Augmented Reality Unlocks Visualization Opportunities for Contract Furniture

November 12, 2018 by

Today, more than ever, we live in a world of instant gratification. We want a cup of coffee, and our coffee brewers fix up an individual cup in seconds. We are curious about the temperature outside so we speak into our phones for an immediate response from our digital assistant. Transitioning to the design world, instant gratification should be just as achievable, shouldn’t it?

Now, the ability to see, instantaneously, what furniture will look like in a commercial space is available through augmented reality (AR) as a “plugin” to Configura’s furniture dealer specification software platform, CET Designer. Anna Prisacari, VP of Marketing & User Experience for Praxik, explains how the company is using this service, which was introduced at 2017 CET Designer User and Developer Conference as InstantAR and released to the public in February 2018, to revolutionize the design process.

“With AR becoming more popular and growing with the IOS 12 release from Apple in September, we envision AR becoming a norm – people almost expect it,” explains Prisacari. “For everyday people, AR is a cool and fun technology, but for the design world, it has enormous value, specifically when the product needs to be visualized and the audience doesn’t have the visual eye. Designers have been trained to have an eye for how a space will look and feel, but their clients often don’t have that skill. Through AR, clients can more clearly understand the designer’s vision and get a sense for that design before ordering the product.”


How It Works

As Prisacari described, designers use AR to take their clients into a space and feel what it’s like. It’s one thing to say, “We’ve considered every aspect of your project needs.” It’s another thing to show them. It is easy to use InstantAR. First, a designer downloads the InstantAR or InstantAR Pro extension in CET Designer. Second, the designer creates a design. Third, the designer clicks on the extension icon and enters a phone number of the iPhone or iPad. The device receives a text message that prompts the user to download the InstantAR Viewer app (if the app has not been installed yet on the device) and the design. Lastly, the user places the design in their space and previews it.

Prisacari explains that “users can walk around, look under the table, and see the details that matter to them. ‘Is this desk height adjustable? Where is the lever to move it? How many outlets are there and where are they in proximity to our desk configurations?’ Users can walk to the sofa and ask questions about the material. They can rotate and add another desk after seeing the space. In other words, they now have the ability to physically see how much space is left between the walls and the furniture placements, which allows for interaction and sensing how a design will feel before getting a physical object in a space.

Prisacari said that the tool has been created as a visualization sales tool. While the previous AR plugin was not instantaneous, through the new launch, users with an iPhone 6s or higher now can click on the extension and share the designs, instantly, via text. While Prisacari notes that one limitation of the tool is that it’s only available within the iOS platform, she adds that Praxik constantly is checking the Android platform for AR capabilities and is hopeful that the technology will be delivered to Android in the near future.


Real World Examples and Definitions

Shoppers today are becoming more accustomed to AR catalogs and real-world applications. Siemens released its new high-quality magnetic valves via AR, Northern Lighting allows users to view all of its 3D lamps via AR, and IKEA even releases a full AR catalog to help buyers with the visualization process.

As technology continues to become an integral part of our everyday life, many people are confused with the difference between AR – augmented reality – and VR, or virtual reality. “In the design world,” explains Prisacari, “VR only allows one person to interact with the technology. You often have to wear goggles or some other visual device that takes you into the technology. With AR, you’re simply augmenting the existing space, and many users can enjoy the experience at once. This makes the tool very promising for our line of work. Plus, AR is becoming more affordable, which allows more people to take an advantage of this technology.”


Benefits to the Design World

For the design world, AR is helping shorten the time between a proposal and a signed contract. “By helping people visualize the space, it’s shortening the time they need to make decisions,” shares Prisacari. “What’s more, the technology is allowing designers to conduct over-the-phone consults, while still being able to walk their clients through the design. Instead of flying in for a client meeting, designers can text their clients a design and walk them through the space without physically being there.”

Prisacari adds that while this tool is great for visualization, she’s quick to note that the tool in no way replaces the need for well-educated designers. “If you want to make changes to the design, place an order, or understand pricing, that’s all done through the CET Designer software platform,” reminds Prisacari. “InstantAR serves as a visualization tool to make the design a tangible conversation piece that aids in and supports the conversation.” Prisacari concludes, “Through AR, the design process is transitioning from words and renderings to an experience of design. To me, this wave of the future will help us unlock even more exciting design possibilities for the future.”



article was originally published in the November 2018 issue of Workplaces Magazine. It is reprinted here with permission.

About the author: Amanda Schneider, LEED AP is a researcher, blogger for the Huffington Post, and the founder of ThinkLab, a research led strategy firm serving the contract interiors market.