Oliver Tan is the Co-Founder and CEO of ViSenze, an A.I. company that bridges content and commerce through visual search and discovery.
Though technology has simplified much of our everyday lives, there remain certain time-consuming jobs. For many of us, making a house a home falls into that category. Whether moving into a new place or updating an existing space, the time, effort and cost required to redecorate often results in exhaustion, or worse, a lack of enjoyment in the finished product (in other words, the juice isn’t always worth the squeeze). Thankfully, technologies are now emerging to simplify these processes, ones that can transform an activity previously deemed as tedious into something more enjoyable. A few issues that these technologies are addressing include:
Issue #1: It Might Not Be Right
One of the most frustrating aspects of furnishing a home is choosing products that not only work within a space but that will physically fit as well. Too often, shoppers find the perfect item to complete their space, only to discover they can’t get it through the door. To solve for this, retailers are investing in augmented reality (AR) to implement “try before you buy” solutions. Apple and IKEA recently partnered to create an AR-based shopping app that will help customers visualize products in their space prior to purchase. Home design app Hutch takes this concept one step further: Using AR, users are able to take a photo of a room, upload it to the app and then browse furniture, patterns, artwork, etc., to create their ideal space. Once finalized, they can purchase any or all of the items from within the app.
Another common pain point for designing one’s home lies in customization. Shoppers are challenged to choose fabrics and colors based on small swatches that can look dramatically different in a larger context. Additionally, when a custom piece of furniture is incorrect, the return process is suddenly far more complex and results in either the brand or consumer losing money in the redesign. Retailer Anthropologie is hoping to solve for this challenge with its new app that uses a combination of AR and computer-generated images (CGI) to not only allow customers to design products to their exact preferences but preview them in their homes with nearly 100% scale and color accuracy. It even goes so far as to offer 96,000 high-resolution assets that can account for everything from environmental lighting to shadows in real time, giving shoppers an honest depiction of their potential purchase.
Issue #2: I Can’t Find The Products I See Online Or In Magazines
When in the throes of a renovation, people spend countless hours browsing websites and magazines for inspiration to create their dream space. But more often than not, the pages ripped from Architectural Digest or pinned to a “bedroom re-design” board are just that — visual inspiration. They offer no way to discover exact or similar products available for purchase, resulting in a frustrating search for items that are already at a consumer’s fingertips. Recognizing the irritation (and opportunity) in this problem, brands are implementing visual search functionality that enables customers to take or upload a photo of what they are inspired by and produces the same or similar products available for immediate purchase. Companies like Wayfair have incorporated visual search that allows customers to find what they’re looking for almost instantaneously. Home furnishing company Kravet (a ViSenze customer) offers a similar feature to its customers. Using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, users can choose a category (fabric, furniture, wall coverings or carpets) to upload an image to. Then, it produces similar patterns and items for customers to purchase.
Issue #3: Where Do I Even Begin?!
For those of us who aren’t creatively inclined, the thought of designing anything is daunting. Even a studio apartment can require choosing hundreds of finishes and products, and this level of decision making can make even the bravest run and hide. But what’s the alternative?
Paying an interior designer to make these choices can burn through a budget, making it an inaccessible option for the majority of consumers. Luckily, apps now exist that not only help shoppers understand their style, but connect them with designers at a reasonable cost. Havenly, as one example, uses a combination of machine learning and human curation to make design recommendations by asking users to take a design-related quiz with algorithms that determine their personal style. Then, a picture of a room is uploaded to the platform. Five days later, a designer returns curated concepts specific to your image and style, and all products are available for purchase.
Visually-driven, emerging technologies provide a new kind of assistance to shoppers at every touch point of the design process, from inspiration to design and implementation. Taking the guesswork out of interior design makes the process less of a job and more pleasurable, bringing relaxing, inviting vibes into a home from the get-go. After all, isn’t that why you decided to redesign it in the first place?