Torino’s GranStudio, which designs cars and mobility systems under the direction of Kortrijkzaan Lowie Vermeersch, takes over a start-up in Kortrijk and works there from co-creation hub Hangar K. Vermeersch focuses on the use of gaming technology.
The GranStudio team works for well-known brands such as Maserati and regularly appears on lists of the best car designers in the world. A few years ago, it designed the first family car with solar panels for the Dutch company Lightyear. For the 80th birthday of the famous Italian race car manufacturer Gian Paolo Dallara, GranStudio designed the Dallara Stradale sports car, which often shouts ‘bella!’ on the Italian streets. developed.
- GranStudio designs cars and mobility solutions. It takes over the Kortrijk start-up Magicor and becomes a partner in the co-creation hub Hangar K, near Howest.
- The intention is that Kortrijk will strengthen the digital development of GranStudio and that the team will be significantly expanded.
- DigiPHY is being further developed. The tool combines physical and VR elements to tailor the design process to new forms of mobility.
GranStudio, which has around 64 employees, will take over the start-up Magicor in Kortrijk and become a partner in Kortrijk’s co-creation hub Hangar K, from where the studio will operate. Hangar K is located in the immediate vicinity of Hogeskolen West-Vlaanderen (Howest), where the education in the gaming sector has been voted the best in the world. This is important because Vermeersch and his team use a lot of game software for their design activities.
With a VR headset, citizens can experience how their square can change.
But GranStudio does more than design fast cars. “We are working on new innovative vehicles and mobility plans on an urban scale,” explains Vermeersch. In our regions, the team is active in Liège, Limburg and Ghent. Virtual reality (VR) also plays a big role here. ‘Citizens can experience with a headset how their square can change.’
Digitally and physically
A touch screen is standard in a new car. It is the beginning of a fusion of the physical and digital world ‘, Vermeersch notes. The designer does not believe that we will all suddenly drive completely autonomously, but he sees this development happening on the highways in the coming years. ‘It changes the interaction where the vehicle, the user and the environment are in constant contact with each other.’
These changes have major implications for designers’ working methods. GranStudio therefore designed DigiPHY, a physical platform with seats and a steering wheel. It can be mounted on 3D-printed elements that simulate a specific design. This is complemented by a virtual reality (VR) headset, which displays an accurate digital version of a car.
DigiPHY stands for merging the physical with the digital. ‘You will never be able to feel in virtual reality if you hit your head,’ says Vermeersch. “But imagine a car responding to your presence as you approach it. It releases emotions. Design is about that and it can be reflected in VR. We want our designers to be able to work with that. ‘
The acquisition of Magicor with its three employees plays a major role in the development of DigiPHY’s software. Wim Vandamme from that start-up has the necessary expertise for the integration of the Unreal Engine software in DigiPHY. Unreal is sophisticated software for building games and other virtual environments. Yoav Nir, co-inventor of the ClickShare meeting tool from Kortrijk technology company Barco, is responsible for business development.
GranStudio’s ambition is ‘to expand the team in Kortrijk further until it breaks in the seams of Hangar K’, says Nir. ‘The intention is to develop a significant team of employees here,’ Vermeersch agrees.
The presence in Hangar K should promote cross-fertilization with other start-ups, with the Howest study programs and with the Kortrijk campus at KU Leuven. Vermeersch joins the board of Hangar K. CEO Vincent Vanderbeck is already looking forward to the arrival of ‘a global player like GranStudio’ and sees opportunities for even more international players in Hangar K.
“There is now a lot of interest from car manufacturers in DigiPHY,” said the CEO of GranStudio. ‘What we are doing now is just a bit ahead of the curve. To maintain that lead, more complex resources and goals are needed. ‘ In the future, the fusion of the digital and the physical will be complete, and DigiPHY must be geared for that. ‘It should be possible to work very subtly.’
More complex resources and goals are needed to maintain our lead.
DigiPHY also provides the opportunity to collaborate externally. So it does not matter if the designers are located in Kortrijk or Turin. But working with future car users is also crucial. “We already do that with customer clinics. Fifty people then use a headset to respond to various options. ‘
The close presence of Digital Arts and Entertainment (DAE), Howest’s recognized school of play, plays a major role. Trainees from that education are already active in Turin.
Vermeersch notes that the convergence between the physical and the digital is accelerating. Until now, GranStudio has financed everything itself. “We now have to look at other forms of financing, otherwise we go too slowly. We need to see if we can involve partners. ‘
Control of the company is for Vermeersch – the largest shareholder of the five founders – a means and not an end in itself. “We are the only design company in the automotive sector that is still run by a designer. But I do not rule anything out. For me, it’s always about the content. ‘