Who says social media technology and video functionality don't fit into the 3D CAD domain? In yet an another acquisition that might leave some diehard CAD aficionados scratching their heads, Autodesk is plunking down $60 million to acquire a small company I bet a lot of Design News' readers never knew existed: Socialcam, which provides a popular mobile app and Web-based service that lets users capture, edit, and share video.
What does a consumer video sharing service have to do with hard-core professional engineering? Autodesk officials say video can enhance the communication around design, particularly in a social, collaborative medium.
"Video is a powerful tool for storytelling and one that we believe can be more widely applied across the design and engineering workflow," Samir Hanna, vice president of the Autodesk Consumer Group, told us in an email exchange about the acquisition. "These are collaborative processes that require communication at every stage, from concept through to production."
With Socialcam, Hanna said, users can share videos in real-time from anywhere -- a capability lending itself to scenarios where engineers take video into the field and share it with key stakeholders to illustrate design changes or to document certain milestones.
The Socialcam smartphone app and Web-based service makes it easy to capture, edit, and share videos.
The Socialcam deal is Autodesk's latest move to flesh out its consumer-oriented design and content creation portfolio. It has been slowly laying down a technology foundation to accommodate do-it-yourselfers and support what it and many in the industry are calling "personal manufacturing." (See: 3D Modeling & Printing for 'Personal Manufacturing'.)
Specifically, Autodesk has released its Autodesk 123D family, including 123D Catch and 123 Make, to let anyone (not just would-be engineers) design and output original creations. There is also SketchBook, an online consumer drawing and paint service. Other acquisitions in this space have included the online photo editor Pixlr and the how-to site Instructables, where people swap ideas and methods for building things.
"Now with Socialcam, we will be able to bring video into that mix so that everyone has access to a range of creative tools so they can tell their story," Hanna told us.
Autodesk isn't the only 3D CAD company to dive into social media waters. We reported in April on Dassault Systemes buying NetVibes, a provider of what it calls sentiment analytics technology. NetVibes is being melded into Dassault's next-generation 3D Experience strategy, which will help companies capture what customers are saying and thinking about their products as part of the early design and requirement-gathering stage of product development.
Autodesk officials said it plans to invest in scaling the Socialcam platform, developing a more comprehensive set of tools for its users, and leveraging the technology to make its professional film and video content creation tools accessible to a broader audience. The Socialcam transaction is expected to close this quarter.