Myles Montgomery and Jacob Barrow of Shadow Space are merging architecture and virtual reality to create whole new experiences. Photo: Charles Anderson.

Building virtual worlds, solving real problems

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In an office in Tahunanui two local entrepreneurs are building whole new worlds.

Jacob Barrow cut his teeth as a visual effects artist for Weta Digital – working on films like Avatar and The Avengers. Myles Montgomery is an architectural designer who has made a career visualising spaces for architects and, individually, they both found themselves interested in the world of virtual reality, and so Shadow Space was born.

“Virtual reality has been around for 30 years but it’s only in the last five years that it has started to get really good,” says Jacob.

After his contract with Weta ended, he was looking for something else to do. His parents were building a house, so he decided to create a virtual reality rendering of the proposed plans.

He created the space, put materials on the wall and grass on the landscape, and then gave his mum a headset to put on and experience her new, unbuilt house.

“She was blown away. She could understand the space and see how big the bedroom was going to be and how far away things would look.

“Virtual reality games and things are great, but they are not really solving a problem. This was definitely solving a problem. People find it hard to visualise space.”

Myles had been working in this area for some time while working in Melbourne. When he was planning on coming back to Nelson with his young family he was looking around for people in New Zealand that could help create virtual worlds.

Myles and Jacob met up and realised that they could partner and start creating an experience for potential clients. Their first job was for high-end golf course accommodation in the North Island. The client was impressed and commissioned them to create something at a much grander scale for their next development.

They have built a village that you can walk around and see – long before anything has been built. They created an interactive, touch screen platform that can sit in a sales office and let people visualise what they are getting into before signing on the dotted line.

But it’s not just property developers or architects who can benefit from the platform, they say.

“You can use it for so many things,” says Myles.

“You could have it in a tourism information centre where different operators are showcased – from a virtual helicopter tour or skydiving. It allows you to have a slice of the experience.”

Jacob says there is a lot of untapped potential within this new technology.

“We are just trying to build the future.”