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Inside Interiors: A Look at the Applications of VR, AR and 360-Degree Media for Designers

May 10, 2019

Looking for fresh ways to impress your design clients? Consider virtual or augmented reality, two of the latest technologies interior designers and companies are using to gain the upper-hand on competitors while attracting new customers.

Virtual reality (VR), along with augmented reality (AR), mixed reality and 360-degree cameras are slowly transcending the design market by allowing users to digitally experience a space before transforming it – saving clients time and money.  

While the technologies are similar, they do have differences.

What Is Virtual Reality?

Virtual reality works by transporting the user into a digital world that is experienced and interacted with through the use of sensory devices, such as the Oculus Rift headsets. Oculus Inc.’s Brian Kern points out how VR technologies, such as Building Information Model (BIM) software, give designers a much better understanding of their projects and designs, which in turn helps them deliver better outcomes with improved communication and client collaboration.

“Most architects and designers using virtual reality technologies today would argue there is no comparison between the cost and quality advantages of current virtual reality as opposed to pre-2000s visualization software,” he says. “Creating traditional 2D renderings by hand would take days or weeks to fine tune design details. This method is not only tedious but can also impact the project’s timeline and price. Today, however, architecture and design firms can use BIM technology to create high-quality 3D renderings in a matter of hours.”

Virtual Reality vs. Augmented Reality 

Augmented reality can also provide similar time- and cost-saving results. It blends the user’s real-world environment with virtual renderings into your screen view. The Graham and Brown augmented reality app is one example of how a major brand is incorporating AR into its customer experience.

The free app allows users to virtually measure a particular space, visualize a chosen wallpaper style to scale on the walls and determine how many rolls are needed prior to making a purchase. Doors and windows can even be visualized, giving customers precise measurements, which in turn saves them from over-buying wallpaper.

Both VR and AR are even being incorporated into retail space experience. Makeup producer COVERGIRL opened the brand’s first immersive retail store in Times Square that allows customers to digitally experiment with products using AR glam stations and mirrors. Visitors can test and try new makeup without having to purchase it.

COVERGIRL Times Square

“The advantage to the various tech-related features is they provide alternate opportunities to experience the brand, whether it be trial, customization or to connect with the brand socially via pure play fun,” says Robyn Novak, vice president and creative managing director at FRCH NELSON, the firm that helped envision the design.

360-Degree Devices: Another Full-Range View

360-degree devices are popular tools that also show the camera user’s real-life surroundings. C|net editors Joshua Goldman and John Falcone note that, for most of us, "360-degree spherical content will be the first immersive ‘VR’ experience we have.” The main difference between the 360-degree devices versus VR and AR devices is that 360 offers real footage while VR and AR video are simulated and allow the user to interact with the scene he or she is viewing.

Christoph Trappe, chief content officer for Stamats - our corporate parent company often uses 360 videos to engage his audience digitally. Here’s an example of his recent visit at the Chicago headquarters for TURF, an acoustic design company, which gives a full 360-degree view of his tour throughout the space. 

Simple and affordable, 360 videos offer options to share with audiences the user’s entire surroundings in real time. The camera used for the videos featured here, an Insta 360 Nano, costs under $100  and requires only an app to operate, making it consumer-friendly.

A 360 Video Tour of the Doghouse and Puppy Exhibit at Coverings 2019

You can find a wide variety of cameras on Amazon that fit a range of budgets:

interiors+sources may receive monetary compensation from purchases

Digital Data for Professional Purposes

If you are considering implementing virtual or augmented reality or 360-degree views for your next interior design project, Kern recommends collecting and saving all digital data related to the project. “One way to repurpose virtual reality renderings post-design process is to implement them into the overall marketing strategy of the project,” he suggests.

Professional marketer Anastasiia Bobeshko states that virtual walkthroughs and virtual showrooms are an increasingly cost-effective way for companies to use digital data to showcase their latest products and designs along with iterations of future spaces.

“As the computing power of VR devices improve, allowing graphics to become ever-more realistic, virtual showrooms may begin to displace traditional brick-and-mortar stores,” she notes.

From virtual showrooms to color palettes and interior renderings, it’s clear that the new technologies entering the field of design are allowing users to fully see what they’re looking at from every angle. VR, AR and other related technologies can provide a digital advantage where traditional media couldn’t before – assurance for customers on their investments, making final results more satisfying for all.

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About the author
Adrian Schley | Associate Editor

Adrian Schley is an Associate Editor for i+s, where she has been covering the commercial interior design industry since 2018. Her work can also be found in BUILDINGS and Meetings Today.