A breakdown of one of AR’s most practical use cases today, furniture shopping
At Modsy we could not be more excited about roll out of Augmented Reality (AR) through ARKit on iOS devices and ARCore on Android devices. This is just the start of the full unlock of visualization as a part of home design and furniture shopping, something we have long believed will transform the way we all shop for our homes. AR as a feature will be as fundamental to the next generation of mobile applications as geolocation was to early mobile apps. There will be very few products that do not in some way take advantage of this feature, overlaying valuable data and visuals positioned through the camera as if they were in the real world. Furniture shopping and home design are one of the best examples of this new capability and we’re bound to see a lot of action in this space in the coming months!
With all the enthusiasm around the launch of AR we thought it would be helpful to share our analysis of the first generation of AR and where it will be best applied as well as the limitations as it relates to shopping for the home.
What we love about AR for home design & furniture shopping:
1. Shopping validation for single item or small vignettes: The top use case for AR in home furnishings will be to consider how single items and small vignettes look within a room. It will be very helpful when you have an empty part of your room and you’re considering 1-3 items. You will likely want to do a good amount of the searching and saving of items before moving into AR mode so you can make the best use of the time when you are standing and looking through the app (both battery life and your own patience may limit how much search and discovery you choose to do in the actual AR mode). However once you have a variety of items you’d like to consider, moving to the AR view will give you an amazing way to get a sense of the size, look and feel of the item in your actual space.
2. 3D Presence: Both ARKit (iOS) and ARCore (Android) will give us a sense that the objects we are seeing through our screen are really in the room with us. This is the biggest unlock of this generation of AR on mobile, it is the first time almost every consumer’s phone will have the ability to sense the planes in a room and therefore accurately place and scale items. You can walk up to and around the objects just like they exist in the real world and even the lighting effects help to simulate the feeling that they are part of your current environment. While the graphics will not be perfect (they will still have a bit of a game/cartoon feel) they will often be close enough to give you a sense of the shape and scale of an item you are considering.
3. Quick, easy, and on every smart phone: The reason this moment in time is so critical is that AR is will now be a regular feature available on (just about) every consumer’s phone. For iPhones it will be 6s and later and for Android it will be initially on Pixel and Samsung’s S8. This means that we are no longer limited to special devices or hardware for a realistic 3D viewing experience in our phone, with the click of a button anyone can move into an AR viewing experience.
The limitations of AR for home design and furniture shopping:
1. Best in empty rooms: If you have an empty room or an empty spot/wall AR will be perfect, however for anyone trying to swap out new furniture with existing items it will be a bit more challenging. If you’re considering a new sofa in place of your current sofa you may have trouble positioning the 3D sofa on top of an existing item in the scene. You’ll need to either move your sofa or deal with a slightly awkward experience. The same will go for considering items that need to be positioned in or tightly around existing items, for example rugs or dining room chairs. The current generation of AR does not know how to detect and work around existing items in the scene in a nuanced way, but rather thinks you would want to place the item on top of the item in the scene.
2. Difficult to use for full room or multi-item designs: While AR is great at detecting planes when you’re working within a limited area of a room it quickly becomes less accurate as you move through and attempt to place multiple items within a full room. A combination of virtual items intersecting with real items, breaking the illusion, and drifting that can interfere with the accurate placement of larger objects will make it difficult to design a large multi-item room. The more items you add and the more complex your scene becomes, the harder it will be to keep everything accurate and in place. It’s going to be best used for considering 1-3 items at a time.
3. Not the right solution for optimizing layouts: This is probably not the feature you want to use if you’re still experimenting with the layout for your room. It will be difficult to get a complete sense of all the items in the room from AR mode and you may not have a good sense for how close things are to one another without moving around and tweaking. To experiment you will likely want to use a top down view and experiment from this perspective where you can easily move items around and determine the optimal layout and distance between objects. Once you have a vision for your room, viewing specific items through AR in the place you are considering will be a great way to validate that you do in fact like the layout and having this item in this location.
4. Recommended Design or DIY Discovery: A key part of using AR effectively will be to use it when you are certain about the products you want to visualize. If you are struggling to think about what to put in a room or how to pull it all together AR is not going to help. It is a DIY experience and you’ll need to find the items you like and know exactly where you want to see them. As we’ve seen at Modsy this is not always where a consumer will begin their journey. Oftentimes people are feeling overwhelmed and intimidated trying to figure out what items will look good together, how they should be placed in the room, and how to accessorize and bring it all together. This is not something AR will solve. Once you have a design concept, layout, and a list of the specific products you are considering, this will be the moment to use an AR feature to view these items for a final visual confirmation that this is the perfect piece for your room.
We believe that AR shopping experiences will help to transform the way we shop for our homes. It is not a perfect solution in and of itself just yet however. Between drifting, battery life, plane detection and graphic quality, this first generation of AR will be used for very focused and specific use cases. As the technology advances the adoption will advance as well, but will likely need to live alongside a larger home shopping and design experience. The ideal app will include concept planning, inspiration, a complete cross-retailer catalog, tremendously simple UI, amazing search and filter capabilities, and strong recommendations based on your style, budget and room type. This killer experience will forever transform the way we design our homes and AR will be a key feature enabling this transformation.