This article was originally published on Tech.co on March 17, 2017. Though this piece focuses on interior design for homeowners, one can see the implications of applying the principles across both residential and commercial design.
By Anastasiia Bobeshko
Interior design is in the process of being completely revamped as new technologies enter the playing field.1 By looking toward the future, particularly the nascent technologies of virtual, augmented and mixed reality, interior designers are finding new ways to attract customers and outcompete rivals.
Each of these technologies brings slightly new opportunities to the table, but all of them work to improve and assuage difficulties that have plagued the business — specifically, disappointment due to a discrepancy between expected renovations and actual ones, and customer hesitation in hiring an interior designer due to the fear of not having enough control over the process.
Traditional methods of advising and assisting customers2 have relied on a combination of verbal explanations and 2D drawings. While this has served the industry faithfully, it has principal flaws.
The process of communicating can often leave a lot of room for confusion and disappointment. Even when both the designer and customer are able to correctly express their vision, there is always the chance that the imagination doesn’t quite fully grasp how certain objects will work in concert and how different colors will produce unique emotions.
In the case of 2D drawings and conceptual depictions, the risk is that the customer will not fully appreciate the dimensions of depth and the sense of the room from various vantage points.
Of the three new technologies, virtual reality (VR) is likely the most commonly known. The idea is simple: completely immersing the user in 360 degrees of visual content to create the impression that the user is in an entirely different environment. It is achieved through either VR-specific devices, such as Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, or VR head-mounted displays (HMDs), such as Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR, that turn mobile devices into VR devices.
Interior Design Visualizations
When VR is applied to interior design, the results are staggering. Instead of relying on a drawing or an explanation, or imagining what a room may look like, clients can now put on a VR device and literally walk through different iterations of their future living room. This allows them to see it from every angle, get a sense of the feng shui, and feel assured of their investment.
Due to the increasing cost-effectiveness of virtual visualizations,3 these sorts of virtual walk-throughs are becoming more common for both corporate and individual customers. In large part, this is because of increasing partnerships between software developers and interior designers to bring greater precision and affordability to virtual interior designs.
VR is also allowing for the development of so-called “virtual showrooms.”4 In effect, the user puts on the VR device and is suddenly in a store showroom. Instead of traveling, the process of buying a new couch can be done from one’s living room.
The advantage as opposed to via a computer is that the user is able to get a real sense for the dimensions of the object. As the computing power of VR devices improves, allowing graphics to become more realistic, virtual showrooms may begin to displace traditional brick-and-mortar stores. To get a general idea of what virtual reality can do for your business, you can take a look at a VR platform for interior designers and architects designed by Marxent.
Augmented reality (AR) basically allows a person to use his or her phone to overlay the physical world with virtual elements. This is a fancy way of saying that you can use your phone’s camera and an AR app to see what a new green couch would look like in your living room. IKEA successfully adopted this idea in their new printed catalogs, giving customers the ability to place virtual furniture5 into his/her house.
Without getting too technical, most AR apps currently rely on marker-based technology. This means that a furniture company or an interior designer can give you a brochure or handout that you place in the location you would like to place a piece of furniture. Then by aiming your phone at the location, the piece of furniture — with real-to-life dimensions and scaling — will appear on your screen as if it were part of the room.
The benefit of new apps6 like this is that they allow potential buyers to know if something will fit in their room. We can all finally say goodbye to the soul-crushing, back-breaking process of buying a new dresser, lugging it upstairs, only to find out there’s no space between the bed frame and the wall. For furniture companies and interior designers, it offers increased competitiveness and higher customer satisfaction. IKEA’s idea, as mentioned above, helped to increase their sales from 27.6 billion euros in 2012 to 35.1 billion in 2016, according to Statista.7
Eldorado Stone Offers a Visualizer for Stone and Brick Veneer
|Last year, Eldorado Stone debuted the Visualize Your Space tool for the trade and consumer markets on their website at www.eldoradostone.com/visualizer. The site gives designers, builders and skilled homeowners tools and support to conceptualize their indoor and outdoor spaces with architectural stone and brick veneer from Eldorado Stone.
This new platform allows users to virtually texturize any space with all of Eldorado Stone’s handcrafted stone and brick veneer options on their desktop or tablet.
“The new Visualize Your Space tool gives site visitors the power to imagine pre-set and personal spaces with stone and brick,” says Ramsay Hawfield, Vice President of Marketing and Product Development at Eldorado Stone. “They can envision how it would look to have the dramatic Shadow Rock profile on their garden wall or how it would feel to include calming Zen24 in their bathroom remodel.”
Homeowners, architects and designers can imagine their spaces by applying different collections, profiles and colors to either a pre-set category or a custom image upload. Users creating a custom space also have the ability to set the scale of the stone to increase believability of the install image.
“This tool will help anyone curious about including architectural stone veneer in their new project or remodel by inspiring the prefiguration of their spaces, and then empowering them with the tools they need to get started,” says Hawfield.
For more information and to view a gallery of beautiful installations, visit www.eldoradostone.com.
Mixed reality (MR) is like augmented reality on steroids. It requires specific devices, such as Microsoft’s HoloLens, but allows users to combine physical and virtual elements realistically and seamlessly without markers (e.g., brochures or printouts).
MR devices read the physical environment, so all virtual elements interact with physical elements as if they truly existed; a “virtual” ball will, for example, roll off a real sloped table, fall onto the ground, and bounce according to the rules of gravity.
A Mix of Catalogs and Visualizations
Compared to VR and AR, MR is still being perfected. However, innovative developers, with Microsoft taking the lead, are already testing how it can be used to combine the best elements of VR and AR interior design apps.
Because mixed reality combines the 360-degree nature of virtual reality with the physical/virtual integration of augmented reality, it allows for a more dynamic form of “catalog apps” and the immersion of “visualizations” without costly and time-intensive development. Users would be able to add multiple hypothetical pieces but wouldn’t be able to remove actual, physical elements from view. Thus, MR catalog apps in development are best suited for empty rooms in a new home or smaller-scale, in-room rearrangements.
The winner from all these technological advances will be the customer. Interior design has always had a degree of excitement — new furniture, new layout, whole new vibe. Too often, however, it becomes a frustrating process of apprehension and confusion over what exactly is going to happen.
Virtual reality is a huge step forward for those big projects that require substantial forethought before committing to the costly renovation and construction accompanying such projects. Augmented reality is the perfect solution for solving those nagging questions of “Will it fit,” “What if it was red,” and “Will it match the wallpaper?” Mixed reality will allow new homeowners to completely deck out their new home, in thousands of new arrangements, in a matter of minutes.
If there was ever a time to be excited about where interior design is going, now is that time.
Anastasiia Bobeshko has been a professional technology writer, editor and translator for more than five years. Anastasiia writes articles that help businesses explore the powers of top-notch technologies. A natural curiosity and passion led her to AR, VR, mixed reality, and gaming — topics she now specializes in. Connect with her on Twitter @anabobeshko.
1. Ronald P. Barba, “The 8 Steps for Implementing a Technology Plan at Your Company,” http://tech.co/steps-implement-new-technology-plan-2016-07.
2. Jacqueline Cao, “4 Ways to Make It Easier for Customers to Contact You,” http://tech.co/4-ways-make-easier-customers-contact-2017-02.
3. Kayla Matthews, “4 Data Visualizations for Your Startup’s Move,” http://tech.co/data-visualizations-startups-move-2016-05.
4. Adam Rowe, “Here’s How VR Showrooms Could Replace Car Dealerships,” http://tech.co/vr-showrooms-replace-car-dealerships-2016-07.
5. IKEA, “Place IKEA furniture in your home with augmented reality,” YouTube video, https://youtu.be/vDNzTasuYEw.
6. Program-Ace, “Virtual Tour is a New Way to the Virtual Reality,” https://program-ace.com/press-room/articles/virtual-tour-new-way-virtual-reality.
7. “IKEA’s revenue worldwide from 2001 to 2016 (in billion euros),” premium subscription content, https://www.statista.com/statistics/264433/annual-sales-of-ikea-worldwide.