How Artificial Intelligence (AI) will help Autodesk expand into the metaverse

We’re excited to bring Transform 2022 back in person on July 19 and around July 20-28. Join AI and data leaders for insightful conversations and exciting networking opportunities. Register today!


For the 40-year-old Autodesk—known for the design and creation software (including AutoCAD) used by professionals in industries including architecture, engineering, construction, manufacturing and entertainment—artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming essential to help foster creativity and collaboration.

“The common theme is to help the designer,” said Tonya Kostis, director of AI research at Autodesk, whose team includes 15 AI researchers based in San Francisco, Toronto and London.

But AI will also help Autodesk expand in metaverse. According to Custis, Autodesk’s use of AI also helps address challenges related to “understanding geometry” – to help contextualize the engineering world around us – which will be “extremely important” as the metaverse expands, in terms of accelerating animation and CGI processes as well as in engineering Architecture and engineering.

“It’s about how we understand the geometry of the world around us – not just of things, but of space,” she said, adding that Autodesk’s AI efforts will “certainly” be as important as metaverse develop. “For example, how is space organized? What are the things in it? How do we divide it into geometry, and then what are its functions – because the computer does not know that.”

AI investments democratizing technology

Media coverage acknowledges that Autodesk, along with companies such as Meta, Roblox, Microsoft and Nvidia, May play a role in building the metaverse.

This may include the role that Autodesk investments and purchases have played: San Rafael, California, recently announced its investment in Radical, a New York-based developer whose AI combines modern deep learning strategies, human biomechanics, and computer graphics to estimate, track, and reproduce joint cycles. 3D architecture from a single traditional video feed. From videos to metaverses, this data can be used to automate 3D character animations and avatars — and it doesn’t require special hardware, training, or custom coding.

Investing in Radical follows Autodesk Obsession Moxion, with its cloud solution for digital newspapers, last January and November Obsession Tangent Labs is a cloud-based animation software company.

“Autodesk has a lot of tools that people use to make things in the professional space for things like animation and movies, but in terms of content creation, those tools are becoming more and more ubiquitous,” Custis said. “So Autodesk’s investment in a company like Radical is democratizing a lot of that technology.”

AI helps Autodesk, not hinders it

But Autodesk is most well known for its work in architecture, engineering and construction, particularly through their AutoCAD software. “My AI research team, in particular, is working on things like creating the floor plan, while there are some project product teams working on using machine learning to smooth the sequence of commands, to make it easier to import information from the drawing,” she said. “A lot of architects like to use paper to make their designs and then they have to be translated into CAD – so it’s a waste of time for them.”

Since many AutoCAD users are experts—often with college degrees in using the software—there is a fine line between useful automation and remote control. “It has a lot to do with how we introduce algorithms that automate things that will save time, but also give them the agency to make choices, or give them recommendations that they can then choose,” she said. “It’s definitely a collaborative AI environment on the part of AEC.”

As for manufacturers, Custis said her team is working closely with Autodesk’s Fusion product, on issues such as deep learning for 3D CAD models. “For example, we teach a computer to learn how to put assemblies together, like all the parts you need to build a unicycle,” she said. “And then, can we teach certain bots to do this, once we understand what the steps are, what’s required, and how the pieces go together?”

Artificial intelligence and generative design

Autodesk also places great emphasis on AI-based generative design, in which “designers or engineers enter design objectives into a generative design program, along with criteria such as performance or spatial requirements, materials, manufacturing methods, and cost constraints. The program explores all solution possible permutations, and quickly generates design alternatives. It tests and learns from each iteration what works and what doesn’t.”

During the discussion about Use of large language models Custis said it’s all the rage right now, as they’re offering use cases very relevant to Autodesk, particularly in media and entertainment.

“It’s definitely something we look at closely and we’re actually also working with OpenAI,” she said. “I think generative models are really exciting in our space — the path in machine learning is usually first we do things to text, then we do things to images, then we do things to videos, and then we do things to 3D — so this is happening now. ”

She emphasized that the ultimate goal at Autodesk is to use artificial intelligence to help users have more time to be more creative.

“We don’t want to replace them, we don’t want to take their job from them,” she said. “But we want to give them more flexibility and agency about how they use their time and support that creativity.”

As for Autodesk’s impact on the metaverse, Custis said the future is not yet clear.

“There is a place and a lot of the work that my team is working on in AI research is highly applicable,” she said. “But I can’t predict how these very things will turn out.”