Gert-Jan van der Wel

hi@gertjanvanderwel.com

Here I share what I'm up to and working on at the moment. I aim to update it every few weeks. If you want me to send you an email whenever I wrote something new, you can sign up here.

3D Tours

work - 15 Oct 2019

At Floorplanner, we make tools that help you create, design and visualize spaces. That may sound a bit vague, but that’s because our tools are used for numerous things. Over 20 million people from all over the world use Floorplanner for a variety of reasons; to refurbish a room in their house, or to plan a garden party or to dream about a their castle in the sky.

In the real estate industry Floorplanner is used by agents and photographers to create floor plans to sell houses. On the commercial side, companies like IWG (owner of Regus, Spaces etc) use Floorplanner to create designs of their offices for potential tenants. In the interior design industry it’s used by furniture retailers like Ethan Allen, who uses it in their 300 stores to help designers create a visualization of how their products could look in their space. And companies like Rogue Fitness do something similar, but with fitness equipment.

The visualizations on Floorplanner started out very simply - with rendering plain black & white and colored 2D floor plan images. Then we added the ability to render 3D floor plan images. Next came rendering interior images (in different qualities) and after that came panoramas. We now have an astounding new way to visualize a room or a complete floor level. We call it 3D Tours. 3D Tours look great, and users can look and move around freely in their plans.

Take a look at the 3D Tour here:

https://floorplanner.com/360vr/21141585-1569920829

You can’t make any changes to the room(s) when you are inside a 3D Tour, but eventually, we want it to be possible to change the color of walls and ceilings and to apply different floorings while inside the tour. Another thing could be useful are product markers, to get more info about certain products. So keep an eye out for future updates. Oh! The 3D Tour works in VR too.

Cycling the Hamptons & Corfu

hobby - 25 Sep 2019

I don’t ride my road bike a lot, but I try to ride it every Sunday morning with friends as a way to get out of the house and get some exercise. I aim to ride about 3000 kilometers this year, but I’m not sure if I’ll make it. Autumn and winter are coming to the Netherlands and with that comes cold, windy and rainy weather. Not ideal to be outside cycling.

Although I don’t get as far as I’d like, I still like to ride in foreign places whenever I get the opportunity. So far this year, I’ve cycled in 6 different countries - Netherlands (duh), Belgium/France (Ardennes), Spain (Mallorca) and I could add two foreign islands to the mix last month USA (The Hamptons) and Greece (Corfu).

The Hamptons on Long Island, US

I only spent just over a day in the Hamptons, but right after my meeting was over I rented a bike at Rotations at the end of the day. Unfortunately they didn’t have a carbon bike, but I wouldn’t let that stop me.

The Hamptons is the place where the rich & famous from New York City, Connecticut and Hollywood come to spend the weekend in their large houses in the woods or near the beach.

It was lovely to cycle through the wooded areas and the quaint villages. I had to hurry a bit because it was getting dark and a massive storm was coming. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite make it back in time and nearly drowned on my bike in the heavy rain with bolts of lightning all around me. But still had a lot of fun.

The Island of Corfu, Greece

The Hamptons are mainly flat, but the Island of Corfu in Greece is most definitely not. I spent the summer holiday with my family on this beautiful island in the Ionic sea. Most of the time we were just relaxing on the beach, in a pool or visiting cute little villages.

During this holiday I hired a carbon bike twice at the magnificent bike store S-Bikes and cycled up the Pantokrator - a hill 911 meters high. It was quite steep, pretty warm weather and the road was terrible at times but I made it to the top. Dead and satisfied.

Tales from the Dark Side

work - 28 Aug 2019

A few months ago I started to get more involved with Floorplanner’s sales efforts. I was very exited about the new role, but also a bit hesitant. For an engineer to transition from technology to sales is like a Jedi joining the Dark Side. I also didn’t see myself as much of a salesman, but it was necessary, and the timing was right. I’m proud of the product we built and now we had to get it into the hands of new customers.

Since many of our potential customers are in the USA I’ve traveled there a few times this year. I found it very easy to talk with Americans. They are open, interested and friendly - very friendly - and enthusiastic. To be honest, I had to get used to that a little, especially as an introvert from Europe. There is a saying about Americans: “my friend” is someone you know, and “my best friend” is someone you know and also like. But I keep a list of superlatives handy, so I’m all good now.

When I’m in the Netherlands I feel Dutch and a little bit European, but in the US I’m only a European. Sometimes they don’t know the Netherlands as a country or they think Amsterdam is a country. This makes my job a bit challenging. I have to convince people that they should buy a product from a company in a country they hardly know, on the other side of the ocean, from a jet lagged guy with an accent like Arnold Schwarzenegger.

But I’m happy and excited to take on this challenge, and I’m not alone. I think there is a lot of room for growth and I’m building a team to help me make it a huge success.

Playlist 2019

other - 11 Jul 2019

I try to listen to new music to not get stuck in the 90s too much. Every day when I commute to work - riding my bike to the train station - I listen to music or a podcast. Some of my coworkers listen to music while they are working, but I can’t. I need silence to think. I tried Generative.fm which is music generated by a computer program that continuously changes (so it’s not boring) but that didn’t work for me either.

Whenever I hear a song I like and it’s from this year, I add it to this playlist. It’s a short list as I don’t listen to new music that often, but it’s still a mixed bag of different styles. As a teenager playing basketball I listened to a lot of rap / hip hop music, after that I had rock music period and when I discovered the house and techno parties that became my music of choice for a while. This playlist is a bit of all that and more.

I listen to Ruther Meijerink’s The New Trending 2019 playlist on Spotify, to NPR’s All Songs Considered podcast for new music, and I occasionally checkout Spotify’s recommendations. But the oldskool way of friends giving me suggestions is maybe still the best way. So if you have any tips for me, please let me know!

Fly Through Movies

work - 22 Jun 2019

At Floorplanner, one of our biggest goals over the last few years has been to give users the ability to present real estate and interior design in amazing ways. About a year ago we added the camera to the floorplan, so creators could develop interior images and panoramas. A few months later, we added the multi-camera feature, which made it simpler to create interior renderings from different angles. Additionally, it made it possible to create a “fly-through” - where you could quickly move through a 3D plan, “flying” from camera to camera. Now, we are running a few tests to see if we can render these fly-throughs into captivating movies.

That being said, rendering movies requires a lot of rendering power. Luckily NVIDIA is helping us out. At their GTC event in March of 2018, they announced a new technology called RTX. This technology makes it possible to do ray-tracing on the GPU. A GPU is much faster than a CPU, so it makes that this new hardware can render images much faster. Currently, we use Google’s cloud, which recently offers the latest of NVIDIA’s GPU, called the T4. Now that NVIDIA’s renderer Iray also supports RTX, we will hopefully be able to render images and movies that much quicker.

Now we have to think about how we want to integrate this feature into Floorplanner, and how it will be priced out. With the new version of Floorplanner, we introduced project levels, and each level up offers more rendering capabilities - so, adding this feature to the project levels will probably be ideal. Perhaps we’d offer it in different qualities; SH or HD - maybe even Photorealistic. We have plenty of time to think about it, as it will take some time until we are able to offer the fly-through feature to all users, but I do hope our creators enjoy it!

Drenthe

other - 15 May 2019

Two weeks ago I spent a mid week with my family in the rural state of Drenthe in the east of the country. In my view you can split the Netherlands in two parts, the City in the west and the Countryside in the east. We spent a few days in a lovely cottage in the Countryside to unwind and get away from the City.

Whenever I visit the Countryside I always wonder what it would be like to live in a rural area like Drenthe. Lots of space, fresh air, pretty views and affordable (thus bigger) houses. A funny fact is that most of the City lies below sea level while most of the Countryside lies above it.

I really like our house, but with three little kids we could use a bit more space (no room anymore for my man cave 😭). Should we build it out or sell it and buy something bigger? Or should we stay put and pay off our debt first? Or maybe leave the City and move to the Countryside to live larger for the same price? All in all, I think that we are good where we are right now, and that we’ll re-evaluate our situation again in a few years down the line.

People have been leaving the Countryside for the City for a long time, and Louise Fresco argues in this podcast (Dutch) that this creates new opportunities. There is plenty of affordable space in the Countryside for startups and other technology companies to experiment and innovate.

Maybe this is the right time to take Floorplanner’s experiment of 3D printing to the next level. Maybe we should move to the Countryside after all. We could get the space we want personally and with Floorplanner we could get into 3D printing houses!

Kurt at High Point Market

work - 16 Apr 2019

High Point Market I recently changed my job at Floorplanner a bit. On the technology side I’m still running our Infrastructure and Research departments, but I’m less involved with the day-to-day development of our website, dashboard, editor and mobile apps. Instead I’m focusing more on our sales efforts these days.

As part of my new work I attended the High Point Market event last week in High Point, North Carolina, USA. It’s the biggest home furniture trade show in the world where manufacturers, retailers and interior designers meet to buy and sell home furniture. The showrooms are spread out across the centre of the town in more than 50 buildings, but it’s not a big town. It certainly doesn’t have enough people to shop for furniture the rest of the year, so when the show is over, they simply lock down all the buildings until the next show in October.

I went to Market to meet with existing customers, and to talk with potential customers, but also to see what our competition is up to. However, technology is not a big part of this event. It seems that most people in this industry either use CAD systems or pen and paper but are unaware of the fancy stuff we have to offer. There is clearly a lot of work left to do for us!

And sorry, when I said I wouldn’t visit New York City again, I lied. I stayed over in NYC for a day to meet with a customer, but unfortunately, there were still no green leaves on the trees. Who knows, maybe next time!

Cycling JZC

hobby - 31 Mar 2019

Last weekend I made another long ride with my friends, but this time we were not on a beautiful island in the Mediterranean Sea. No, we were back in the Netherlands cycling through our Dutch flatlands with the wind in our face, the grey clouds above our heads and passing by the occasionally wind mill. We were riding the 13th edition of the Joop Zoetemelk Classic (JZC).

Joop Zoetemelk is one of two Dutchmen who has ever won the Tour de France. He started and finished the Tour 16 times - which is a record in itself - he finished 2nd 6 times and he finally won it in 1980. He also won the Vuelta a Espana in 1979 and was the World Champion in 1985.

The JZC is one of the first tours of the season, and when we rode it last year it was extremely cold. It was freezing outside and the wind from the cold East only made it worse. This year the weather was a lot better and we were - obviously - much fitter due to our training camp on Mallorca a few weeks ago. The 150 km felt like a walk in the park.

Smart Products

work - 22 Mar 2019

We have a catalog of over 150,000 products on Floorplanner that people can use to furnish their floor plans or decorate their rooms with. For each product a 3D model is created by hand, which obviously is a lot of work, but luckily we didn’t have to do it all ourselves. The huge catalog of 3D models was one of the important assets of the company we acquired a few years ago. We are not standing still however, we are adding new products to our catalog every day to keep it fresh and relevant.

Most of our products are furniture items which come in more than one color or fabric, and our system didn’t handle that part well. For each ‘variant’ of a product - like a different color or fabric - we made a new model. We copied the existing one, changed the material in the model and added it to our catalog. It works, but it’s not ideal.

Imagine this, you are designing a room and just placed a sofa in the living room. You like the sofa but want to see how it looks in another color, yet you can’t click on the sofa and simply select another color. Nope, you have to search for the same sofa in the sidebar and browse through the results to find the one you like.

Not any more! I am happy to tell you that we now support Smart Products; furniture items of which the material can be changed in real-time. If you want to see a product in different color or fabric, simple click it, select one of the available material options and you’ll immediately see the result.

From now on, all the new product that we create will be smart by default and over the coming months we will upgrade the models in our existing catalog to become smart as well.

Cycling Mallorca (again!)

hobby - 11 Mar 2019

Each year in February or March my friends from university and I go on a trip for a long weekend to cycle, have a few drinks and tune out of our busy daily lives. Last weekend was our 18th year in a row and although we usually go to the Belgian Ardennes we decided to go to Mallorca this year. I really enjoyed our recent trip to Mallorca in October, and surprisingly, it’s not even more expensive to fly and stay on an island in the Mediterranean Sea than to drive to the south of Belgium and rent a house there. It helps of course that we could stay in the apartment of one of my friends. So instead of cold, clouds, rain and perhaps even snow, we had a lovely temperature, sun and a blue sky.

We made two rides in our three days on the island. The first one was 93km with 1590 altimeters. We cycled from Palma to Puigpunyent in the North West - had to take a little detour as the road was closed for a mud run - to the photogenic mountain village of Deia and via the long climb at Sóller in the North back to Palma. The second day the ride was 94km with 1800 altimeters, going more to the North West of the island. Unfortunately the road was closed near Estellenes - this time due to a car rally (much noise!) - which meant we had to cycle back 22km to the previous exit. But we made up for it with a delicious Mallorcan lunch in the beautiful village of Galilea after 66km. It didn’t matter at all that the last climb back to Palma didn’t go so well.

I’m still recovering from the weekend, but I had an amazing time!

Fiddling in VR

hobby - 21 Feb 2019

The promise of virtual reality (VR) has been around for a long time and over the years I’ve done quite a few experiments with it. For the first one you needed a mobile phone that you had to put in a holder and then on your face. In 2015 we made it possible to render an interior panorama of any room on our site Roomstyler and watch on your phone on your head. This didn’t give you an immersive 3D experience as it was just a single panorama image, but it was nice to be able to stand inside a room and look around by simply turning your head.

When the Oculus Rift came out in 2016 we bought one for the office. This was quite the opposite of a phone. You needed a powerful computer to run it and had to connect the headset to the computer with a number of cables. Through sensors you could move around in virtual realty and with the two controllers in your hands you could interact with it. This made all the difference! No longer were you on the outside looking in, you could now grab things, move and shape them.

This got me very enthusiastic about VR but we had so many other things on our plate that we didn’t set out to build anything ourselves. We did talk to the talented Johan Hanegraaf who was (and is!) building a way to be an architect in VR on the Vive platform. We tried to work together for awhile, but unfortunately it didn’t work out.

Last Christmas we gave all our Floorplanner coworkers an Oculus Go as a present. It’s a dedicated device for VR that comes with a controller but doesn’t need a computer and it has no cables. So you can interact in VR, but it doesn’t track your movements (that’s coming in the next version). It’s a gift for fun and entertainment but we also want our coworkers to spend some time in virtual reality to experience what it is like.

The same goes for my kids, although that wasn’t very difficult as they are obsessed with anything that has a screen. My oldest daughter gave the Anne Frank House VR a try where you can walk around the house and the room where Anna hid out. She has recently read Anne Frank’s book and the VR experience made the book really come to life for her.

Unfortunately there aren’t many great games or apps for VR available yet and that’s probably because a lot of people simply don’t have a VR device. I don’t know how and even if VR will really catch on, but I recently started working on my own little VR app anyway. I’m experimenting with an app that enables you to create something inside VR on the web. More on that in a later post.

Auto Office Layout

work - 06 Feb 2019

At Floorplanner we recently made it possible to automatically furnish the rooms of a house in our editor app. Simply select a bedroom, living, bathroom or kitchen, then pick your preferred style, click a button and BAM! your room is fully decorated. You got flooring and rugs on the floor, paint and painting on the walls and furniture placed in a way that makes sense. It may not be everything you ever wanted, but it’s a very good starting point.

The next thing we focused on was automatically furnishing home-offices, which in turn got us thinking about real offices. Why not use the same approach to furnish an actual office space? So we gave it a shot and here are our first results, pretty cool huh?

It’s available in our editor app as we speak, and if you have any tips and/or remarks please let me know!

Fine dining in NYC

hobby - 03 Feb 2019

On the last day of our NYC trip we treated ourselves and our sales partners to an exclusive dinner at The Office from the famous duo Nick Kokonas and chef Grant Achatz. It’s located at the 35th floor of the luxurious Mandarin hotel, but don’t expect an amazing view as this restaurant does not have a single window.

“The Office NYC is an intimate speakeasy serving classically inspired food and cocktails, a collection of vintage spirits, and other eclectic delicacies.”

The food and cocktails were exquisite and delicious, and together with the beautiful interior it made for a perfect experience. After being a week in New York City I can confess that it truly is an incredible city!

But I won’t be back.

At least not in the winter. This was my third visit to the city but always in January because of the real estate event Inman Connect. Next time I’d like to not freeze to death outside, to see some green leaves on the trees and perhaps to bring my cycle gear to make a ride outside of the city.

However, traveling doesn’t come easy to me. Most of the nights I sleep poorly as I wake up at 4:00 am due to a massive jetlag. And although I really enjoy being away from my daily routine at home, I get home sick after a few days, and I just want to be back home with my family.

But don’t get me wrong, I’m extremely grateful that I can travel the world as I do and I’m blessed to have a wife that supports me and takes care of everything while I’m gone. So even though I return home exhausted, it also gives me a lot of energy and I wouldn’t want to miss it for a thing in the world.

Kurt & Jerry in New York City

work - 28 Jan 2019

New York City I am in New York City this week together with my partner-in-crime Jeroen Bekkers. Since we both have typical Dutch names that are difficult to pronounce in English we are calling ourselves Kurt & Jerry here…

We are going to visit some of our US customers of Floorplanner — including a new one I’ll tell you about soon in another post — and we’ll meet with a couple potential new ones. Our customers are mainly active in fields of real estate and/or interior design and we offer them an easy way to create floor plans and interior designs.

We took an early flight on Sunday to be able to see a basketball game of the New York Knicks. I played basketball myself for over a decade when I was (a lot) younger and it’s a dream come through to have been at the Madison Square Garden to see a match. I’m not following the NBA at all — or any other sports for that matter — but being there was a truly amazing experience. And although the Knicks lost their 9th game in a row, it was completely sold out and the atmosphere was incredible.

Another reason why we are here is because we are meeting with our new sales partners for the US. We have had a few sales partners in the US before, and unfortunately it has never really worked out. However, this time it looks extremely promising with some early impressive results and we want to support them as much as possible.

I’m in NYC for another couple of days. If you have any tips for things to do or want to meet for a coffee - or a beer - please let me know.

We changed our editor app (again!)

work - 22 Jan 2019

Editor UI update At the end of 2018 we put a completely new website online with a lot of new possibilities. From your existing floor plans you can now render stunning interior stills, interactive VR panoramas and beautiful photo-realistic interior visuals. Last week we rolled out another big update, this time of our editor app.

Back in the early days of Floorplanner we built the very first version of our editor app on top of a browser plugin called the Flash Player. At that time it simply wasn’t possible to build an app for the web using Javascript only. In 2010 Steve Jobs single handedly killed the future of Flash (then owned by Adobe) by not allowing the Flash Player on the iPhone, iPod and iPad. Which meant we had to re-build our editor app from the ground up, using another technology: Javascript (aka HTML5).

As Javascript - and the supporting frameworks - weren’t very mature at that time, it was quite a struggle to build anything decent. But we kept trying and in late 2010 we demoed a first version at the Googleplex in Mountain View as part of their new HTML5 Rocks initiative. Since then we’ve came a long way to where we are now. We’ve tried a lot of different things, made many mistakes, ended up at plenty of dead ends but finally found a way through the maze.

We care a lot about our products and we want to make an editor app that is simple and intuitive to use, but on the other hand very powerful. We are very happy with the state of the Floorplanner platform now, after recently rolling out our new website and the latest editor update, but we think there are a lot more wonderful new things to create. So keep an eye our for our future updates!

Cycling the Ardennes in Belgium

hobby - 07 Jan 2019

I spent the first few days of the new year in a chalet in the Ardennes in Belgium with my family. My wife and kids were free from school until the end of the week, so I took a couple of days off and we all headed south. After making our deadline of releasing the new Floorplanner website, I could also use a little break.

I took my road bike with me as the Ardennes are an amazing place to cycle. The Netherlands is flat - really flat - and the Ardennes are quite the opposite with roads only going up or down, but it’s never flat. I enjoyed the 70 km ride with 1100 altimeters a lot although it was a bit cold from time to time - especially down hill - as it was nearly freezing.

At the end of last year I noticed that I cycled 10% less in 2018 compared to the year before, but I did make a few wonderful rides in Silicon Valley, Andalusia and Mallorca. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to get back to riding 3000 km a year again and if possible at beautiful locations.

New Floorplanner website with new render capabilities

work - 28 Dec 2018

You might have noticed the new Floorplanner website that we rolled out a few days before Christmas. It looks a lot fresher, but it’s much more than that. We have been working on a lot of exciting new things over the course of this year, and with this release they can finally be used by our community.

This update offers a lot of new amazing capabilities, it’s like your floor plans got super powers. Not only can you render beautiful and professional 2D and 3D floor plan images, you can now also render interior still, VR panoramas in high resolution and even interior visuals in photo-realistic quality, straight from your existing floor plans!

We wrapped these features in what we call project levels. You start with a project at level 1 with decent but limited capabilities, and if you want more you can upgrade your project to the level you want. For example, with level 3 you can render VR panoramas of your project, and with level 4 you can render photo-realistic interior images.

We also introduced credits with this update. You can upgrade a single project by paying a small amount of EUR or USD, but if you want to upgrade multiple projects on a regular basis we offer an easier way. You can buy a bundle of credits - at a discount - and you can upgrade a project by spending credits.

The new website with the new project levels, render capabilities and credits are currently only available to people that have registered after the release. In the first month of the new year we will make the new features available to everybody.

I wish you all a healthy, happy and dorky 2019 🎆🎆

Joris Luyendijk amongst bankers

hobby - 16 Dec 2018

No cycling for me this morning as it snowed a bit last night 😞 Instead let me tell you about a a book I just finished, the Dutch book “Dit kan niet waar zijn” by Joris Luyendijk. A few years after the crisis of 2008, Joris was asked by the Guardian to take deep dive into the world of bankers in the financial heart of London (the City) and write a blog about it: Bankers: an anthropological study.

What happens in the City of London affects everyone, but most of us know very little about the people who work there – or what they do all day. The Guardian is launching a new project: an anthropological study of the Square Mile.

In the beginning Joris has a hard time interviewing bankers as there is a strong code of silence amongst them - what happens in the City, stays in the City - but after a while he manages to find his way inside the financial industry. Based on the interviews he is able to discover different kind of bankers, from Neutrals to Masters of the Universe, and in general they are decent people trying to do a good job.

He argues that the problem is not the people, it’s the system, the incentives are wrong. The world of banking is a-moral, you can do whatever you want as long as it’s within the boundaries of the law. There is no job security, so if you can get fired any minute you are much more focussed on short term gains than the long term.

But the biggest problem is that there is no malus (a negative bonus). When things go well bankers earn a nice bonus, but when things go sour they don’t feel the pain themselves for the mess they made. Since most banks are considered to-big-to-fail, the taxpayer ends up paying for their mistakes. This is not capitalism at all!

He ends on a pretty negative note. Yes, some regulation has been added but the core problem hasn’t been addressed. Banks are not cut up into smaller parts which each part being responsible for their own risks. And the politicians that should look out for the tax payer take fancy jobs at the banks after their political career.

Can we expect another financial crisis? Probably. For me peronally I try to pay off my debt (mortgage) as soon as possible to decrease my risk. My company is profitable and growing since 2009 and we like to keep it that way.

Automatically furnish rooms in the Floorplanner editor app

work - 28 Nov 2018

A few weeks ago I wrote about the experiments we were doing to automatically furnish the rooms of a floor plan. Today I am very happy to announce that you can try it out yourself as it’s available in our editor app 🎉🎉

It works now for the following room types: the living room with or without a dining section, a single or double bedroom, a bathroom with a shower or a bath and a home office. We will continue to work on improving the furnishing of the current room types and we’ll focus on supporting new ones like the kitchen and furnishing professional offices.

You can decorate a room in a certain style by selecting one of the eleven collections. A collection is a selection of furniture items together with wall and flooring materials. We will add more collections ourselves soon, and later on we will let everybody create their own collections.

Give it a try and I’d love to hear what you think of it!

The InterPlanetary File System

hobby - 21 Nov 2018

My website runs on a tiny computer in the basement of my house. It’s a Raspberry Pi 2 Model B that’s connected to the internet via my home modem. It’s not exactly what you’d call an enterprise grade solution, but it’s good enough for me as my site doesn’t get much traffic. Actually, I have no clue how many people visit my site because I don’t keep track, which is on purpose. If I’d monitor the traffic I’d try to make it grow. Not knowing is much more relaxed.

Sometimes I look around for another way to host my website and this time the blog post by Cloudflare about their IPFS gateway sparked my interest. I’ve been following the IPFS project for a while now as it’s one of these rare blockchain projects that might make sense. Here is how they summarise their project:

IPFS is the Distributed Web. A peer-to-peer hypermedia protocol to make the web faster, safer, and more open.

Currently most websites and internet apps run in very large warehouses stacked with thousands of computers called data centers. Whenever you visit a website or use a mobile app, files and other data are loaded from these data centers and sent to your phone or laptop. This puts quite a bit of strain on the data centers and the pipes to and from them. Having the internet centralised in a few massive data centers also bring some risk along with it. When a data center goes down it can break the internet.

The InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) tries to solve these issues by being a network. Instead of having a small amount of massive data centers and large pipes, it’s a network of millions/billions of small computers (called nodes) that are all connected together. Files are securely stored on the network, and when you visit a website the content is loaded from a node nearest to you. This makes it fast but also resillient. If one node goes down, another one can provide the content you were looking for.

However, it’s still very early days for the IPFS. I uploaded my website to the IPFS network which is fairly easy to do, but I have to keep an IPFS node running to keep it available. I would also have to update my DNS record whenever I make a change to my site. But I do like the idea of a decentrilized web so I’ll keep trying it out and eventually might switch my website over completely.

Interior Festival HUB

work - 16 Nov 2018

Jeroen and I just returned from the Interprint Interior Festival called HUB in the Ruhr of Germany. It’s only 220km from Rotterdam, but it took us four trains to get there. We had to hurry a few times to catch our next train, but we both enjoy traveling by train, so the 3 hour trip was no trouble at all.

The event was a combination of lectures, exhibitions and networking while enjoying a drink and a bite. The world is changing fast and this event is a way for Interprint to talk to many people in the industry to figure out what the future could look like, and what their role in it could be.

Interprint is a 125 year old family-run company and one of the leading decor printers in the world. Their 29 massive production presses print 1.7 billion square meters of paper a year — roughly the size of the province of Utrecht in the Netherlands — with wood, stone and creative decors. These prints are then used for the manufacturing of furniture, laminate flooring and interior finishes.

We were invited to the HUB event because Interprint is going to partner with us. We have a very active community of design enthusiasts that use our apps to create the most amazing interior designs. Interprint wants to work with our community to get more insights into which prints could become popular, to see if it’s possible to discover trends. So we are very excited about this opportunity as it allows our community to design with the beautiful decors of Interprint, and it will give our customers a new way to become trend watchers.

Flying through a house

work - 07 Nov 2018

When we released our new editor a few months ago we introduced a new camera feature at the same time. Without this camera you could only see a floor plan in 3D from far away, a so called bird’s-eye view. The camera allows you to stand inside a room, to look around and to walk from room to room, which gives you a new and exciting way to experience a plan.

The next feature we added to the editor was a way to create interior renders; images that take a bit longer to render but look a lot nicer. Then we started experimenting with photo-realistic rendering to improve the quality of our interior images, and we looked into rendering virtual reality panoramas to get a sensational immersive experience. There was a slight problem however, you could only have one camera per floor level.

The good news is that we are about to roll out a new version of the editor that will allow you to add multiple cameras to a floor! This makes it a lot easier to create amazing renders from every room of a house, and – it’s a completely new way to present your plan. We added fancy tweens between the cameras so you can create a cool fly-through from one view point to another.

Of course it should be possible to export a fly-through as a GIF or a movie straight from the editor, but I think it also makes sense to render a fly-through as a photo-realistic movie, or even a 360 movie where you can look around while moving through a plan. Lot’s of fun stuff to work on and I can’t wait to see what our community will create with it!

Chinese Haute Cuisine

hobby - 24 Oct 2018

Earlier this year I gave my wife a romantic diner for two for her birthday — Mexican Emotional Cuisine — as the kite surfing lessons I gave her the year before weren’t a huge success. Last week when I turned 40 she returned the favor in a spectacular way. She took me to a Chinese restaurant Zheng that has a Michelin star.

Chef Han Ji opened his French-Chinese fusion restaurant in 2009 called HanTing Cuisine. It was the first French-Chinese cuisine restaurant in the Netherlands and the first one to receive a Michelin star. After five successful years he started working on a new concept based on healthy food, culture, art and ancient ceremonies of the Chinese Empire. The new restaurant Zheng opened earlier this year;

Zheng takes us to the Chinese Empire, where at one time, on the day after New Year, the most important officials were invited to an extensive Zheng banquet. It was an impressive spectacle where the table was fully adorned with luxurious food and drinks, all of which were served according to ancient ceremonies. As culinary establishment Zheng takes a deep bow to the Chinese (food) culture, the ancient traditions and the ritual acts. The four most important types of Chinese cuisine are presented in 12 chapters per evening, with a different Chinese cooking technique and an art object being presented centrally during each chapter.

Our diner had 7 courses (or chapters) and it was a truly amazing experience. The food was exquisite, the space well designed and the atmosphere very relaxed. However, we’ve had a few rough nights the days before our diner due to our kids waking us up in the middle of the night (as they tend to do occasionally). The diner was really spectacular, but at the end we were happy that we ‘only’ had 7 courses instead of the full blown 12 course menu.

I would highly recommend this restaurant if you are into this kind of dining, and I’d like to thank my wife for taking me there! 🇨🇳

Decorating rooms automagically

work - 12 Oct 2018

Besides improving our rendering capabilities – like virtual reality panoramas and photo-realistic interior renderings – we are also experimenting with decorating rooms automatically. A 2D floor plan is essential in understanding the layout of a property, but the fun is in 3D! Stunning 3D floor plans from a birds-eye view, photo-realistic interior stills, panoramas to look around at a specific place in a room, and even walking freely through a house in virtual reality.

However, it takes quite some time and skill to decorate one room, let alone all the rooms of a property. That’s why we are doing an experiment to see if we can automatically place furniture in a room and apply materials to floor, ceiling and walls to make it easier and faster to decorate it. So far it looks really promising if I may say so myself.

We think it can be useful a tool for all kinds of situations. Real estate agents can use it to easily create high quality 3D property presentations. A fully decorated 3D floor plan looks much more convincing than an empty black and white 2D plan. Home-buyers can use it to find inspiration for there rooms. They can generate a lot of different – in furniture layout as in style – designs fast to figure out what they do and don’t like. And we think it can help interior designers to spend less time on repetitive tasks so they’ll have more time for what they do best; making aesthetic and functional spaces for their clients.

Anyhow, we will soon release a version for you to give it a try yourself!

Cycling Mallorca

hobby - 07 Oct 2018

I just returned from a short holiday on the Spanish island of Mallorca. The wife of a friend of mine is Mallorcan and while they live in the Netherlands they visit the island a few times a year.

Actually, she was born on Mallorca but the family on her father’s side is originally from the island of Ibiza, and the family on her mother’s side is from the Spanish region of Catalonia. Her parents met in a small village in Catalonia where they got married and her older sister was born. Then they moved to Mallorca to settle down.

Anyhow… they invited another friend and me over to cycle, eat, drink and eat some more. In our two rides we cycled about 170 km with a total of 3100 altimeters. The second day we went for the full Mallorcan experience and stopped in the middle of our ride to enjoy a big lunch with a bottle of chilled red wine. With the perfect weather, great roads, magnificent views and being among friends, I had a wonderful time.

Tech Writer

work - 20 Sep 2018

At Floorplanner we are making space planning and interior design accessible to everybody. We are working hard to make it as easy as possible to create professional looking 2D floor plans, gorgeous looking 3D floor plans, photorealistic interior renderings and interactive VR panoramas and walk-throughs.

But while we are building all these new things we tend to ‘forget’ to write stuff down. Stuff like how we built a certain app and why we did it this way, but also how all our different apps work together. And although it’s important to write down all these technical things, we don’t do it enough. That’s why we are going to try a different approach and see if we can find someone who can help us with this.

So, if you like what we are doing at Floorplanner, you can write and want to write about software, consider joining us as a tech writer. For more info, please send me a message!

ZOZO

hobby - 13 Sep 2018

This story is going to be a bit dorky. More dorkier than usual? Yes - a little bit - as it’s about tight, black suits with white dots and augmented reality (AR).

Last summer our sales director at Floorplanner visited his brother in Japan. Here he was introduced to the Japanese clothing brand ZOZO, that had just released their ZOZOSUIT. He - being a bit of a gadget freak - ordered it right away. Back at the office he showed me his ZOZOSUIT package which I - being a bit of a gadget freak - ordered right away!

The idea behind ZOZO is that you can have perfectly fitting clothes by precisely measuring your body using their suit and their AR app on your phone. So that’s what I did. I put on my (very tight) black suit with white markers and I used the ZOZO app on my phone to take my exact measurements.

I don’t care much about perfectly fitting clothes to be honest, but I find it an interesting use case for AR. Measuring your body is useful for clothing obviously, but it also makes sense in other areas like people trying to lose or gain weight. Anyhow, I sent my measurements to ZOZO to get a free pair of jeans and a shirt. If you are interested, you can order your ZOZOSUIT here.

Cycling in Spain

hobby - 17 Aug 2018

This year I spent my summer vacation with my wife and three little kids in the south of Spain. We stayed in the towns of Almuñécar, Granada and Nerja and we visited many beautiful beaches, ancient castles, cute villages and even got to see the magnificent Alhambra. I also got to make two wonderful rides while my lovely wife entertained our kids in the swimming pool during the time I was away.

The first ride was from Almuñécar to the north in the direction of the Sierra Nevada and although it was only 60 km long it gave me a pretty hard time. The track ran up a mountain for 30km - from sea level up to 1200 meters high - and back down again. The views were truly amazing but my Dutch legs were simply not used to all the climbing. The second ride was 70km from Nerja to the north west passing the stunning mountain village of Frigiliana and had two climbs in it; one of 400 meters high, and one of 700 meters. It was a bit warmer this day but it went slightly better, probably due to all the Spanish food and drinks of the previous days 🥘🍺😎

Virtual Reality Panoramas

work - 03 Aug 2018

Last time I wrote about my work it was about creating photo-realistic interior images straight from your Floorplanner floor plan. Now I’m excited to tell you that we are experimenting with panoramas. A still image shows you an interior design at one specific angle, but a panorama let’s you to look around and experience the whole interior from every angle! You can click on the image above to see a sample.

What’s even better than a panorama? A virtual reality (VR) panorama! A VR panorama shows the interior in 3D, which gives you the immersive feeling of actually standing inside a room. All you need to do to experience a VR panorama is to watch it on your phone, select the VR mode and view it in a Google Cardboard or Samsung Gear VR. For the best experience you should try a (standalone) VR device from Oculus, Vive or one of the other manufacturers.

By the way, we are working on an Oculus app to make it as easy as possible to view your Floorplanner VR panoramas on a Oculus Go. If you want to give it a try, let me know!

Kitesurfing

hobby - 24 Jul 2018

I just finished my first kitesurfing lessons! It was a lot of fun, but as you can see, it’s exhausting if you don’t really know what you are doing.

It all started last year when I wanted to give my wife an original present for her birthday. And original it was, but not very practical. I gave her a three day course which we’d do together with each course taking 3.5 hours of training. She liked the idea, but not so much the investment of 3 x 3.5 hours. And besides that, it was really impractical (what I only realized after I had bought her the present of course). Where would we find the time between work and taking care of our three little children to do this together?! To make a long story short… I ended up asking my neighbor to join me and he happily did.

This summer is the warmest ever in the Netherlands, so it’s great to be out on the beach. We had quite a bit of luck with the wind as you needs wind speeds between 7-28 knots (3-6 Beaufort) to be able to do any kitesurfing as a beginner. The first lesson was mainly about safety instructions and learning to control the kite on the beach. After my first try I thought I’d be very difficult to control the kite, but it turned out the get a lot easier after a few more runs.

The second lesson was about body dragging: lying in the water and having the kite pull you in a specific direction. You have to control the kite with one hand, and point your other arm in the direction you want to go. It wasn’t easy due to the hard wind and the high waves that day, and my body hurt quite a bit the day after. On the last day we had to try to do the actual kitesurfing. You had to walk in the water with your kite and a board, then you had to lay in the water, put the board on your feet, move the kite around and surf the waves! It sounds a lot easier than it actually is, but I managed to made a few ride, and I even made a little jump (completely by accident of course). So I did a bit of kitesurfing, but I would never go kitesurfing on my own. For that I’d need a lot more training.

And today, as it’s my wife’s birthday again, there will be no original presents whatsoever, just a good old fashioned romantic diner for two.

Photo Realistic Interior Rendering

work - 18 Jul 2018

Photo-realistic interior rendering We are experimenting with photo-realistic interior renderings at Floorplanner. A photo-realistic interior rendering is a 3D visualization of a decorated room that looks like a photo. See the sample above, in the bottom left corner you can see the 2D view of a kitchen, in the bottom right corner a real-time preview of the interior and on top the final photo-realistic rendering. This is an imaginary getaway made on Floorplanner which I might need as my kids actually started to use the tree house I built them.

A few months ago we rolled out the first version of the camera feature in the editor. This camera feature makes it possible to create interior renderings right from your floor plan and it gives fast and amazing results. The big difference with this photo-realistic rendering is that it is “physically correct”, which means that the lighting is actually realistic, resulting in much more beautiful interior visualizations. The trade-off here is that it takes us a lot longer to create these photo-realistic images. But with the combination of powerful GPU servers in the Google Cloud and NVIDIA’s AI denoising we can now create HD photo-realistic images within minutes!

Photo-realistic interior renderings are beautiful, they can be created straight from your floor plan, it only takes minutes to create them, they will be cheap and they will be available soon. I hope this will be useful feature for anyone who’s involved in interior design and real estate visualizations.

Tree House

hobby - 07 Jul 2018

I built a tree house in our garden for our kids. It’s actually more of a house-next-to-a-tree than a house-in-a-tree but who cares about those tiny details, right? Looking back, it took a lot more time and wood than I initially thought, but it was good fun building it using only a handsaw and cordless drill for the screws. It’s also funny that you look at the world differently when you are building something yourself as I noticed this kind of wood paneling on the facade of an old Dutch farm when visiting it with my kids.

I built the house in the back of my garden with the idea of moving it later to its final destination, but that turned out to be a bit more difficult than anticipated because when I was done it weighed a ton. Luckily a few of my friendly neighbors wanted to help me out and with the four of us we moved it to the right place. I don’t think I’m going to paint the tree house as I like the natural color, but I might paint the roof to keep it waterproof - being a good Civil Engineer.

The school summer vacation starts next week and I hope the kids will actually use it. Otherwise I’ll just get the WiFi working in the back of my garden and turn it into a hideout for myself.

Pull Request Follow Up

work - 28 Jun 2018

About two months ago we started using Pull Requests. For those out there who are not software developers, a pull request is way to bundle changes in the source code of the software - usually for a new feature, but not always - to have it reviewed by someone else. We introduced pull requests (or PRs) for mainly two reasons, to improve our code quality and to share the knowledge about what has changed in the code among more developers.

After a while we noticed that there was some confusion around how a PR should be reviewed. Should someone glance over the changes and approve a PR without much discussion or should it be thoroughly studied and debated? So yesterday I sat down with my senior developers to talk about it and we found that the discussions around PRs were mostly around code formatting & quality issues, bugs and problems in the code architecture.

I think debating over coding styles is a waste of time. We should pick one style (per language perhaps) and stick to it. We use Rubocop to check our Ruby code and we will start using something similar for our JavaScript code soon, Prettier for formatting and JSLint for quality. If a PR has a bug in the code it should not be approved of course, neither when the code architecture is wrong. We will do more automated testing to find bugs sooner. Most of our backend Ruby code has automated tests already, but the our frontend JavaScript code has not. We made our first steps into using Cypress.io for that and it looks very promising.

Another thing we have learned is that having a discussion about the code architecture after something has been built is not the right moment, not the right moment at all. The discussion should happen before the actual implementation has occurred as it usually takes quite some time to change the architecture afterwards, wasting costly resources. So when building a new feature, a developer and the reviewer will sit together and talk about it before they start hitting their keyboards.

I think these improvements make a lot of sense and I’ll keep you posted on how they work out for us.

Bonsai Of Love

personal - 16 Jun 2018

About a year ago I got married. Most of my family thought it was a bit late, but I considered it perfect timing. At the time of my (unexpected!) proposal my girlfriend and I had been together for 15 years and having three lovely kids. We’ve been trough some tough times, sure, but most of our time together was splendidly happy. Both our parents were still around and in pretty decent shape, so why not get married and throw a party for our family, friends and ourselves. It truly was an amazing day!

From my Floorplanner co-founders and dear friends we got a beautiful bonsai tree as a wedding present. It’s a Japanese Azalea (Rhododendron) that takes between 5 to 10 years to grow to this size. The bonsai tree was in full bloom when we got it and what made it extra special was that it would blossom every year on our wedding day. Yet, the day after our wedding all the flowers fell out… Was this a sign? Should we not have gotten married? Were the best days behind us? It was none of that! A year later on our wedding day the bonsai tree was in full bloom again. “And they lived happily ever after.” 🤞

Floorplanner Dashboard Preview

work - 07 Jun 2018

Yesterday we released the first version of our new Floorplanner website. It’s a new app we call the Dashboard because it’s mainly about the things you can do when you are logged in. You can manage your projects, your profile and your company of course, but it also has a couple of new exciting features. The Dashboard makes it easier to create consistently looking floor plans and to brand the final end result - 2D & 3D floor plan and interior images - with a logo and/or a disclaimer.

And this is just the start. In the near future it will be possible to create an unlimited amount of projects for free! We also will introduce a new credit system. Credits can be bought, earned and spent on a variety of new features, like upgrading a project to get better floor plan and interior images. And next to that, we will continue to improve our interior rendering, generating photo realistic interior stills and panoramas (for virtual tours)!

But I’m getting a little ahead of myself 😂😂 Please give our new Dashboard a try and let us know what you think!

Presentation at NVIDIA's GTC

work - 29 May 2018

I was invited to give a presentation at NVIDIA’s GTC event last March in Silicon Valley. At Floorplanner we use NVIDIA hard- and software to render 3D images of floor plans and interiors. My talk was about the journey we’ve made over the years regarding our 3D rendering and they just released the recorded video.

Our first render attempts were pretty poor. We used low quality 3D furniture models in combination with CPU rendering, which took ages to render an image. The acquisition of MyDeco gave us a lot of high quality 3D furniture models and NVIDIA’s Iray renderer (wrapped in an easy to use web service called RealityServer by Migenius). This took the quality of our 3D images to a whole new level!

Next to improving the quality of our renders we had to find a way to scale our system. We render almost a million 3D images a month which means it has to be fast. We started out by building our own GPU render machines, but that was risky business to due power and internet outages at our office. After co-locating our own GPU servers we are now mainly rendering mainly in the cloud on demand.

NVIDIA is doing much more than rendering these days. Have a look at Jensen Huang’s keynote presentation to see all the amazing stuff they are up to!

Beat Saber

other - 22 May 2018

I don’t play a lot of games these days - apart from playing games with my kids of course - but I really like this VR rhythm game: Beat Saber. A bit nerdy yes, but a lot of fun! Playing in VR - an Oculus Rift in my case - makes all the difference. You really feel inside the game slashing the beats with your sabers as a genuine Jedi. This is a clip I made while playing in the easy Normal mode, but it can get much more challenging. Give it a try if you have the chance!

Git Workflow

work - 16 May 2018

In the beginning we had a ‘move fast and break things’ mentality. We wanted to build new things and release them as fast as possible, even when they were not perfect. Now with more people using our product and more developers working on it, we have to be a bit more careful about how we build our software. One of the outcomes of our recent Start/Stop/Continue session was that a way to do that is to improve our Git workflow (the way we use version control in our software development).

After a discussion today we settled on a combination of GitFlow and pull requests. Not the complete GitFlow model, but a light version as we don’t have release cycles of months but multiple times a day. Using pull requests forces us to have at least two developers looking at new code, which should improve the quality of the code and share knowledge across a team. I’m excited to see how this works out and I’ll share the results when I have some.

See post & comments on LinkedIn.

Cycling Veluwe

hobbies - 11 May 2018

Together with two friends we try to cycle between 60 and 80km every Sunday morning all year round. During the year we make a few of longer rides like the Joep Zoetemelk Classic in early March, which was very cool this year! Today I cycled alone across the country in a 130km ride to the Veluwe where I’ll be staying with my family for a long weekend.

Oculus Go

work - 04 May 2018

As a CTO I’m responsible for keeping up with the latest tech. The day before yesterday Oculus came out with the Oculus Go on Facebook’s f8 conference and since we are very interested in virtual reality (VR) I had to buy one and give it a try 😎😎

Excuse the lame photo, but I really think it’s a great product. It’s predecessor the Oculus Rift had to be connected to a PC with cables, and the PC had to have a decent GPU. The Oculus Go is a standalone device so you don’t have to have a PC (who has a PC these days?) which makes a huge difference. You can pick it up, put it on and use it right away without any hassle. It’s unfortunate that there aren’t many VR apps in the Oculus Store for the Go at the moment, but that might be an opportunity at the same time! To be continued.

Btc Mortgage

other - 01 May 2018

I became less of a hodler as I sold a chunk of my crypto portfolio, mainly Bitcoin. I didn’t invest it in other crypto though. I did the very unsexy thing of paying off a part of my mortgage. The main reason is that I don’t like having a huge debt, even if the government (weirdly) incentives me to keep my debt by offering tax discounts. It was a bit of a hassle to get the money where I wanted it to be. First I had to transfer the Bitcoins from my Airbitz/Edge mobile app to the Kraken exchange. There I could sell it for Euros and send it to my bank account and from where I had to transfer it again to my mortgage bank account.

Dashboard MVP

work - 30 Apr 2018

We are almost at the end of our journey of rebuilding a big part of our platform. In March we released our new editor and we introduced the new camera feature. The next important piece of the puzzle is a project we call the Dashboard. It’s the logged-in part of the Floorplanner website and we are also rebuilding this part from scratch. We will introduce some new highly anticipated features and it will give us the opportunity to use the latest tech; in our case a React.js frontend talking to a Ruby on Rails backend. We’ll soon open it up for early access.

Tree House

hobbies - 28 Apr 2018

I’m building a tree house in our garden for our kids. My father had some second hand wood left over and we always wanted to get rid of our old sandbox, so I figured this was the right moment to do something about it. I made a few sketches, called my dad and a few hours later I had a rough idea in my head and a car filled with wood. Got home and started right away with the help of my nine year old daughter. This is the result at the end of the day just before the rain started.

Start Stop Continue

work - 27 Apr 2018

The company is growing which means that our development process has to grow along with it. To get a sense of what people like and don’t like about our current process we organised a Start/Stop/Continue session. Everybody could write down their thoughts on sticky notes and post them in one of the Start/Stop/Continue buckets. Start was about the things we should start doing, Stop about the things we should stop doing and Continue about the things we should continue doing.

We got a lot of interesting feedback, most things we already knew but there were also a few surprises. We are going to process the sticky notes and come back with some suggestions about how we could improve our process. We’ll discuss this with the team in a follow up meeting.

Running

hobbies - 19 Apr 2018

I started running as a New Year’s resolution, but I injured my calves after a few months. I figured that my body should be able to handle the new exercise, but apparently it didn’t (Yes yes, I’m getting older). Now I’m taking a rest for a few weeks after which I’ll try to pick it up again, but this time I’ll build it up more slowly and I’ll do some proper stretching…

Cycling Silicon Valley

hobbies - 23 Mar 2018

I was invited to speak at the NVIDIA GTC conference about how we use NVIDIA tech at Floorplanner, which was very cool obviously. While I was there I took the opportunity to spend some time outside and make a bicycle ride there. I rented a road bike at a shop in Los Gatos, downloaded a route on my Garmin and took off. After half an hour I was reminded that most countries are not as flat as the Netherlands, having to climb for an hour at 10%. But the scenery was amazing and the weather was great so I had an excellent time.