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Where will the bits and atoms of architecture business combine?


Sana Paul, Diksha Garg, Architects, Architecting, Architecture, Architectural, Design, Digital, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, AI, Tech, Technology, Algorithmic Thinking, Algorithms, Cybernetics, Computing, Embodiment, Digital Landscape, IOT, Generative Design, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, AR, VR, Building Information Modelling, Analysis, BIM, Zeyka, Zeyka India

Last week, we mused on how digital technology will fundamentally transform the way we think about, arrange, and design our homes. We are one step closer to that future now. This new technology from Swedish furniture company, IKEA will either eliminate the need for such antiquated equipment as measuring tapes or, at the very least, dispel any last concerns that the couch we just purchased will truly fit in our now lived-in living room.

Sana Paul, Diksha Garg, Architects, Architecting, Architecture, Architectural, Design, Digital, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, AI, Tech, Technology, Algorithmic Thinking, Algorithms, Cybernetics, Computing, Embodiment, Digital Landscape, IOT, Generative Design, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, AR, VR, Building Information Modelling, Analysis, BIM, Zeyka, Zeyka India

While not as sophisticated as putting OLED coating on walls and windows, the IKEA app represents a big step forward in leveraging digital technology to make interior space modification simpler. After all, according to IKEA, 70 per cent of furniture purchasers do not know the dimensions of the room for which they are buying. This makes home-decor buying, well, quite inefficient. To test if they work, IKEA customers will no longer have to drag couches, carpets, and tables home from the store.


IKEA is not the only company that offers a digital interior design experience. AutoDesk made the Homestyler programme accessible on the Internet for free in 2010, and the firm just upgraded it for the iPad. While not as dynamic as the IKEA app, the Homestyler app does allow users to convert a single photo into a virtual design playground and view goods from manufacturers other than IKEA.

Sana Paul, Diksha Garg, Architects, Architecting, Architecture, Architectural, Design, Digital, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, AI, Tech, Technology, Algorithmic Thinking, Algorithms, Cybernetics, Computing, Embodiment, Digital Landscape, IOT, Generative Design, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, AR, VR, Building Information Modelling, Analysis, BIM, Zeyka, Zeyka India

Let us look at IKEA and Autodesk as two independent company models and service providers. IKEA's business is atoms, while Autodesk's is bits. While Autodesk develops tools for designing, IKEA creates beautifully designed and manufactured products and solutions for interiors.

As a result, the situation becomes more complicated.


If we estimate the number of architects in India at 100,000, Autodesk charges them ridiculous sums each year since this is the only way it can make a profit in the country. Every time Autodesk has to update its software, it has to invest money and charge its users additional money for the privilege of using it. By moving its software to the cloud, Autodesk will not have to invest as much cash in creating a programme with identical features from scratch, but it will still have to pay for the operation of servers and the bandwidth necessary to handle intensive functions and data transfers, among other expenditures. Clients should expect to pay much more. The only difference is that this time, they will not pay.

Sana Paul, Diksha Garg, Architects, Architecting, Architecture, Architectural, Design, Digital, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, AI, Tech, Technology, Algorithmic Thinking, Algorithms, Cybernetics, Computing, Embodiment, Digital Landscape, IOT, Generative Design, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, AR, VR, Building Information Modelling, Analysis, BIM, Zeyka, Zeyka India

So, if I want to establish a monopoly in India, all I have to do is focus on the residential sector, which accounts for 70 per cent of an architect's work and earnings. What we are looking at is exactly that. They have streamlined Autodesk's capabilities for end-users and a huge client base of residential home interior designers. By the end of this decade, the digital architectural space will be dominated by basic and lean software that allows you to build homes and home interiors faster and more efficiently than Autodesk software for a fraction of the cost. They will include easy-to-use project management solutions that will include broader project lifecycle capabilities, undercutting AutoDesk's dominant market share.

Sana Paul, Diksha Garg, Architects, Architecting, Architecture, Architectural, Design, Digital, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, AI, Tech, Technology, Algorithmic Thinking, Algorithms, Cybernetics, Computing, Embodiment, Digital Landscape, IOT, Generative Design, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, AR, VR, Building Information Modelling, Analysis, BIM, Zeyka, Zeyka India

This is where IKEA enters the picture. IKEA is in the business of selling atoms, and they have cutting-edge solutions that consumers want to buy. IKEA is digitising them.

IKEA Place is a platform where customers can rapidly envision IKEA goods in their surroundings, add them to cart, and have them implemented by IKEA, from design to production to implementation of its solutions. IKEA can afford to create its software and pay the running costs because it makes money by selling items to a huge population of homes, not by selling software to a tiny number of designers. As a result, IKEA has invested in creating its own bits in order to sell more atoms, and it is also becoming the leading service provider of bits, because it is easy for IKEA to create a lean and limited version of bits based on its library, but it is difficult for a company like Autodesk to replicate the decades-old knowledge and expertise of design thinking, industrial design, and construction technology.


IKEA has a lengthy history of 3D imaging, which is one of the reasons the brand was able to hit the ground running and develop a working, well-populated app in such a short period of time. IKEA has been shooting its goods for catalogues with 3Ds Max (the Autodesk programme formerly known as 3D Studio) for years, and it has also been utilising photo-realistic renderings of those things, rather than actual pictures, for a long time.

The majority of the items in the catalogue are not real. They have been produced and improved with lighting and shadows.


It is also because IKEA has a history of being an early adopter of technology. IKEA was one of the first major clients of Metaio, an augmented reality firm that Apple secretly bought in 2015. IKEA was one of the 1000 first clients of Metaio, and the introduction of IKEA Place today demonstrates how it continued to collaborate with that team after becoming a part of Apple and contributing to the development of ARKit.

Sana Paul, Diksha Garg, Architects, Architecting, Architecture, Architectural, Design, Digital, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, AI, Tech, Technology, Algorithmic Thinking, Algorithms, Cybernetics, Computing, Embodiment, Digital Landscape, IOT, Generative Design, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, AR, VR, Building Information Modelling, Analysis, BIM, Zeyka, Zeyka India

And, by appealing to a broad audience of homebuyers by offering their software for free, they are bypassing the tiny client base of architects and, in the process, displacing even architects. If you are an architect and were content to utilise IKEA Place, you should reconsider. It is not intended to help you; rather, it is intended to replace you.


So, there you have it. You are doomed if you are a software vendor in the AEC sector in India with nothing but your software to sell. If you are an architect in the Indian AEC business, you have always been screwed, but now IKEA and others will screw you much more. When the dust settles at the end of this decade, if you are a practitioner that uses software to market design, you could just become the industry standard.


Where they will combine is the question. We are looking for an answer too.


An international design competition to assist families to cope with the effects of climate change was announced on Earth Day, a few years back, by What Design Can Do, IKEA Foundation, and Autodesk Foundation. There we have it. The foundations combined to combat the worst thing that has happened to humanity after humankind, climate change.

Sana Paul, Diksha Garg, Architects, Architecting, Architecture, Architectural, Design, Digital, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, AI, Tech, Technology, Algorithmic Thinking, Algorithms, Cybernetics, Computing, Embodiment, Digital Landscape, IOT, Generative Design, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, AR, VR, Building Information Modelling, Analysis, BIM, Zeyka, Zeyka India

It was open to students, creative professionals, and start-ups from May 2017 through May 2018.“The collaboration with IKEA Foundation and Autodesk Foundation is unique,” says WDCD founder, Richard van der Laken. “We don’t just reach out to the global creative community to come up with solutions, together we also have real developing power.”


Climate change is already wreaking havoc around the world, and it is happening faster, harder, and in more terrifying forms than anyone predicted. Hotter temperatures are causing droughts, heatwaves beyond the limits of human tolerance, and rising seas that will submerge many pacific islands, cities and countries that we live in today.


Climate change is not just an environmental issue but a global crisis. We cannot afford to wait for further destructive consequences before we call for action. Therefore, it was smart of WDCD, to bring the two bits and atoms to form a nucleus, who knows, which might save humanity one day!


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About the Writer

Sana Paul is an undergraduate architecture student and writer at the Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi, hailing from the cozy streets of Punjab. She has experience working at the India Lost and Found (ILF) by Amit Pasricha, and Rethinking The Future (RTF).


About the Editor

Nishtha Singh is an editor, writer and researcher in the fields of Philosophy of Language, Ethics and Artificial Intelligence (AI). She has trained as an editor at the Seagull School of Publishing, Calcutta and is a graduate of the Department of Philosophy, and the Hansraj College, University of Delhi (DU), India.


About the Illustrator

Diksha Garg is an undergraduate architecture student at the School of Planning and Architecture Bhopal, hailing from Chandigarh. She is an illustrator, graphic designer and writer. She has received a citation for G-Sen Trophy and a Juror's Choice Award for Journalism Trophy by the National Association of Students of Architecture (NASA), India.

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