What can Augmented and Virtual Reality do for Interior Design?

Some traditional methods of approximating floorspace for the purpose of ornamenting a room, have not accounted for height and visual weight. With developments in artificial intelligence, much of the guesswork and manual labour needed to plan a 2D format of a room has been eliminated. The rise of augmented and virtual reality has changed the way designers create, perceive and decorate spaces with real-world items and virtual tools.  

What is AR?

Augmented reality is a technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a users view of the real world. In other words, it allows users to view through a screen, what isn’t actually there in real life. Ultimately, it closes the gap between imagination and reality. With regards to interior design, this is game changing and has been adopted by retailers and designers alike, to present to clients a particular vision of a room.

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This technology has allowed for an abundance of interior design functions, utilised in different ways and platforms. The technology of AR has been the basis for apps and design technology across the industry. Go-to Swedish flatpack furniture company, IKEA has been able to maintain its reputation as a leading homeware and design store, by incorporating augmented reality into the purchasing process of its products. Its app allows users to virtually place an item from its catalogue into a room for consideration, without undertaking the three hour IKEA trip. Shopping is made easier, with a direct link to purchasing the item via the app.

Houzz 3D AR tool essentially lets you try furniture before you buy it. The home decor company that combines design ideas, professional design services and furniture shopping into one app, has introduced 3D augmented reality imaging features. Essentially allowing the user to place a virtual piece of furniture in a room to get a better appreciation for how it will fit before buying. This tool is applied to 300,000 items in Houzz’s marketplace of eight million products. Homeowners, designers and retailers use this tool to get a better appreciation for how a piece of furniture will size up, contribute to the room, and enhance or diminish the value of the space. All achieved through a screen, at the click of a button.

AR Apps and Measuring tools have risen to prominence over the past few years. The effects have altered the industry and lightened the load. Traditionally, interior designers, embarking on a project would need to carry with them a heavy tool kit to carry out tedious but necessary tasks. Through augmented reality technology, some tools have been replaced with all-encompassing mobile device apps.

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AirMeasure boasts over 15 different tools in one app. Essentially it operates as a virtual tape measure. Simply point the device at the object you wish to measure and be provided with instant metrics. In fact, this tape measure tool can be utilised further than the traditional manual device. Its Vertical Height feature makes determining the height of tall 3D objects attainable by restricting to the vertical direction.

Traditionally, the interior designer- whose job it is to decorate a space, often with hanging-wall objects- would require the use of a spirit level. Incorporated into the AirMeasure app, a virtual level line can be projected onto the wall to get those frames lined up. One less industrial tool to carry.

Further, AirMeasure’s 3D Cube function allows the user to fit a cube around an object to quickly get the width, length, and height. This allows for quick and effective means of communication between designers, clients and suppliers. It speeds up the process of what otherwise becomes a challenging job with a stiff metal tape measure. The same technology is applied to its TV Sizer function that promptly gives you measurements of a TV screen to ensure the best fit for your wall.

Floor planning, once constrained by the restrictions of 2D blueprints, is now an endless virtual portal for possibilities. Magicplan devises a virtual pin and grid that marks the corners of a room to determine dimensions and creates an accurately measured floor plan. Each plan can be saved as a PDF to share with contractors, designers, and clients. No more marking the floor with masking tape and markers. This AV tech-based floorplanning app gives the designer tools to generate a virtual plan, that is instantly sharable.

Virtual Reality and Interior Design

Whilst augmented reality adds a digital element to a live view through a screen; virtual reality implies a complete immersion experience that totally shuts out the physical world. For the interior design industry, it allows users to create, edit and explore their designed spaces in real scale for the ultimate showcasing design experience.

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Apps like TrueScale and Planner5D offer something truly tremendous. As the user creates a floor plan, the app automatically generates a replicated 3D environment. Users can instantaneously transport themselves into a different space to gain a sense of scale and depth that is unattainable through conventional means of paper or graphics.

Virtual Reality can be experienced in two ways, both equally as valuable to interior design. First, as discussed, immersive headsets which shut out the real world; enabling clients and designers to walk through, experience and change the design plan. Second, virtual tours- those viewed on a computer screen. The latter option has been favoured by some, given the potential of an immersive experience to be dizzying and uncomfortable, which often takes the focus off the design. You can watch 360 videos or explore virtual worlds on the computer without the immersive invasion.

Virtual tours of a design allow for a more accurate and vivid appreciation of what the space can offer. Whether you are pitching an idea to a client or showcasing your designs to prospects, virtual 360 versions of your creation allow the viewer a more representational insight into your design.

Gone are the days when the central tools at the designer’s disposal included manual measuring devices, 2D depictions of their ideas, and second-rate drawings. Of course, these tools served well for centuries of planning and designing. However, the digital age has brought with it the flexibility, creative freedom, accuracy and speed of creating designs. Clients and designers are able to fully visualise the outcome before committing to costly large-scale renovations.

The ability to experiment with different designs, colours, surfaces, styles and furnishings help to make adjustments to the creative vision instantaneously. This, in turn, helps to achieve near to flawless visual impact. With this considered, the extent to which virtual reality has fully flourished to its maximum capacity is questionable, and raises debate over whether we should wait for technology to catch up before we feel more comfortable using it.

Photo Credits: eOffice

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