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SMARTSKETCHES: A multimodal approach to improve usability in the early stages of product design

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A creative approach to computer-aided design

Computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacture (CAM) systems are commonly used in engineering applications. The SmartSketches project has extended such systems to allow for their use in more creative or artistic design applications.

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While engineers increasingly use CAD and CAM techniques in implementing new designs, the initial creative work is still, more often than not, carried out with a pencil and paper. This can lead to a gap between the designer's vision and the product as defined by a CAD system using geometric forms. The SmartSketches project has sought to bridge this gap by allowing designers to work more freely with the computer system, sketching ideas just as they would on paper. The project also produced a framework for integrating the components of the system, including interface specification, new service templates and seamless collaboration strategies. The project addresses the needs of creative designers, currently overlooked by CAD/CAM solutions, and aims to overcome their concerns about the potential limitations imposed on artistic creativity. By introducing CAD/CAM systems to a new class of design professionals, SmartSketches could assist in developing innovative products, as well as addressing the challenges of updating traditional industrial manufacturing techniques. The project prototype could be further developed to work with new user interfaces, immersive environments and 3D input devices. The developed framework for the integration of the various components of the system would also facilitate collaborative work by partner organisations.

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