Hand Gestures: The Future of CAD?

As we’ve discussed in previous blogs, CAD drafting has revolutionized the way designers and industries plan and manufacture their products. By taking the labor and time intensive design process and making it completely digital, CAD software has streamlined the development process for architects, engineers, product designers, and amateur creators alike. But the latest revolution in computer aided design may be a radical change in how designers create and interact with the digital designs themselves.

Late last year, entrepreneur Elon Musk announced that he had created a process that allowed him to interact with an 3D design of a rocket part using only body motions and gestures. Musk also announced that he planned to further develop the technology, using manual motion control to make the CAD design process faster and more intuitive.

From Fiction to Reality

When he announced his new hand gesture-controlled CAD program, Musk cited the fictional designer/superhero Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, as his inspiration. Anyone who has seen the movies starring Robert Downey, Jr. as Stark has seen the fictional technology that inspired Musk’s latest developments, including a digital computer interface that allows Stark to manipulate the designs for his super-powered armor with just his hands. Similar fictional future-tech has appeared in sci-fi movies such as Minority Report. If Musk is successful in his efforts, that kind of motion-controlled design interface will go from becoming speculative fiction to reality.

Other Developments

Musk isn’t the only one working to make hand gestures the de facto way that 3D designs are created and altered. Researchers at Purdue University are busy at work creating a similar program, called Shape-It-Up, which will allow CAD users to create designs with their hands. The head of the project, Professor Karthik Ramani, says that his goal is to make the design process easier to learn and simpler to use, creating an entry level tool for those new to computer aided design and 3D printing. Describing the current CAD process in an interview with Science World as a “non-intuitive and cumbersome process” that requires extensive training, Ramani believes that his team’s hand-motion-controlled program will open up the field of design and manufacturing by removing the barrier between professional and amateur. “[Shake-It-Up] allows people to express their ideas rapidly and quickly using hand motions alone,” says Ramani. “We’re democratizing the design process. You don’t have to be an engineer to use this.”

Like Professor Ramani, Musk speaks of motion-controlled design technology as something that will simplify the design and manufacturing process. “If you can just go in there and do what you need to do . . . as opposed to figuring out how to make a computer make it work,” Musk said in a video that introduced his new technology, “you can achieve a lot more in a lot shorter period of time.” If hand gesture controls really are the future of CAD technology as Musk and Ramani predict, then the next revolution in computer aided design will be one that greatly alters the design process and makes it faster, more adaptable, and easier to learn than ever before.

For more information on developments on CAD and digital design, speak with a member of Q-CAD’s computer design team at 800-700-3305.

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