Research at AIIT

Dialog with an Uncertain Future / Excerp (Irregular updates)

The 20th Installment"The Redo-able World of Digital Engineering"

by Toshitake Tateno,
Associate Professor, Masters Program of Innovation for Design and Engineering

In games of go or shogi, you can’t get away with “Wait, I want to do that over.” Sports cannot be competitive if it allows “That one didn’t count.” Humans are predisposed to making mistakes. Therefore the more a person is aware of that, the more that person makes decisions after great care and consideration. It’s the same in engineering. You have to design and develop amid many considerations, because the later a design correction comes, the more time and cost it will require. Recalls create enormous losses.

The recent trend, however, is toward simply going out and trying things rather than giving them careful thought. Digital engineering makes this possible in design; you create something similar to the real thing on a computer, and you continue the design process while assessing the shape and testing its functions. Since you aren’t making the real thing, you don’t need materials or sculpting. You can also make as many copies as you like, which makes it easy to create multiple products with small variations. There are many other benefits, but the greatest is that you can “take back” anything.

In real life under the second law of thermodynamics, once something is dispersed it won’t return to its original state. That’s why we say it’s no use crying over spilled milk. But in the virtual world, you can take back anything that happens. You can redo anything from a desired time as if riding a time machine. This is an enviable world. You can make all the mistakes you want but go back and clean up the problems, and ultimately reach your goal.

In a world that accepts redos, you’re obviously better off the more you take advantage of them. Try out lots of things first, and then choose one that works. This can yield results just as good as if you had taken the time to think things through in many different ways. In these times of rapid technological advancement and product replacements, we have no time to give things much thought. People who take advantage of redos can continue to create new products that incorporate new technology. Those who can’t redo will take the time to create a good product only to find that it’s outdated by the time it’s done. Today’s cell phones are a typical example.

Now why, when redos temporarily reverse the design process, does it ultimately speed up design? You’re saying stop and going back, so why is this an advancement rather than a setback?

Let’s think about what happens if we stop a game of go, do a take-back, and then resume it. We see this on TV a lot when the commentators place stones hypothetically: “This move would then yield this move, and then that; now let’s return to the game.” Here you’re learning as you stop and take things back.

No matter how much the virtual world allows redos it’s no use if they don’t lead to learning. It’s the same in numerical analysis. Comparing the results derived and simply choosing the best one would halve the value of the analysis. Thinking why it is the best result and learning it pushes your understanding further and connects with your next design. That speeds product innovation.

People often say “learn from your mistakes,” but if you make too many mistakes in the real world you won’t recover. In digital engineering though, you can learn from making many mistakes. Digital engineering is a wonderful education tool.

But it’s disappointing that we hardly see it used that way. AIIT has classes where design uses 3D-CAD, and most of the students study this eagerly. But when they go on to design in their own in classes such as PBL, many students hesitate to use it. They say it’s difficult to operate, but you can learn as you redo. They say they don’t have the time, but it’s a lot better than failing on the real thing. You can make as many mistakes as you want in a virtual world. I hope that you will try creating things in the virtual world. Its redo feature can train people.

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  • The 21st Installment

    “Study is play. That’s why it’s fun!”

    by Yosuke Tsuchiya,
    Assistant Professor, Masters Program of Information Systems Architecture
  • The 20th Installment

    "The Redo-able World of Digital Engineering"

    by Toshitake Tateno,
    Associate Professor, Masters Program of Innovation for Design and Engineering
  • The 19th Installment

    “Memories of Numeric, a Joint-Stock Company”

    by Yoshihide Chubachi,
    Associate Professor, Master's Program of Information Systems Architecture