein, my colleague in Toronto, who was really the mastermind behind both space analysis and VASA.

Done this work for space analysis. Um, he really wanted to explore the third dimension and to see whether it was possible to do something similar for 3D, which is what led to, led to Vasa. Um, but yes, it having that capability in 3D, um, unable to work on pretty much any, um. model, we, we, you know, we very often just load STL files in to, to, to work with and [01:06:00] test it though.

Obviously we can get the geometry more directly from Revit or Dynamo. Um, but that's, uh, yeah, it just can, can break it up and then you can start to do these analyses. And what's very interesting there is that that resolution slider, um, or that trade off between, uh, accuracy and performance is really. In, you know, it's up to you if you want to do a really coarse voxel model, which is super quick to, to analyze, but the results aren't going to be quite as good because you're, you know, it's, it's the approximation is, is poor, um, then you can, but if you want to dial up the precision and wait a bit longer, because it's going to take a bit longer to calculate, then you can absolutely do that.

So it's that kind of, you have that, that, real freedom to choose what makes most sense. Do you want to just do something very quickly, just to give an indication of how it works, or do you need to take a bit longer and do it with much greater [01:07:00] accuracy? Um, so

Evan Troxel: this kind of visualization tool gives you the ability to really understand three dimensional environments and daylighting as an example, right? If you had, I think you showed a tree in a courtyard and we were looking at maybe where, what rooms I could see it from. And it's not just like in 2D, that would be like a trunk and a, and a canopy line maybe, but, but in 3D, it's the actual shape of the tree, right?

So you can, you can see. What you can see, you can understand what you can see from all these different locations. And you had the example of Path of Travel, and you could actually use it to traverse stairs, for

example, which is very different than what I could understand in 2D.

So I think that that, that's kind of an interesting point about what the voxelization is enabling the designer to do, is just better understand what's happening in their project when it comes to these different kinds of studies.

Kean Walmsley: absolutely. And yeah, so the fact you can go, you can go up and downstairs, [01:08:00] um, because of the, you know, the, the way that the voxels work and you check the adjacency, but it can sort of go up a little bit. So you can actually sort of map how somebody would walk. It, you know, it works a lot less well with elevators, of course, because that's, that's like, you know, that's harder, but you can build in the logic to sort of manage that.

Um, but yeah, so back to your question about the path of travel and sort of connecting with, with. I mean, I absolutely think that, you know, I was always, you know, back when the HoloLens came out, I was quite lucky enough to be able to get one quite early on the first version of the

HoloLens. Um, and I was really intrigued about this, uh, possibility of within, you know, some sort of XR device.

In this case, the HoloLens, you could, you know, you could be. Um, given a path to track, to, to walk through a space. Um, and so at the time I'd sort of, you know, kind of, I, there was no, I hadn't, didn't do any kind of automatic pathfinding, but I just drew the path inside an AutoCAD model, [01:09:00] um, created, uh, the capability inside to AutoCAD to send that across to the HoloLens, um, device.

And then you would literally just see this sort of path snaking through. The space and you would travel, you know, walk along that path. And what was kind of interesting is that because it's right there, even if there was smoke or something in the way, like if there was an accident, you could follow the path anyway, and also had the device we're built in this sort of additional capability because there is this like local scanning done by the HoloLens device.

So it also, I also built in this sort of. It's a fairly rudimentary capability of sort of rerouting locally around obstacles. So if somebody had, you know, something had fallen inside the space and you couldn't get through, it would kind of try and go around it and it would kind of, you know, see whether it could.

So it was kind of, it's kind of interesting for me, it was [01:10:00] absolutely compelling in the sense that if you can imagine this sort of centralized. Path planning capability, maybe using Vassar or something, somewhere, um, on a server in the cloud or wherever. Um, but then, you know, and then having this sort of more local capability to manage, uh, local conditions, uh, I think there's definitely an opportunity to do something around xr, particularly around, you know, emergency egress and uh, you know, yeah.

Emergency services. Uh, I can well imagine. There being some really interesting potential around that in the future. Um, but

Evan Troxel: And just to have this device in my pocket that I could pull out and, and use as an augmented reality device, or maybe it's paired with a, with a headset or something to,

to cue me via voice or, you know, some kind of a cueing system that built into it. Because if you can't see, yeah, maybe you need to hear it [01:11:00] or maybe there's, you know, I could just see, I also can see a lot of applications in emergency situations, but also like in orientation situations when,

Kean Walmsley: right. Yeah,

so, but you know, just to sort of be clear, the, you know, the purpose for building VASA in the first place was much more around just sort of setting the quality of designs and how, once again, sort of using that as a, as a, as a tool for us to assess how. Well suited, um, designs will be for their future occupants.

So that's, which is, which kind of ties into my current main focus in terms of the area of research, which is around human centric building design. So how do we, um, how do we capture the human experience inside the built environment? Uh, you know, we can try and distill it down. We can try and, um, you know, we can try and build.

measures or metrics around how we expect people will experience a space. And how do we give those insights to designer, you know, building designers and architects during the design process [01:12:00] to sort of say, well, these design changes you're making are going to influence the, the wellbeing of the people who eventually use the, the, the space, whether, you know, positively or negatively, uh, and help guide them through that in terms of, you know, is there enough space in here for.

Plants, you know, are there, is there enough space for, you know, socialization between people? Are you going

to, you know, have these interactions between people that are positive and good for their, you know, well, good for the productivity of the company, but good for the, you know, their personal wellbeing as well.

Evan Troxel: And those,

Kean Walmsley: right? So,

Evan Troxel: those kinds of metrics being informed by real people who can have those experiences during the design process to help the designer make decisions during the design process that ultimately serve the purpose. I think that's a huge shift that's happened in AEC technology. Over the last decade or two, right, which is tools that used to be used at the end of a [01:13:00] process are being incorporated earlier and earlier now to help make decisions along the way,

and they're just part of the design process instead of an output at the end. I think that's Thanks. As a designer myself, I feel like the, as these tools come online, it gives the designer superpowers to really show the value of an architect in this case, right? Where I think a lot, a lot of times it's just intuitive. There's things that we've been trained to do. We understand that they will probably work the way that we think they will. And then it's only after. the building is delivered that that hypothesis actually gets tested, right? Every building is a prototype is what a lot of people say, because it really is. It's got a different site It's got different environmental conditions. It's got a different user group. The people who are occupying it are different. It's like all of these things stack up and it really is a hypothesis and you can't test it until it's over. Well, that's not really the case anymore. [01:14:00] If you're willing to include those people. In the design process, which does change the design process, right? And it does change the way we approach. delivering projects, which sometimes is set in stone. You know, it's hard to change those kinds of things because our contracts are structured a certain way and our interactions are on these certain, you know, milestones on a calendar, but this real time feedback mechanism with software and hardware enabled is really incredible if we're willing to harness those things to really I guess just really harness them and affect the outcome in different ways that we've never been able to do before.

I think it's absolutely fascinating. Uh, new tools in the toolbox enabling us to do that.

Kean Walmsley: no, absolutely. And it's really, it is really exciting because I think. And it's kind of, in some ways, it's a bit like what happened with, with software development in the sense we used to, with the waterfall method, we always [01:15:00] used to sort of have these big projects and you deliver it at the end, give it to a customer and say, Hey, what do you think?

And they'd be like, uh, well, not really what I expected.

Um, but now of course, with more, you know, now, I mean, for the last, Yeah. 20, 30 years, I don't even know how long it's been, but you know, effectively using agile processes where you engage much more with the, with the customer along the way. And you iterate,

I mean, it's a little bit harder when you're talking about the physical environment, but things like XR, things like, you know, getting that participant feedback and allowing them to play a role in the, you know, in the design processes is going to be super valuable.

And I see it just becoming really, really compelling. As technology evolves, yeah,

Evan Troxel: just using it as a method of communicating those ideas to somebody who can understand them in a much. better way than they

can a traditional method of like looking at a 2D plan and not knowing how to read a 2D plan, right?

I can't tell you how many times I've sat with a [01:16:00] client where they, they sign off on something on a 2D plan and then it, it happens in, in 3D or it actually gets built depending on the process.

And they're like, Whoa, that is not what I thought.

That is just because they, they don't speak that language. And these tools are helping us speak their language. I mean, if we're willing to do that, right? And so renderings served that purpose for a long time, but renderings were so curated, right? We're going to do this angle.

We have this field of view. We have perfect materials, perfect lighting, perfect reflections, and the real world is not perfect. And it could change on an hourly basis, the lighting, and it could change air quality and acoustics. And there's so many different things that affect. How somebody experiences something in the real world that we can now potentially plug into these models earlier on and say, this is what we're talking.

This is actually what we're. This is what your experience. This is as close as we can get. To, [01:17:00] to the real world experience before it's done, before we've spent all the money. And it's, that's an incredible process to go through with a client and to let them look around where they wanna look and to experience things and, and watch them experience it.

Actually, I. Be in the room when they're experiencing it because so much is communicated over facial expressions and body language and like you don't send this stuff over email like you sit in the room with them, right? And you experience it with them to get their real time feedback. on many different levels, not just after they've convinced themselves that it will be okay, kind of a thing, right?

It's, uh, that, that just visceral, um, connection that you can have as an architect with a client. I keep going to that because that's my experience and that's what I'm most interested in. But I think that there's, there's an amazing application possibility here for. And to your point, it's early days, right?

Like, this is the convergence of [01:18:00] these different pieces of technology. It's still early days, right? But I think it's an incredibly important piece of research to be doing because it actually makes potential outcomes so much more impactful for the people who actually pay for these services and these


Kean Walmsley: yeah, yeah, absolutely. Yeah, and it sort of makes me think a little bit, you know, we were talking about XR earlier and, um, the potential for that. I mean, I remember when the first time I used Google Earth VR, right? So you could, it was kind of cool. You, uh. You were kind of like in this, you huge, you weren't, you know, human scale, you were like Godzilla or something

and but you, you know, walking

through a

Evan Troxel: son, my same son, he's also obsessed with Godzilla and we did that. We had the HTC Vive and the, and you know, there was, there was, what was it? Tilt brush and you could draw and you you could

do all this, but then there was Google Earth that you could actually go in and [01:19:00] change the scale of, and he always shrunk it down because he wanted to be Godzilla and he wanted to walk through the streets of San Francisco, right? And it is, that is an amazing experience to be able to have.

Kean Walmsley: was unbelievable. And then you can like grab the sun and drag it through the sky, right to change the time of day. And I'm just sort of thinking back to your point about experiencing something under different conditions. You know, you know, you can, if you, it wasn't in there, but you know, you could maybe just change the weather as well, make it grey and miserable, you know, find a way to, to allow people to experience the building from, in all sorts of different conditions that otherwise they wouldn't, um, and I always, and on a kind of related note, I always felt the real opportunity around XR in a general sense was this, um, This ability to, to, to do things together with people rather than, I mean, the thing is, you know, [01:20:00] again, somewhat incongruent, it's, it's this very isolating technology in many ways, right?

You put this thing on your face and you sit there. But I think the real potential is like. You know, having this shared experience with multiple people, you know, perhaps it could be an architect, you know, leading a family through what it's like to be in their new home and just making design changes on the fly as they give, give input.

Um, you know, but having that kind of shared collaborative experience can all of a sudden take something that is kind of fundamentally. isolating to being something that's really empowering and engaging, um,

and that is, is where I was always very interested by the potential for XR is not this, um, you know, lock me away and let me play, uh, on my own on some video game for, for 10 hours, but more like, how do you, Flip it around and make it this, this compelling, uh, experience.

And I think that is again, what, you know, I'm sure [01:21:00] Gabe and his team is focused on and others as well. And we obviously were seeing all sorts of technology coming out, uh, you know, from Apple and others. It's really exciting.

Evan Troxel: Yeah.

Kean Walmsley: but yeah, I'm, um, yeah, I think there's lots of, lots of reasons to be optimistic that, uh, technology is, is.

Uh, looking to make certain things easier, I would, I would say. Um,


Evan Troxel: So with Vasa, what is, is that available for people to actually give it a try, to use it, to see how it works, and maybe you can explain where people can go to see examples and,

and get the code and, and run it.

Kean Walmsley: I think the probably, so, so it, inside the Dynamo package manager, you can just sort of get it and download it. And I haven't tried it with Forma, but now that there's Dynamo for Forma, you should be able to use it there too. There's probably with Civil 3D as well, not that I've tried that, but, um, definitely Dynamo for Revit.

You can just, um, you know, [01:22:00] download it in the, in the package manager. Um, it's probably worth going, the best source of information for it at the moment is probably my blog. So if you go to keanw.com/vasa, V A S A, then that's, you'll find all the posts that, that I've posted related to that over,

over the years, including, um, some introductory videos from Rhys that really explains exactly what's going on under the hood and, you know, why it works the way it does.

Um, I think that's probably a good, a good place to start.

Evan Troxel: I'll put a link to that in the show notes for the episode, but could you give a kind of super short, truncated version of your class to just explain what, what it's actually like to use it? Because I think we've talked about it and maybe some of the potential use cases, but just give us a foundation of what, what you, the user who might [01:23:00] look at this Toolkit and use

it would experience as they, as they run through it for the first time.

Kean Walmsley: Sure. So, so, so typically, um, I mean, it is some, it's not a, It's worth pointing out that this is not a product as such. It's kind of like a, a library of functions, you know, that exists somewhere in a DLL or whatever, but ultimately in Dynamo, it's surfaced as a set of nodes. So you drag your nodes across into the, into your graph and connect them.

And you'll have some processes where you might take, uh, for example, import an STL file, and it'll create a voxel model. And then from that voxel model, you've got various operations that you can perform to then analyze that, that voxel model. Um, and then ultimately at some point down the line, once you've done your various operations, and these operations can be chained together, right?

In the sense that what's very interesting about VASA is they've got a very unified, [01:24:00] we've got a very unified approach to, um, creating analyses. So whether it's daylight or. Um, visibility or pathfinding, the output of each analysis is actually another voxel model. And so that voxel model could represent the path of voxels that go through a space.

It could represent the shadow that's created by something. Or it could create, you know, decide what you're able to see. But each of those is, because it's this uniform format, the inputs in a voxel model. The output is a voxel model. You can start to chain together these operations in interesting ways. So you could, for example, analyze, uh, a space and do some sort of shortest path analysis, but also figure out not just the shortest path, but the one that has the most sunlight or the one that has the most shade, right?

So you can start to think about how these, these analyses can work together. And then eventually you will have. Um, you know, from your voxel model, [01:25:00] you'll choose to visualize it in some way at some point, so you can turn on, you know, you could overlay the path that was a set, you know, create, uh, found between two points in the, in the overall model, you can then display that voxel model in the context of the original model, for example, so that you could see that path, um, with a certain color going through the 3d environment.

So was that

Evan Troxel: Yeah. I think that, that, well, I think, I think it helps to have the visual as well, but I think, I think if, if somebody sets up their screen and they, they listen to the podcast at the same time, they can, they could figure that out. I think what makes this so interesting, Kean, is that you can then start to think about what parameters you would wanna plug into spaces. to set up different constraints for the analysis engine. And, and I'm just thinking as a designer, like maybe there's a. An energy parameter of like the kinds of spaces and the types of energy or the types of uses that they [01:26:00] would have. And so for this kind of experience, it would choose this kind of a path.

And for a more private or a more quiet experience, it might choose a different path for me to get from here to there. I think that there's a lot of interesting potential, again, to kind of change the, what we put into our models as far as metadata goes. Because it starts to inform the things we're interested in studying along the way throughout the design process that don't necessarily, haven't inherently been in the system before, right?

It's like, I'm sure that there's been some instances of that kind of a thing, you know, like healthcare design with paint color and how it affects mental health. And there's definitely things like that that we could always tag, but now to actually bring that back into kind of an analysis engine. That's, that we can just continually monitor throughout the design process and, and get updates and maybe get, get scorecards back or dashboards, or [01:27:00] just test it against an actual user to say, like, is this, is this, actually working?

Is this

telling us what we think it's telling us? I think that there's some interesting potential there

to tweak the design process for better outcomes.

Kean Walmsley: Yeah. I, I, and I think this, and I dunno if this is really speaking to the same point, but I'm really interested by this idea of sort of following through on design intent and sort of understanding whether it really, you know, it does, is the design go either going to, you know, I, did you anticipate via simulation that this design is gonna meet the design intent, or once it's actually been kind of realized?

Using sensors, using computer vision, doing whatever it, you know, can you show that that design intent was met in the real world? So I think having these sort of feedback loops was, was, you know, is really super interesting. And I think that sort of, um, [01:28:00] capturing that in some way along the way. Uh, because at the moment we don't, right?

We just have, you know, you, you'll model your space, but, and you, you, you, we may be able to infer some intent from the sequence of operations or the way it's been done or, or whatever, but it's not, it's never really made kind of explicit. Um, and that's when we think about in the context of something like ChatGPT, where there's a dialogue, right?

And you're sort of saying, layering in information and you're sort of requesting, um, additional. You know, you've got this sort of history of requests and the intent is kind of there as a dialogue. I think that that's really an interesting way that eventually, over time, we're going to be capturing more of the essence of what is intended, and then being able to come back and, yeah, you know, figure out whether it was met in some way.


Evan Troxel: point of like this human layer of [01:29:00] interaction and the validation that can occur throughout the design process and how that can include the end users or, you know, there's so many layers to, to who the end user might be, but, but actually plugging them into the process of What it takes not only to design this building, but get what they want out of it and make them a part of the design process rather than the traditional black box design process, which is like, I'm going to go work over here in my office and then, and then I will present it to you when I'm ready.

And then I will come back and I will make some changes and I will, but to do that kind of, Out in the Open, right? To do that transparently, with them included, creates a completely different experience for them, along the way, from nothing to the actual building. I think that, that human part of it, those stories are what is going to live on beyond, uh, me working on this project to me working on the next project, [01:30:00] which is a completely different set of users.

Like, those stories get to proliferate and, and again, kind of strengthen the story of what we do as an industry that actually serves people at the very, like, the end of the day, that's what this is all about. Right? And that, to me, these tools give us The ability to do that even better and to

really show the value of what it is that the AEC industry actually delivers when it comes to an architectural experience or, or different types of experiences that must be met.

Like that validation feedback loop that can actually happen throughout the process is, is incredibly important and empowering as a, to, to fulfill the mission of this, this project.

Kean Walmsley: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I mean, I don't, did we, were you able to come by our, um, our booth at AU We were in the far end, so we were kind of tucked [01:31:00] away, but we had, um, we had a stand called, um, From Steps to Stories.

Evan Troxel: Okay.

Kean Walmsley: this is, it's actually, um, a project that we, so we wanted to, to sort of showcase some work we did with, um, an organization in Toronto called the Bentway.

So I don't know if you're familiar with the city with there's a, the Gardner Expressway goes through downtown Toronto and the sort of city of Toronto has redeveloped a lot of parkland space underneath this raised expressway and sort of repurposing it to make more of a, this sort of engaging community space.

Um, so, well. We've been talking to the Bentway for many years and we saw this opportunity to sort of go in and try and effectively capture the human experience in this space.

So we kind of looked a little bit. You know, funny, but, you know, basically took a construction helmet, put a 360, uh, uh, GoPro, 360 degree GoPro video camera, um, on top, we had a [01:32:00] boom with a selfie camera facing, pointing back at the person's face so we could start to get, you know, capture their experience.

That well, they, what was, what their, what was on their face, not necessarily what they were feeling, but it'd give you some clues. Right? Um, as well as a number of other sensors, environmental sensors. We had the GPS from the, the GoPro as well, but we also gave them a, a smartphone. And every so often we'd ping them with a timer and say, what now?

You need to enter how you're feeling. And we sort of wanted to capture also this qualitative data alongside the quantitative data so that we could really kind of get a sense for, well, first of all. Could we have guessed how they were feeling based on what we could see from their face or other factors, you know, there's some, some connection there, um, or, you know, and even, you know, anyway, you can imagine other sort of types of sensor as well, like with, with wearable smartwatches and, you know, the, whether it's, you know, heart rate variability,

Did I get that right?

Or, [01:33:00] or, you know, galvanic skin response, or who knows what sort of things you could do to indicate stress levels and things. Anyway, we didn't do all that. We just sort of used visual feedback and then asked, asked them how they were feeling. But we aggregated this, this huge data set into, effectively into a, um, a, an experience where people could go in and navigate this data.

So we used, uh, computer vision. On the video to sort of do what we call a segmentation of the scene. So you could kind of, we could color all the cars, one color, we could color all the trees, another color. So, and then you could actually sort of, sort of look at this, uh, map of the, the number of objects at each stage.

So you could have kind of scrubbed through and say, well, I want to find this. I want to look at this. Um, and this is part of the experience for this particular occupant, um, participant, because they seem to see a lot of trees at that point. I'm curious where they are.

Um, so you could really kind of enable people to explore this data in a really, [01:34:00] um, compelling user interface that kind of included qualitative, um, And, you know, even, even you could see little speech bubbles with what they were saying at that particular moment because they were talking as well into the, into the smartphone.

Um, but again, this way of, uh, so we created this is sort of very interactive, um, exhibit where we had, well, the first one in Toronto, we had like six. 50 or 55 or 65 inch screens, you know, placed vertically, but next to each other. And that was this huge visualization of the space, and you controlled it with a smaller touch screen that would effectively change everything on on those screens.

And at AU, we didn't have as much space so we just had three screens, and then the smaller touch screen controlling them. Um, but it was a way for people to kind of relive the experience of being in that space or to, or to get insights into how people, how people experience this, but in, you know, we tried to get a diverse set of people, some [01:35:00] who knew the Bentway, some who didn't, um, and then, you know, basically we capture that data in order to, uh, at some point in the future, you can imagine that data being very useful for, When redeveloping another area underneath the Bentway or elsewhere.

Um, and, you know, so that was kind of the AU exhibit, but it's really like, it's, you know, looking at ways to, um, involve people in the process of sort of understanding how the built environment functions for them. Um, and, and surfacing that in some way. With the potential of it influencing the design process.

So yeah, I think that kind of speaks to a little bit to what you were talking about. Yeah.

Evan Troxel: I think that's fascinating. I, I guess maybe we can, we can wrap up. I have, this particular point has really led me to want to ask you this last question, which is, how important [01:36:00] That is the research arm of Autodesk. I mean, to you, but also like thinking of it big picture, because what I'm what I'm looking to get insight out of is how important is it for Thank you very an AEC firm to have their own version of this as well and what kinds of things, like you probably have a bigger budget than most AEC firms for, for R& D, but R& D is something that I think should be happening in all of AEC and I don't, it's not, right?

I mean, like it's happening in the large firms for sure. Um, the budget number is probably still too small. How important is it? Like, what, I'm sure it's driving value, but I would love to hear it from you. Why, why you think this is so important and what people can, could get out of doing R& D.

Kean Walmsley: Yeah, so I think I think there is value in having you know, the loud it's it's interesting. I mean, [01:37:00] Going back far enough, I mean, Autodesk was always a fast follower, right? In terms of our business strategy, it was not necessarily to be the first to break ground or to do something significant. It was to, how can we democratize exist, you know, not existing technology, but take, you know, stuff that's like a hundred grand and make it available for 10 grand or, you know, that same sort of order of magnitude reduction in cost.

Um, So it was always about that democratization aspect. And so, I think really that shifted. When, you know, under Carl Bass and Jeff Kowalski was CTO back in the day. And they really sort of, you know, Jeff made the decision to sort of build out this research function. We'd, we'd acquired Alias, um, in Toronto.

So we already had this core of researchers

that, you know, served as the kind of seed for us to build out this, this, this larger organization. Um, I think it is, it's, it's hard for me to put, uh, I don't know [01:38:00] like a number on how valuable it is, but I think that it's really important for large, I think it's really important for small companies that large companies like Autodesk are doing this work

Evan Troxel: hmm. Mm

Kean Walmsley: because I just don't think they have the scope to do it

Evan Troxel: You're doing it on their

Kean Walmsley: essentially create, you know, yeah, I mean, I know, I don't want to, it sounds funny to say that, but at some level, yes, I mean, I think it's, it's, it's the big players, of course, they have their own bespoke.

and capabilities and possibly don't have the incentives in place to actually make that better for the industry as a whole, whereas, you know, or it's a self interest, but yes, I mean, we have that interest to sort of extend our, our tool set to sort of enable these emerging workflows that otherwise would not be possible for, um.

For smaller companies. So I, you know, I, [01:39:00] I think, I think it's important, you know, I, I do think that, that, um, we, I, so I, I don't necessarily think that investing heavily as a small company in some very So the esoteric research type thing that may or may not pay dividends. I don't think smaller companies have the sort of risk tolerance to do that in quite this way.

So I w I wouldn't always recommend it. I think that in a general sense, so, I mean, and I would sort of separate this idea of research in the sense that we're looking at from having some programming capability in house, right. Which I think is increasingly valuable for everybody. You know, I, everybody in the industry, I think if you don't have, you know, why not everybody, but, you know, I think that it's becoming more important for people to have some fluency with customization and [01:40:00] programming technologies.

And increasingly it'll extend to the use of AI and having fluency around, around that as well. I think those are the things that are really going to allow you to allow smaller companies to stay competitive and Um, do, do, do more with less, I guess, in that sense. So I think it is,


I think that's important.

Um, yeah.

Evan Troxel: Yeah.

I appreciate that because it isn't available to everybody, not everybody has the resources or the budget, you know, resources could include people or hardware or software or time, right, to chase after that stuff, but it, so, so I appreciate you adding the perspective that the work that you're doing at some level is on behalf of Those who are, don't have those resources and, and so that, that's a really important point to make.

I appreciate that this has been a fun conversation. We've gone all over the place and [01:41:00] we've traveled the world. We traveled through time and it has been. It's been really fun to have and I appreciate you taking the time to tell your story and the story of what you're working on today at Autodesk. And it's, it's been great.

I hope people. Uh, enjoy it as much as I did. So I'll put links to everywhere. People can find you on the internet, on LinkedIn, your website, your blog, the tools that you're working on with Vasa and, uh, and your course at AU. I think it would be great for people to catch up on that as well. Is there anywhere else that you want to point people toward?

Kean Walmsley: no, not off the top of my head, but you know, if people want to click connect on LinkedIn or, you know, on, on. Um, you know, I don't post quite as much on X, um, as, as I might once have, uh, but I do still, you know, all my blog content goes out, goes out through, um, through LinkedIn and Twitter or X, uh, as well.

Uh, but yes, I mean, I'd just love to hear from people, um, you know, reach [01:42:00] out, um, and get in touch and thank you for. Thank you for inviting me. It was a very pleasant surprise and, uh, you know, I love what you do and it's been, you know, it's been a pleasure coming on. Yeah,

Evan Troxel: I look forward to, hopefully we can do this again in the future.

Kean Walmsley: I hope so.

Evan Troxel: All right. Talk to you soon.

Kean Walmsley: Thanks, Evan.