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How 3D and Augmented Reality are Changing the Home Industry

Just a few years ago, the concepts of augmented reality and 3D felt very futuristic and foreign for many in the home industry. But as the ecommerce channel has exploded, particularly in the wake of the pandemic, these digital tools have become more important for home goods companies looking to compete in a crowded marketplace.

At the recent High Point Market, the team behind Seek—a platform that helps companies like Nestle, Kravet, Baker Furniture, and RC Willey turn their digital product photos into 3D and augmented reality images—explained how these technologies are helping home goods companies streamline business.

“3D and AR are now to the point of if you’re not using it, you’re doing things inefficiently. There are ways you can cut time, increase sales conversion and reduce return rates,” Seek CEO Jon Cheney said. “3D is going to be everywhere in five years, and in 10 years you won’t know how you lived your life without it.”

Cheney said these technologies work in tandem to allow furnishings companies to give their customers a better idea of how a piece will work in their homes. When a company creates a 3D product image that can be placed in a potential customer’s room, it reduces the risk of a shopper ordering the wrong size or color.

“One of the best ways to make a connection with someone is to help them see what a product looks like in their space,” he said. “It reduces returns in a huge way, which for the furniture industry is a costly mistake.”

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Companies like Seek allow customers to easily harness augmented reality technology to see how a sofa or table might look in their unique spaces.

“Now we’re at a point where you can scan a QR code, move your phone around, and it reads the environment and lets you know how it will look in the environment,” said Reid Probst, vice president of customer success for Seek.

Ease of use for the end consumer is a critical component for platforms like Seek to actually be beneficial to furnishings companies and retailers, because something too confusing or cumbersome likely won’t be used by the consumer.

“They don’t need to download an app—they can get it via text, and it opens in quick look—you can see the accurate colors, the accurate corners and the lighting,” said Sturges Adams, chief creative officer for Seek. “And the ratio to where it is in the room is accurate because the iPhone or other smartphone can sense the depth of your room and get it right.”

The use of 3D images and augmented reality also can help furniture makers save money and improve their sustainability. By creating a life-like digital prototype, they can better gauge interest for the product and perfect the design without creating multiple physical prototypes.

“Before you even spend money to produce something, you can know it will sell,” Cheney said.

Companies like Seek offer users real-time collaboration during the prototyping phase, with support staff who can help manufacturers or retailers perfect their 3D models. The goal is to eventually make the process of creating and uploading a 3D image as simple as adding a photo on Instagram.

And while the technology hasn’t quite reached that ease of use, Cheney said furnishings makers and retailers must adapt to the use of tools like 3D imagery and augmented reality not only to stay current, but to also streamline their processes and reduce expense.

“The ways people interact with the market are going to be driven by immersive technology,” he said. “It can help you be more efficient and save money.”