Autodesk acquires Norwegian AI firm Spacemaker for £181m
Autodesk, the international software solutions provider, has signed a definitive agreement to buy Spacemaker, a Norwegian AI firm, for £180.9 million cash.
The acquisition provides Autodesk with a powerful platform to drive modern, user-centric automation – powered by artificial intelligence – and accelerate outcome-based design capabilities for architects.
Based out of Oslo, Spacemarker uses cloud-based, AI and generative design to help architects, urban designers, and real estate developers make more informed early-stage design decisions faster, and enables improved opportunities for sustainability from the start, according to the statement.
By evaluating the best options from the outset, Spacemaker helps architects maximise their client’s long-term property investments, it adds.
“Spacemaker is a lesson in the power of insights and automation, giving designers the ability to create and test urban design ideas in minutes,” says Andrew Anagnost, CEO and President of Autodesk.
“With two billion more people expected to call our planet home by 2050, speed of design and sustainability in urban planning must be priorities. Spacemaker technology offers a fundamental shift in how we imagine and build cities to keep people and the planet healthy.”
Autodesk adds that with Spacemaker’s platform, design professionals can rapidly create and evaluate options for a building or urban development. With AI as a partner to the architect, the platform enables users to quickly generate, optimise, and iterate on design alternatives, all while considering design criteria and data such as terrain, maps, wind, lighting, traffic and zoning.
Furthermore, the platform quickly returns design alternatives optimised for the full potential of the site, thus leading to better outcomes from the start and allows designers to focus on the creative part of their professional work.
“Our values are always reflected in the business decisions we make. The acquisition of Spacemaker demonstrates our commitment to the advancement of architects and the ability of designers to change the world for the better,” adds Amy Bunszel, senior vice president for AEC Design Solutions at Autodesk.
“Paired with our teams and complementary technology, Spacemaker’s transformational solution will empower designers to make more informed design decisions and help solve some of the greatest challenges ahead of us all.”
Daniel Kjørberg Siraj, CEO of OBOS,said real-estate developers in Norway are at the forefront of the digital transformation in the building sector, which has resulted in increased project profitability, and critically, an improved ability to combat climate change with more sustainable real estate developments.
“Game-changers such as Spacemaker are part of the solution, and it is critical to give them the scale that they need in order to be impactful. As an early investor and adopter, I am incredibly pleased to see Spacemaker joining Autodesk and am looking forward to seeing Norwegian-born technology transform the industry at a global scale,” Siraj states.
The transaction, subject to customary closing conditions, is expected to close during Autodesk’s Q4 fiscal 2021, ending January 31.
Will AR transform hospital construction?
The pandemic has focused minds on healthcare like never before with construction projects mushrooming globally.
Overall, the New Hospital Programme within the government’s long-term health infrastructure plan will help develop new sustainability standards, planning capabilities and care and workforce models. It will also implement "cutting-edge digital technologies" across the NHS, and will support an integrated approach to building new healthcare infrastructure using modern methods of construction.
One of those technologies gathering momentum is Augmented Reality (AR), which projects virtual images into the user’s line of sight, and can be used on-site as a tool for creating the structure exactly as the design intended.
According to a Research Dive report, the global AR in healthcare market is projected to generate revenue of $1,918.6 million by 2026, at a CAGR of 25.5% in the forecast period from 2019-2026.
London-based construction technology start-up XYZ Reality and UCL, were recently awarded a government grant, via UKRI and the Innovate UK Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP), to develop XYZ Reality’s AR solution.
Founded in 2017, XYZ Reality developed Engineering-Grade AR to tackle some of the most pervasive and costly issues facing the construction industry. Its technology enables users to view hyperscale BIM models on-site in real-time and to millimetre accuracy, making it particularly beneficial for projects with complex MEP services, such as hospitals or data centres.
Dr Grant Mills, Faculty Lead for Health and Associate Professor, said hospitals are complex construction environments because of the sheer range of MEP services involved. "This often leads to clashes and errors in the build phase, and the need for expensive and time-consuming re-work," he said.
Prof Duncan Wilson, Professor of Connected Environments in UCL Bartlett CASA, said the grant offers an important opportunity to understand how AR can help different users interact digitally with the environment in novel ways, and by doing so improve productivity, and deliver time and cost savings.
XYZ Reality’s founder and CEO David Mitchell said its Engineering-Grade AR technology is already being deployed on construction projects with the same levels of complexity as hospital builds, and is generating significant time and cost savings.
"I’m passionate about supporting the NHS, so I’m glad that this research will enable us to fully understand the benefits that our technology can offer these specific projects, and help those constructing UK hospitals to build it right, first time," he said.
New technologies were key to delivering projects in double-quick time as the pandemic swept the world.
The North Lantau Hospital Hong Kong Infection Control Centre opened in late February following five months of construction. Using BIM, it produced 3D renditions of architectural projects, and shared layouts and other information with factories in mainland China, reducing on-site construction waste.
According to estimates by Goldman Sachs, AR and VR are expected to grow into a $95 billion market by 2025.
But in terms of AR and new tech's benefits to healthcare, it's still early days. The King's Fund study published in April found "very little evidence of their impact on the health system to date, or benefits such as cost-effectiveness," though AR is being used for surgical planning and training.