by James Hughes
Director of Technical Services, ATG USA


For a few years now, Autodesk has partnered with Microsoft Hololens to create proof-of-concept Augmented Reality.

In November, Autodesk cited three movies as examples of what their Project Freeform will be like. Autodesk said it would be a future like seen in Minority Report, Star Wars, and Back to the Future.

It struck me as odd to use cinema to explain a product in development, but describing Augmented Reality verbally is admittedly difficult. And while I appreciate their use of cinema touchstones as a shorthand for what the experience is like, there’s more to it than that – Augmented Reality owes its existence to cinema.

Futurists and Science Fiction writers have brought about many inventions by inspiring young product engineers (nerds) through cinema: Self-driving cars, 3D printers, ear buds, flat screen TVs, Apple Watches, bionic limbs, video chat, and tablet computers, just to name a few.

Let’s add Augmented Reality to that list.

It is tempting to point to Star Trek for its holodeck as an ultimate simulation space. Or Marvel’s X-Men comic book fans might think of the Danger Room. Each example had large empty rooms that engaged all of the senses rather than simply sight and sound.

Autodesk has properly tempered expectations for what the experience of manipulating a hologram superimposed onto a flat surface would be like. In just a few years, we will experience this phenomenal shift in the way we shape the built environment.



James Hughes, AIA, is the Technical Services Director for ATG USA, Inc., in North Little Rock, Ark. James knew at age 11 that he wanted to be an architect. It began with a love of drawing that turned into a passion for design. In college, he branched into graphic design and earned a degree in that field as well. James has more than 12 years of architectural experience, including seven years in mentored internship and five years as a project coordinator.  As a licensed architect in Arkansas, most of his work has been in the fields of education, higher education, federal, postal and state parks.  James is a certified product specialist in Autodesk Revit and works with customers throughout the Midwest and Gulf South to enhance their design process through product adoption and training.