Let’s Get Comfortable with Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Roger Orban June 30, 2021 3 min read

Many designers and engineers fear that artificial intelligence and machine learning will take over their jobs. However, the reality is quite the opposite. This article explores how AI and machine learning are enhancing design workflows.

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Integrating automated simulation and automated design with artificial intelligence (AI) has given rise to a new design methodology: generative design. Many companies have already taken advantage of the value of generative design. Still, others, engineers and designers have shied away from this technology for fear that it may replace them. Some think a robo-apocalypse where AI robots take over is coming, but that can be chalked up to too much time watching Terminator movies.

There has been much debate over the value of artificial intelligence and machine learning. Many people describe the two technological advancements as “Black Boxes.” To have an intelligent discussion, we must first understand and agree on artificial intelligence and machine learning definitions.

Artificial Intelligence describes when computer systems can perform tasks that typically require human intelligence without human interference. Computers that can perform visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation are all examples of AI.

Machine learning is considered a part of artificial intelligence. It describes computer algorithms that automatically improve through experience, thus helping artificial intelligence become and stay intelligent. 

When it comes to the design process, artificial intelligence and machine learning have enabled designers to automate the ideation stage. As a result, designers can surface new concepts that are stronger, lighter, more complex, more consolidated, and often more affordable.

According to Virtual Strategy Magazine, the global generative design market is expected to grow from $111M USD in 2018 to USD $275M USD by 2023, at a CAGR of 19.9% during the forecast period. One of my jobs at the Autodesk Generative Design Field Lab is to help our customers understand the value of generative design. During these conversations, artificial intelligence and machine learning are eventually brought up.

There is often fear or pushback when Fusion 360 users learn that the underlying technology that helps define how generative design accomplishes its task is artificial intelligence and machine learning. Many people incorrectly assume that artificial intelligence will eventually replace them, their functions, and their jobs.

Most people don’t realize that artificial intelligence has been around for over 50 years. The term “artificial intelligence” was coined at a conference at Dartmouth College in 1956. Today, artificial intelligence and machine learning have infiltrated our daily lives, helping us be more efficient by providing insights into our daily tasks.

As I know from personal experience, artificial intelligence can correctly diagnose cancer and other serious medical disorders early. AI also protects us by detecting credit card and banking fraud before it happens. Do you use Spotify to listen to music? Artificial intelligence determines what you may want to listen to based on past listening history. Every time you do a Google search and make selections, you’re helping Google build its massive artificial intelligence engine. Ever wonder why relevant ads based on one’s search history pop up in your browser? AI. Whenever you watch movies or TV via a streaming platform, artificial intelligence determines what suggestions show up for you to watch next based on your preferences. Most shopping sites, including Amazon, use artificial intelligence to decide what might interest you. These are just a few examples — I’m sure you can think of others.

The term “artificial intelligence” may be somewhat overblown. Today, technologies referred to as “AI” are more analogous to a decision support engine rather than to what many think artificial intelligence is (some type of sentient being that can take their job).

Today, commercially available artificial intelligence systems only address a single aspect of its definition. Artificial intelligence can’t exist on its own without humans to develop, deploy, manage, and maintain it.  Without humans, it’s nothing more than code. Do not fear the technology or its terminology. Computers and software are a long way off from replacing human critical thinking and dexterity. 

Generative design in Fusion 360 is a tool that designers and engineers can leverage to do their job better – to truly model behavior of all design permutations within the logical constraints of a given operating environment. Generative design takes human bias out of the equation, enabling engineers and designers to make better design decisions and explore multiple solutions that would not typically have been tested due to time, thought, or cost constraints. 

The end result is shocking to many: AI and machine learning have augmented and improved one’s ability to deliver on their job instead of hindering it. Engineers and designers that use generative design in Fusion 360 are more productive and valuable. Give generative design in Fusion 360 a try — you may be pleasantly surprised at what you can achieve.

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