We asked Joshua Burkert, founder of the Beyond Matter Studio about the potential of new digital technologies and about the use of VR/AR technologies in architecture and their advantages and disadvantages.
Finest Interior Award: founding a studio for VR and digital visualisation is very much in the spirit of the times. So far, however, there have been only a few companies that have confronted the challenges of these technologies. What caused you to start Beyond Matter and what sort of things can we expect a digital agency to do?
Joshua Burkert: I had launched a VR start-up with some friends in 2015. We had a notion of developing a digital workshop for VR. At that time, I realised that spaces and proportions were things that you can depict and appreciate just as realistically in VR as you perceive them in real life. Since VR is still not very widespread in the world of advertising and visualisation and there is a gap in the market, we got the idea of a digital agency, which focuses on VR, so as to give everyone the opportunity of taking advantage of this huge potential for their own ends. We call Beyond Matter a digital agency, because, as well as our core team, we work digitally with lots of freelancers from all sorts of different areas and thus are, ourselves, an example of a kind of virtual company structure.
VR and AR are by no means just science fiction any longer. In what areas of life do these technologies still have surprises in store for us?
I am firmly convinced that VR and AR will revolutionise all areas of our lives. Beginning with productivity, entertainment, education and communication, going right through to culture and science.
Where do you see the greatest potential?
As well as opportunities to plan, build and examine things, even before the production costs or realisation phase kicks in, I see huge potential in education, above all. Lessons can become significantly more interesting and more intuitive with the help of VR. Just imagine, if students could experience historical events as if they were there, or visit foreign countries and cultures from their own classroom. Moreover, it would be possible to imagine a global school system with pupils working from their own homes, so to speak, in virtual classrooms.
VR/AR technology is already being used in architecture. You also offer VR solutions in this field. What else is going to be possible, do you hope?
I think that, with optimised display technology and improved input capabilities, the virtual world will become a whole lot more realistic than we can imagine. At the moment, the issue of how to get people moving around realistically in a virtual world is still one of the big unsolved problems. Here, I hope that there will soon be some intuitive ways of moving through a virtual architectural environment with the clients.
What advantages do you see in the application of VR in architectural work?
On the one hand, the immersive images in VR offer such a deceptively realistic representation of the architectural environment that architects can approach the planning of a project in a lot more detail and with a lot more enthusiasm for experimentation. You can observe the way the light falls at various times of the day, plan the furnishings from the beginning or simulate what the view from the window will look like. And you can do all that, before you’ve begun to lay out large amounts of money to set the project in motion. At the same time, because it is realistic and three dimensional, the representation of an environment in VR evokes an intuitive response and provides customers with a much more precise impression of what a project will look like, in the end, than any rendering on a 2D screen could.
And what are the disadvantages?
As VR is, at the moment, unfortunately, merely in the starting blocks and the hardware is, therefore, not very widespread, it isn’t possible for every client to enjoy VR experiences from home independently.
In this situation, the best approach is currently the use of showrooms. What is more, the development of VR visualisations is still significantly more time-consuming, as compared to traditional 3D renderings.
Augmented reality is theoretically capable of letting the whole of our perceived reality appear just as we want it to be. Couldn’t we just live in plain grey spaces and then turn them into whatever we want them to be, through the lenses of a pair of glasses?
Perhaps we really will do that in future. Who knows? For people who live, now, in small plain rooms or, for example, to make the long journey to Mars easier for astronauts to cope with, such a vision of the future can’t, perhaps, come soon enough. It will, however, be just as long a journey, before we can import all other kinds of haptic feedback, such as smell and other sensory experiences, into the virtual world.
VR/AR technologies are making it increasingly easy for laypeople to plan and furnish spaces. Given that clients are now, themselves, becoming the architects of their own homes through the use of VR apps, is digitalisation shaking the very foundations of the architectural sector?
Clients today are already very well informed and actively involved in the creation of their own homes. And that’s good, for they will, then, be all the more willing and interested, when the door is opened onto the new possibilities of VR and AR, enabling them to plan their homes in far more realistic detail and walk through them before they are built. In this respect, I think VR also offers architects the opportunity to work even more closely with the client in the planning phase and contribute their professional and technical know-how, in order to incorporate the client’s ideas in the project.
Hand on heart: will the architect’s job description have to be re-thought?
I think that, with VR, it will even be significantly easier to try out various ideas and to experiment with less risk in the planning phase and, thus, to communicate the planning ideas in a more realistic form to the client. That can only add to their level of satisfaction.
Joshua Burkert, born in 1989 in Urbana/Champaign, is a qualified photographer and cameraman. Since 2015, he has also been working in the field of virtual reality. Joshua is the founder of the Beyond Matter Studio, a digital agency with a special interest in VR.
About the Beyond Matter Studio:
Beyond Matter is a company that specialises in digital visualisations in 3D, VR and AR. Particular areas of interest are architecture, real-estate marketing, product design and transportation.
Architects must prepare themselves, so that they still have a role to play in the future.
Come and visit the next Heimtextil in Frankfurt am Main, from 9 to 12 January 2018, where we shall ask of the Finest Interior Award the big question: ‘What’s real?’
Photo: Thomas Marzusch
The FINEST INTERIOR AWARD was created to honour the work of architects, interior architects and interior decorators and take account of the growing demand for individual and professional contract furnishing. The communicative focal point of this year’s FINEST INTERIOR AWARD is the digitalisation of reality. What impact are virtual reality and augmented reality having on architecture, interior architecture and interior decoration? What changes do they imply for the job descriptions of these professions? And what benefits are they likely to have for consumers? The FINEST INTEROR AWARD will tackle these and other interesting questions in its guest commentaries under the motto ‘What’s real?’.
The award will be presented on the eve of Heimtextil in Frankfurt. During the fair, there will be an information featuring the winners in the foyer of Hall 4.0.