Reports of a surge in web shopping this year have opened the gate to a more intriguing trend: burgeoning retailer investment in augmented-reality (AR) technology.
The increase in decorating apps is just one of the most recent examples of how this new technology is being put to work. The apps bridge the 'imagination gap' – solving the problem of evaluating paint choices by projecting them onto walls via a smartphone – to shoppable 'rooms' that reveal how furniture will look in real life.
In the past, these apps might have felt like a gimmick. However, today, as we all shop from our sofas, they look essential.
- Read more: Modern home decorating ideas - 18 striking design ideas worth copying
MADE.COM instantly made online shopping more engaging with the virtual, interactive apartment it launched with its AW20 collection. This consisted of four inspiring rooms that 'visitors' could shop as they toured the space, simply by clicking on each piece.
AR is just as useful for the more practical aspects of decorating. Dulux’s Visualizer app helps you to see how its paints will look with your own décor (cutting the number of sample pots you’ll need to try). While Graham & Brown’s version demonstrates how a wallpaper’s scale and repeat will look once hung.
'It’s a big step forward from the old swatch method, and if you find something you like you can buy it then and there,' says head of brand Alan Kemp. Tests have shown that people make bolder choices after using the app, he adds, which saw a 62% increase in downloads from March to October 2020.(opens in new tab)
AR tech is changing interior design as well as shopping behavior. Life Kitchens has a 4D virtual-reality theatre in its Waterloo showroom, which enables customers to 'jump into their future kitchen' before it’s built. A costly investment suddenly seems much less of a risk.
Design firm Holland Green explains that 3D modeling of clients’ spaces allows for visualization of a scheme much earlier in the design process; mistakes are eliminated before installation, and money and resources are saved. 'The technology allows clients to collaborate more with designers,' adds co-founder Stephen Green. 'Changing a color scheme is just a click away.'(opens in new tab) (opens in new tab)
Anticipating real-life experience is key with virtual property tours, which are taking off thanks to pandemic restrictions. Estate agents use 3D cameras to create these, with prospective buyers opting either to be guided through or to explore themselves.
Ollie Kilvert, founder of The 360 View, produces tours for major property developers and believes the practice will go mainstream soon. His company started in 2016 when he was selling his own home. After posting a tour online, his pool of buyers expanded dramatically.
'We eventually sold to a couple from Singapore, who loved all the details they could see – right down to the wood-grain on banisters,' he says. Not just a substitute for the physical, augmented reality is often several steps ahead.(opens in new tab)
Augmented reality might once have felt like a gimmick; today, as we all shop from our sofas, it looks essential.
If you are looking for some key pieces to add to your home today read our feature on 10 designer furniture pieces worth the investment – and where to buy them.
Shining a spotlight on the now and the next in home design and decor, Livingetc is the UK's best selling high end and contemporary home design magazine. As a brand, Livingetc showcases the world's very best homes, breaks and makes the trends, and has access to leading international designers for insight and ideas. It was first published in 1998, and is currently edited by Pip Rich.
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