Matas Petrikas has a vision for the future – one in which ever-present technology isn’t scary, but rather enables a more creative life for the entire family. We asked Matas how he cultivated his unique understanding of technology through the multifaceted lens of an entrepreneur, father and maker.
April 19, 2018
As CEO and Co-Founder of Vai Kai, Matas Petrikas has created a company that helps kids learn to live better in a connected world through educational technology. Matas does this by pulling together the threads of technology, design and education to create beautifully crafted companions for children.
Matas Petrikas lives in a bar, literally.
More specifically, the entrepreneur, musician and father of two lives in a converted bar from the 1980s. Matas and his family have made this space in the center of Berlin their home over the past decade, transforming it into a veritable playground where creativity and curiosity are cornerstones of daily life.
When Matas and his wife Dalia moved in, they began the process of peeling back layers of history to make the space their own. The “barpartment” has now been transformed into something between a castle and a rabbit hole - much as a result of their two daughters growing up and taking ownership of certain parts of the apartment. “Dalia and I joked that at some point we will just be living in a small tiny corner and the rest will be all the kids,” says Matas with a laugh. It’s immediately obvious in the Petrikas’ home that creativity, play and making are alive and well.
“It’s quite an unusual space, even for us. It was originally a bar and restaurant. It was built by an architect and sculptor and carried a lot of cultural references from the 80s. It's a very postmodernist space, but it’s also covered by layers upon layers of stories of the different restaurants and things that inhabited this space,” says Matas.
The ‘barpartment’ certainly did not present a blank canvas, however spending time in the home of the Patrikas, one can tell the layers of history and minutiae of daily life seamlessly melt together. The space is flexible enough to go from workspace to playground in an instance - bolstered by an obvious affinity for sound and lighting that comes from Matas’ background as a musician and Dalia’s as an architect.
“I believe sound is a medium that accompanies all of us in everyday life and we should be more aware of it - also admire it more."
In Matas' words, "sound is an atmosphere. It’s part of an environment and can make or break that environment. Sound doesn't need to be at the forefront but by changing it in the home you can really impact how people communicate with each other or the mood.”
Even before his days as one of the first software engineers at Soundcloud, Matas’ interests have been at the intersection of technology and culture. This combination has guided him to new projects, questioning how technology can promote wellbeing. His optimism about technology is balanced by a healthy sense of responsibility to teach the next generation good habits.
“Since I’ve become a father, my relationship with technology has changed, especially the way that I look at things that might draw attention."
"More often than not," says Matas, "I’m noticing two to three year olds and how they interact with screens and I’m not always happy with it. I think technology is part of our lives and it will stay there but the way it influences us and our children leaves something to be desired. I think it also starts with us - making sure we are setting an example.”
As with Vai Kai, traditional craftsmanship and technology blend and harmonize in Matas and Dalia’s home. Technology plays a big role, although it’s not immediately obvious on first glance. This may be a result of Matas’ upbringing in Lithuania with a mother who was a ceramicist and father who was a sculptor. Growing up among craftsman and learning from an early age the care that goes into making something tangible, it’s no surprise that he would combine this notion with an interest in tech later in life.
This balance between the more ephemeral impact of technology and attention to craftsmanship makes for technological experiences that feel impactful - both in Matas’ approach to fatherhood and the products he produces with Vai Kai. “Combining electronics and natural materials is definitely a new thing - but it's also a part of a much larger narrative. It gives us a bit more responsibility and overview of where things come from. It's very hard to ignore the fact with a wooden product that it actually grew somewhere. It’s good for children to understand this connection, that all things come from somewhere.”
To read more about Vai Kai’s mission to teach children about technology see their website at vaikai.com.
Here at Senic, we are committed to designing new ways to think about and interact with technology in the home. Thanks again to Matas for welcoming us into his home to hear how he and his family incorporate technology into their daily lives. To see how Matas and his family use NUIMO, check out ourvideo profile.
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