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Vectorworks and "Intelligent/Predictive" Tools

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Hi Jim (or anyone else),


I have a general question about the future of Vectorworks development.  What is Vectorworks doing (if anything) with incorporating predictive analytics, and/or rule-based intelligence, and/or machine learning technologies into the functioning of Vectorworks? 


Bentley, Graphisoft, and Autodesk have all introduced predictive / intelligent tools in the last few years.  These are all early forays into incorporating predictive analytics and/or intelligence into their overall toolsets.  What is Vectorworks doing in this regard? 


I ask because I have really come to enjoy using Vectorworks, but I am on the fence committing to it as my primary design and BIM-authoring tool package.  I followed Vectorworks development for a long time before starting to use it and my impression is that Vectorworks 6-7 years ago was not at all competitive with Revit, AECOsim, or ArchiCAD as a BIM authoring tool and as a design tool ( back then, it had 32-bit architecture, out-dated geometry kernel, limited 3d capabilities, limited support for IFC, limited/no scripting/graphical scripting capabilities, limited ability to handle large data sets, limited visualization capabilities, no building performance analysis, more problematic file exchange performance).  In the last several years, Vectorworks has made up an incredible amount of ground at an incredible pace and is now as strong as or stronger than each of the other major tools in some ways.  I'm not saying that Vectorworks is "the best program" in all areas.  But I think that it is a very competitive BIM authoring tool.  Right now it is an incredible value.  And its focus on the user needs does seem to have yielded great, easy, fast, intuitive workflows. 


But the near future of BIM authoring tool development seems to be in reducing time to develop designs and improving design performance validation by incorporating predictive analytics and rule-based intelligence such that designers indicate design intent (for instance by laying out a stair, a road, a sketch line, a room, a roof line, etc. with some conceptual strokes) and then the program applies a combination of a set of rules and perhaps some learning about typical user preferences in order to instantaneously complete the geometry so that the designer may then evaluate the repercussions of the particular strategy on the overall design instantaneously.  Graphisoft and Bentley have both introduced tools that offer this ability.  In addition to its stair tool, Graphisoft also uses predictive technology to allocate computing resources more efficiently to speed up workflow.  Bentley is probably leading with regard to automating and integrating context capture, automated conversion of point cloud data to usable models, and civil infrastructure design, and is also using predictive technology to improve its help assistant (Connect Advisor).  Autodesk is deploying predictive analytics with regard to sketching and performance data management, among other applications.  And yet a search of the Vectorworks Community forum yielded no results for "Vectorworks"+"predictive analytics" or +"rule-based intelligence", nor did a google search.


So what is Vectorworks doing with predictive analytics and rule-based intelligence and machine learning?  Is it staying  competitive?  Or will we realize over the next several years that Vectorworks has allowed a significant gap to develop with regard to predictive analytics and rule-based intelligent tools compared to its competitors and that it then has to close that gap in order to catch up with where the industry is?


Thanks in advance for your response(s). 







Edited by jmanganelli
correct grammar
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  • Vectorworks, Inc Employee

Hi Joe, and thanks for posting on this timely topic. I think that my answer to your question lies in the way we've implemented our algorithmic design tool, Marionette. Marionette is an open source design environment that is 100% Python based and can make use of any Python library out there. So any library that you need (NumPy, SciPy, Pandas, MatPlotLib, GeoPy, etc., etc.) can be downloaded and included. I don't think the power of this can be overstated. 


Sarah Barrett, one of our Marionette evangelists, has done a number of "infographic" Marionette definitions that you can see over at our Marionette page. Climate data, psychrometric charts, etc. Below is one of her popular ones that uses e.g. GeoPy.


There are other advantages on using Vectorworks as an algorithmic design platform, not the least of which is the degree of integration that you can build between your BIM model and your algorithmic design functionality. Imagine a prototypical building that could be deployed across a region, and could optimize its sun shading and photovoltaic array automatically on each site. This can be done today using Vectorworks' Marionette tool.


I'm working (as we speak) on a Marionette presentation for next month that I will vid-cap and share with the Marionette forum here. Look for it!


Thanks again for posting and your kind words on Vectorworks.

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Hi Robert,


Thank you for the detailed response. 


The 100% python-based nature of Marionette is one of the things to which I was referring when I said that Vectorworks has done an incredible job of implementing a number of significant enhancements in a short while that are very competitive in the industry. 


Are there any plans to further explore (and/or make documentation for) use cases that leverage these capabilities?  Perhaps with regard to vehicular or pedestrian flow optimization?  Daylighting optimization?  Code compliance?

Edited by jmanganelli
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  • Vectorworks, Inc Employee

Hi Joe,


There are some already-existing solutions for pedestrian flow (look up SimTread on our website.)

There is a group of researchers at LSU that are developing some code compliance checking based on Marionette at the current time. I'll check in with the lead researcher to see what we can share here.

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