Interview with Jarl Vindnæs from Stykka.com

This post is an interview with Jarl Vindnæs from Stykka and Cotter.dk, who is a happy VR sketch user and contributed some feedback. We met Jarl during ARCHITECT@WORK Copenhagen and visited his furniture factory. The interview has been edited for clarity.

Stykka home page

Hi Jarl! Great to meet you. Can you please introduce your company, Stykka, tell our readers what it does and how does it relate to virtual reality?

Stykka is a revolutionary new service that lets businesses print furniture. We make custom furniture, in a record time of three weeks from thought to ready product at mass market prices. Most of the furniture we currently design in-house. All of our inhouse designs are made under creative commons licenses, (open source). Allowing you as an architect, space planner or others free download, modify / customize designs and print on demand. We just opened our “Stykka LAB” west of Copenhagen, Denmark. Here we invite customers and designers to come and collaborate and design directly in VR. All our designs can be downloaded in sketchup format, and using VR sketch we let users customize and tweak the designs to fit their exact needs.

How did you hear about VR Sketch? What made you try and use it?

We wanted a visually engaging way to communicate to our customers, how they can interact and print custom furniture on demand. From the start we knew we needed to give users a seamless and effortless tool to shape and sculpt the furniure. We looked at multiple solutions. Since we are currently using 3d warehouse and sketchup as a platform for all the designs we are currently releasing, we needed a simple tool that was plug and play for our development pipeline. We looked through the plugins provided in the extension warehouse and by far VR sketch seemed most promising

VR Sketch being used to design and demo furniture

How does virtual reality and VR Sketch in particular improve your workflow?

VR Sketch is an amazingly efficient way to test our designs, where you get an amazing sense of scale and proportions. Since it is integrated directly in sketchup, it is virtually effortless for us to test designs and in a short amount of time VR sketch is now an integral part of our design process and customer review process. VR Sketch lets us preview our designs directly in VR in our permanent studio setup, and since it is so friction free we use it multiple times a day to validate sizes, design features and we even go through technical details and installation processes in VR with our engineers.

I'm definitely glad to hear that. What do you want VR Sketch to do in the future? Where would you like our software to go? Where do you see role of VR in architecture/interior design/furniture design in general?

Well... To be honest, when we first installed the tool, we thought it would be a cool gimmick that would help us deliver a memorable experience to our customers and to help us show them how we worked. But we where very surprised at how efficeient this is for our workflow and how much of a game changer this has been for us. I tried a lot of VR visualisation tools before, but I think this is the first time where I really “got” how effective a tool this is for co-creation and problem solving. In our field of work, having learned a lot from inviting users to participate directly in our creative processes - and observing how people think and work with this new tool set - I know users will want and expect this level of interactiveness in the future. Customers really react to this idea of co creating and it really gives our customers a sense of ownership of the finished product So I would like to see this tool to keep pushing the limits of how intuitive a tool set can be, how can you empower users to interact, to precisely manipulate geometry, but without having to learn a lot in advance.

Do you think people will take bigger agency in designing their own houses/interiors/furniture as an effect?

Yes exactly, by empowering users and giving them a sense of actually being able to tweak and express thoughts and ideas, by making the tool set so intuitive, you allow the tech to almost disappear and for people to focus on solving problems and challenges

Furniture made by Stykka with help from VR Sketch

Do you think the era of expensive software that comes with special courses is over for architecture?

Definetly! Like with so many other creative processes, the tools are evolving so quickly For example, building a recording studio, a film set or a broadcasting studio can now be done using cheap off the shelf software that enable users to make previously unimaginable quality at a fraction of the usual cost. The true democratisation of the design process will also eventually come to furniture design and architecture..

Can you imagine future where people with their own VR headsets would use VR sketch to design furniture and Stykka would ship to them their own designs?

Yes, I think this would be an amazing opportunity to let users interact and create, while using our designs as a starting point for adapting and designing furniture for their homes, offices or where ever you might need to make custom furniture! We are aiming to launch the stykka service internationally and this will enable everyone to download design and build amazing, bespoke designs All you need is VR sketch and our “print service”!

Stykka clients using VR Sketch to design and demo furniture in virtual reality

That sounds like a very exciting future! Thanks for your vision and thanks for the interview! I surely hope stykka is a very successful new model of how to do things in the future!

Interview with Adam Wysocki from Studio de Materia

This post is an interview with Adam Wysocki from Studio de Materia, who is an early user and has contributed a lot of early feedback for VR Sketch. The interview has been translated from Polish and edited for clarity.

studio de materia

Hi Adam. Glad you could make it. I would like to ask you a few questions about your work as an architect and your experience with VR Sketch. Please introduce yourself to our readers first and tell us a bit about your work.

Hi, thanks for the interview. My name is Adam Wysocki and I’m an architect from Poznan, Poland. Since 2013, I have been running my own studio. Since then we have developed small, diverse projects, mainly residential. Our goal is to add valuable buildings to our environment through a customized architecture whose function and form are in harmony. For example, we are now building a complex of two mountain lodges in Karkonosze national park.

studio de materia

Please tell me something about your daily work - how involved are you in the various stages of the architectural projects.

My studio is very small, so I’m personally involved in all the steps, starting from the first contact with the client. During the conceptual stages of the project, I have direct contact with all the decisions made. Only during the later stages of the project, other people are getting more involved, either my co-workers or external contractors.

The first conceptual part is very important for me as this part defines the foundations of all the future decisions. The crucial piece of the conceptual part of the project is interaction with client, while taking into account the laws and restrictions on buildings. I try to put emphasis on “client first” strategy here - at the end of the day their wishes have to be articulated in the building. Creating perfectly functioning spatial choreography dressed with architectural guise that expresses my formal preferences is my goal for the design.

This part of the project often drags on, until both the client and I are satisfied with selected solutions.

studio de materia

How does virtual reality in general and VR Sketch in particular play a role here?

I had the opportunity to use virtual reality for the last couple months. This has revolutionized the conceptual part of the project. I can, directly and at all times, control the spatial relationships that happen in the project. Besides the fact that virtual reality is a great tool for designing objects at different scales, from the smallest detail to urban planning, it has immense impact on the verification of decisions taken as if they were real. For me, once I start BEING in the virtual reality, it BECOMES reality. When I enter my own project, I am able to shape it like a sculptor or demiurg.

I still begin with flat drawings in autocad and later I export them to Sketchup and VR Sketch. Modelling in virtual reality my early ideas become tested. Using virtual reality lets me experiment much more easily with new solutions that would otherwise be considered too risky.

In this day and age, Computer Aided Design is very advanced and we can do a lot just using design programs that don’t require VR. However, VR Sketch is a very easy way to work on a model while having real control. It’s akin to creating a life-size mockup with the difference being the ability to make dynamic and spontaneous changes while looking from a perspective from ant-size to king-kong.

I can’t say that what I do would be impossible without VR, but it would be definitely a lot less fun.

studio de materia

How do you think Virtual Reality will change architecture?

I think that my clients, who often find it hard to read complicated drawings and “frozen” visualizations, can now use tools to quickly verify the quality of chosen solutions. At the same time, architects could choose even more audacious solutions to both formal and functional problems. It will certainly help avoid a lot of mistakes and architecture will gain.

studio de materia
studio de materia

What would you tell people who have not tried VR Sketch just yet?

Entering the project in VR, or even a demo often brings the fear of unknown. Don’t be afraid! I don’t understand why people are so skeptical - it’s enough to put a virtual reality helmet on once and you will feel the difference immediately. These days I definitely prefer working in Virtual Reality, where the sun always shines than in front of a sad monitor :-) The revolution in design is coming in seven mile steps.

studio de materia

What would you say about the VR Sketch user interface?

It’s very good, but it requires some time and effort to be proficient. The real pleasure only comes after learning how to use it for a bit, when you realize it’s actually very simple and intuitive. I don’t think you even need to know sketchup well - it’s simple enough to learn directly in VR.

Thanks a lot! I hope it will be useful for our readers!

studio de materia

Virtual reality for architecture - state of the art

Hello everyone.

VR Sketch is an editing/visualization tool for architects. Currently integrates with sketchup, with more software coming in the future. If you want to learn more, see the main page. This blog post is about the current state of affairs in virtual reality for architecture from the perspective of VR sketch.

Introduction

I don't think it's a secret that Virtual Reality is the future interface for architecture. Everyone is talking about it, looking at and investigating it. In this blog post I would like to do a review of the current potential of VR ecosystem, mostly focusing on the hardware and low level software. I'm deliberately not going to talk about the architecture software for VR, since I'm more interested in what's possible as opposed to what has been done.

First, let me reiterate the obvious - being able to see the building you're designing (or a car or a piece of wood, metal part or anything like that) is an incredible improvement over the status quo. It's akin to what-you-see-is-what-you-get in text editors. There is a good reason why Word is much more popular than TeX, punch cards got obsolete and we draw lines with a mouse as opposed to typing line(0,0,100,100). There are two more slightly less obvious benefits of using VR - you have a very good camera control, as humans are used to just moving their head to have new perspective and you have a clunky, but usable, 3D point input with the controllers.

VR visualizations and editing

Right now the king in VR for architecture is visualizations, especially for the end client. There is a good reason for that - the minimum work required to get the visualization going is relatively limited and does not require deep interaction with controllers as UI. Doing visualizations that look good is tons of work of course, but that part is (mostly) left out to users themselves and not to the software. Obviously software has to allow it and some make it easier than others. The obvious next step is seeing the buildings as you design them and sooner or later one starts feeling that taking the helmet on and off is annoying. That's where editing and VR sketch, comes to play.

Which brings us to the long list of limitations that are present. I hope we will get around to addressing all of them, either in VR Sketch or in the hardware.

Headsets

VR Sketch for now works only in HTC Vive, but there is nothing stopping us from working with other high-end headsets, other than having those headsets. The headsets are good. Unlike the low-end tier, the illusion is very real and the feel of space is good enough. I would not mind better resolution for photo realism, more text etc. but it's all coming. Disclaimer: I haven't had a chance to play with the new headsets - Vive Pro or Samsung Odyssey.

Controllers and input

The controllers and the general input is the main limiting factor of doing editing right in the VR. One loses access to keyboard & mouse, while gaining access to relatively clunky controllers with limited buttons. The controllers themselves are based a lot on gaming controllers plus six degress of freedom. This works great for the primary purpose which is gaming! But for something more professional, like work of architects, the lack of precision, lack of buttons and lack of basic software research done in the terms of VR user experience is a serious problem. We believe we did a good job given the constraints, but there are very serious limitations that will make it uneconomic to do certain edits in VR. We believe that those factors will diminish over time -- we will improve the software, the controllers will get better and eventually disappear in favor of hand gestures and people will find it easier to do more and more stuff in VR. There is also issue of text/measurment input which will probably be solved in a bunch of ways, including voice support that we're working on.

Ergonomics of office space

Right now, since the building blocks are relatively large (think duplo instead of lego), we need large space in order to work on a building. That brings fatigue, due to large hand movements and requires a lot of free office space. In the future, we will see stuff getting smaller and smaller to the point where building buildings will remind a lot more about building stuff from legos, but without stepping on them, then it is right now.

Road to the future

The future is exciting :-) At VR Sketch we believe most architects will move to editing in VR for day to day operations within 5-15 years. We are a bit ahead of the curve here, but we will stick around to see it raise. You should follow us on twitter, sign up to the mailing list and download and use our software.

Exciting features we're working on right now:

  • Revit support.
  • Voice recognition.
  • Multi-user support.
  • Optimizing hand gestures to minimize movements.

We are releasing new version with new cool features roughly every 2 months, so you should download and use our software right now and follow our development!

Cheers! Maciej Fijalkowski & the whole VR sketch team.