Augmented reality offers new way to shop for furniture – Colorado Springs Gazette
SAN DIEGO – Close your eyes. Can you picture that sofa you’re coveting in your living room? Now, open your eyes and pull out your phone – because edgy furniture stores are giving you a tool that’s more accurate than imagination.
It’s called augmented reality. And all you need is a smartphone or tablet.
Take Jerome’s augmented reality experience, which launched at the end of June. The San Diego-based furniture chain now lets customers click a “see it in your home” button listed alongside products on its website. That action will launch a mobile app that allows people to virtually place true-to-size desks, dining sets and beds in their home – up to three different items at any given time – and get a better idea of whether or not the pieces are a good fit.
“With furniture buying, visualization is a big aspect of it,” said Scott Perry, vice president of digital for the family-operated Jerome’s. “The last couple of years, I’ve witnessed customers bringing in paint samples, pillows from a chair, a little piece of carpet. They’ll bring this stuff into the showroom.
“So I had this wild idea: ‘What if we had augmented reality so customers could see our furniture in their home with their tablet or phone?’ ”
Actually, the ability to visualize furniture with the help of augmented reality, or AR for short, isn’t that wild of an idea. Early-adopter retailers like Ikea are experimenting with a similar-but-different tech, virtual reality, to create immersive visualizations such as a life-size, walk-in kitchen where colors and styles are interchangeable.
And pretty soon AR is going to get more love from name-brands including Lowe’s and Wayfair, which are betting on Google Tango, a computer vision hardware-software system debuting soon on the Lenovo PHAB2 Pro smartphone. Tango-powered apps will take AR beyond the superficial, so you can do more in real- slash-virtual environments and complete complex tasks, say measure your space with 3-D tools.
“I do think it’s a game-changer for the retail industry,” said Artemis Berry, vice president of retail for Shop.org and the National Retail Federation. “What we know right now, though, is that it’s in the very early stages.”
Unlike virtual reality, which uses a head-mounted display that resembles a scuba mask to transport users to fictional realms, augmented reality relies on a see-through display, such as the lens of an iPad camera, to overlay digital elements on top of the real world. Both technologies are impacting the way people buy and sell homes, but AR, in particular, is having a coming out party. That’s thanks in part to smash-hit smartphone game “Pokemon Go,” which employs AR so players can catch Pokemon characters who appear on the screen in their same locale.
A small startup based out of Israel is helping Jerome’s virtually display its furniture inside your home. The company, named Cimagine, was founded in 2012 and is backed by $3 million in capital.
Cimagine has developed proprietary technology capable of scanning rooms without needing a marker, or a two-dimensional symbol that can be read by a phone’s camera. For Jerome’s customers, that means they can point their smart device at an empty space and the Cimagine app will register the dimensions of the area so that they can place furniture at near-perfect scale.
The startup has a few other famous clients, including soda company Coca-Cola, which gives its sales associates tablets to virtually show off vending machines and coolers when making in-person pitches to would-be buyers.