As micro-apartments get smaller and smaller, will we eventually turn to virtual reality to stay sane inside them? Interaction designer Bernardo Schorr thinks that in the not-so-distant future city dwellers could end up living in windowless 100-square-foot apartments, and he’s created a digital solution in response: Projections on apartment walls that make it seem like a tiny hovel is actually a nice space, complete with amazing views.
"It’s made for a future in which having any windows at all would be a luxury," Schorr says. "We might not really need these ‘mixed reality’ living spaces quite yet, but the project is made for a future in which we’ll need them to be able to cope with confinement and survive these smaller apartments."
Throughout the day, the apartment keeps shifting. The furniture inside is designed to transform easily from use to use—working, eating, watching a movie, sleeping—and as someone moves the furniture around, the projections on the walls automatically transform as well.
The fake windows signal the passing hours outside."There are a lot of biological needs we have in terms of when we need to see the sun and how to we need regulate our living through light," Schorr says. "If we have no windows, these augmented windows need to tell us also what is changing in the outside world, so it feels natural and comfortable and just overall livable."
Schorr used a mix of photography and video and computer graphics to create unique views for the space, instead of just imitating an actual location. Though his prototype has visible pixels, he says that more expensive tech could easily make the room look seamless and lifelike.
Still, it doesn’t entirely feel real. "Being in the space and testing it, it feels weirdly comfortable. It’s almost too comfortable. It is a very confined space, it’s very small, it has no windows. You walk into the space and you know that, you’re conscious of that, so it’s very hard to detach from that."
Though he designed the virtual apartment as a solution, it’s also meant to make people think about the future of living spaces, and whether "apodments" and parking space sized micro units are really such a good thing. "It’s an opportunity for critical reflection on whether this is really the direction we should be heading towards," Schorr says.