2012 SketchUp 3D Basecamp Recap

Now that the fourth SketchUp 3D Basecamp is over and the participants are heading home, it’s time to look back and recap some of the news and things that happened at the event. But first I have to say that Trimble’s SketchUp gang has yet again put together an amazing event in Boulder, their hometown. I enjoyed every minute of it and unfortunately had to head back home a bit too early (because of other commitments).

So in case you missed it, here’s what happened:

Day 1 – State of the Union, Keynote and Presentations

The first day’s presentations were held at the Boulder Theater, a beautiful, historic place in the center of town.

After some welcoming words by Aidan Chopra, SketchUp’s Product Evangelist (and untiring organizer of the event), John Bacus, Product Manager for SketchUp introduced Trimble Sector VP Bryn Fosburgh. In his short speech, Bryn assured users how much Trimble is invested (and investing!) in SketchUp and how SketchUp fills a void centered on Architecture in Trimble’s portfolio. He also outlined how SketchUp will be used as a “platform” for various endeavors and that there always will be a free version.

How popular is SketchUp

When John returned to the stage afterwards, he had similarly positive, forward-looking words. He also announced some SketchUp-related news that can be summarized as:

  • SketchUp will switch to a predictable annual release cycle. Therefore, the next release will be “SketchUp 2013”. (Apparently they won’t be playing Autodesk’s game of naming it 2014 in 2013)
  • The SketchUp folks are very much working on the next version of the 3D Warehouse. It will include WebGL technology that has already been included in the SketchUp Showcase.
  • 45% of SketchUp users use plugins. Hence, some of the main foci of this event were plugins and Ruby scripting.
  • SketchUp is trying out open-source code development for some of its components. You can already see this happen on their GitHub site.
  • The first project in this repository, released at Basecamp, is a more powerful Ruby Console, the Developer Console. It allows for multi-line editing and is extensible.
  • The second project, also released at Basecamp, is the TestUp software that allows Ruby code developers to use the same unit-testing platform that SketchUp uses internally to test and debug their plugins and other Ruby components.
  • What got the biggest cheers (especially from Bre Pettis, founder of MakerBot), was the release of a STL importer/exporter, also open-sourced in the GitHub archive. It is based on work by plugin developers and makes STL export of models (for 3D printing) easier.
  • There will always be a free SketchUp version and an affordable Pro version.
  • SketchUp is hiring! If you are interested, look here.

After these morning presentations, it was time for a boxed lunch and a roundup of rendering software that included Bloom Unit, iRender nXtPodium, Render[in]Shaderlight, Thea and VRay.

Rendering software panel

After this visually very exciting set of presentations, it was time for a product showcase for various other tools that extend SketchUp:

  • BuildEdge – A BIM-like extension for walls and Roofs (for now) in SketchUp
  • sunglass.io – A browser-based (WebGL) 3D-model viewer and collaboration platform
  • Product Connect – A plugin that can enrich any object-based SketchUp model with (manufacturer-)data
  • 4D Virtual Builder – A way to add construction schedule data to a SketchUp model for construction planning

Eagerly awaited by everyone in the audience was the next program point – a keynote by Bre Pettis, founder of MakerBot (he is currently on the cover of WIRED magazine).

Bre Pettis of MakerBot

Bre delivered an uplifting presentation that showed where he (and the entire maker movement for that matter) came from and how curious experimentation can lead to great things. He also showcased the MakerBot Replicator 2 (their latest model) and advocated “Made in America” (their 3D printers are made right in Brooklyn). Finally, he emphasized how much SketchUp was “close to his heart”.

The evening event at Boulder’s Absinthe House was expectably great with the program highlights having been the pitching of Unconference sessions for the next day and a SketchUp-pified version of Pictionary.

Some other reports on the event(s) of the day: MasterSketchUp

Day 2 – Unconference User Presentations

Day 2 was completely devoted to presentations by users and product manufacturers. It was a chance to learn a lot about what is possible with SketchUp. Here’s a lineup (with my presentation on the right):

Unconference sessions (mine is on the right)

Alternative to these sessions, two “Ruby 101” half-day courses were offered in nearby Hotel Boulderado. The event space at Rembrandt Yard was also filled with exhibitors showing off many of the wares we saw in the first day’s presentations.

An Unconference session

Below are the slides from my presentation. You can also download them as a PDF here.

As you can see in the last slide, my presentation gave a preview of some of the topics that are included in my forthcoming book “Architectural Design with SketchUp” (release date is November 14th).

Day 3 – Ruby Developer Conference and Design Charrette

Unfortunately I had to leave after Day 2 and therefore could participate neither in the Ruby Developers Conference nor the Design Charrette on this day. You can find summaries of those events here:

  • Ruby Developers Conference program and comments
  • From what I have heard through Google+: “Day 3 also had the Design Charrette where 15 teams were challenged to design “A wired, wireless classroom for the next 50 years” and “A system for organizing portable devices”. The demonstrations were amazing, and the winning teams battled it out with intense SketchUp trivia to win MarkerBot Replicators.”

Image Gallery

Below is my complete image gallery from the 3D Basecamp:

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