Through the looking glass...

Through the looking glass...

Think Virtual Reality (VR), and gaming screens are perhaps the first things that come to mind. However, with technology being integral to growth of companies, its potential for use, for better consumer experiences, is naturally being explored. Real estate and interior design have found it to be a beneficial means of providing their clients with an immersive experience, without them having to be physical present at a property.

“With people moving from showing photographs of a home to a prospective buyer, to 3-Dimensional views, VR is the new frontier,” believes Gita Ramanan, chief design officer, Design Café. “Unlike architecture, where a 3D walk-through still holds the maximum value, in the field of interiors, being able to show options of interior design within the built space envelope is a huge advantage. Such views of interiors show you two or three walls at best, at a time, but VR views can allow the user to perceive his space as if s/he is in it, through the device. This advantage is the reason a lot of companies are adopting this technology to better service their clients,” she says.

So, what goes into the making of VR for interiors? “VR for interiors is a mix of architectural design and gaming technology”, says Anuj Srivastava, CEO and co-founder of Livspace.com. “The idea is to achieve total immersion so that it’s very personal and very real. The VR headset has a stereoscopic display that allows the brain to perceive depth in 2D images. A video feed of 2D images of the apartment is sent to the headset and the consumer can interact in the environment due to head tracking technology and sensors set up in the room, giving them a 360 degree experience”.

A VR platform, of course, requires specialised content. So, at the backend, the content for the video feed is created in software like Unreal engine, Unity 3D etc. The process requires a lot of design, render time and technical detailing, much like for realistic 3D scenes. Everything from the textures, lighting, relative size of models and more, contributes to an experience that is comparable to reality.

Amruth Sampige, managing partner, Dash Square/Ashley Furniture Homestore, also adds that the key to VR is a good database of products and intelligent programming. “The whole idea is to fit in the right kind of products for the given space. We can’t ignore the human angle of either selecting the right products or changing what’s been pre-selected for you by the machine.”

What customers get from VR

Anuj puts the experience they offer in perspective and says, “By utilising VR, we’re taking it one step further. In a dedicated zone, one would experience their interiors in their own home space. Imagine walking around in your to-be living room, stooping to see the sofa up close, or even the underside of the coffee table, walking on a marble floor and then changing it to wood, getting a feel of just how spacious your room is, and better yet, even seeing how much sunlight a room receives with sheer or blackout drapes.

VR is a powerful tool to help customers virtually walk through their home to experience the interiors and the space in great detail, and in a quality that’s as close to real as possible. It can help customers visualise and gain confidence even before they think of signing on the dotted line.”

Amruth adds there are three major benefits, particularly for the consumer:

Ability to visualise products which are beyond the display shown in the store.
The customer can select products and place them at their homes by a just a click of a button. This will give the client an actual idea of how the products will look at their place and more importantly, if it’s going to fit well.

The customer​s can make endless changes till they find the right combination.
What next?

With technology being ever-evolving, there must be so much more in the pipeline with technology such as VR. 

The next big thing is also going to be Augmented Reality (AR) applications. AR interacts with your existing world. So, what this essential means is that you could beam out a 3D image of a couch or a chair through an app and see how it looks in your space. Globally, retail chains and furniture stores are already using AR to cut distances and better the shopping experience. It’s only a matter of time before this becomes commonplace in India.

In the real estate sector, the advent of VR has allowed a higher degree of transparency in transactions and afforded more confidence to the buyer. A similar trend in the interiors space is currently underway.

The concept works towards maximising the experience of the client and ushering in an era of transparency and accountability. The ability to allow a buyer an immersive experience of his purchase is unparalleled by any other tool, and VR will soon become the standard for busy professionals who have high purchasing power but a paucity of time.

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