Assignment #6: Furniture Shopping – The AR Way

Augmented Reality is gaining a lot of traction lately, as more and more smartphone shopping apps are starting to allow their users to preview items in their surroundings, before purchasing them.

Nowadays, we can purchase everything online, and get it delivered to our homes for free. However, the major challenge that online shoppers face is purchasing items with the best deals, only to find out that the item isn’t exactly how they expected it to be. When you are shopping at a brick-and-mortar store, you can look at items, touch them, feel the quality or try using them, but this is not the case with online shopping. When the e-commerce industry was in its nascent stage, it tried to bridge this gap by showing multiple high-quality images of a product to their users. You have the ability to inspect a product closely using the zoom feature. Later they introduced the concept of customer reviews to win the confidence of their users. While this may work out well for electronics, appliances, software, tools, and toys, the same is not true for apparels and decor. This is because, when it comes to such products, the shopper’s personal choice and taste plays a major role in her decision of making the purchase. Recently, major e-tailers have started looking at Augmented Reality to tackle this problem.

In the space of online furniture shopping, companies like IKEA and Wayfair have started offering their users, the ability to browse furniture on their apps, and then preview them by placing a 3D representation of the furniture in their rooms. This allows the users to see how that piece of furniture looks in their home, and decide whether it goes with the rest of the decor or not. Have a look at the below images taken using Roomle app for Android.

A lamp placed next to my closet A lamp placed next to my closet

A sofa placed on the street A sofa placed on the street

The app allows you to choose a furniture from its vast catalog, and place it anywhere in your environment. Once placed, you have the option of scaling and rotating the item, or move it to some other location.

Making such apps has been made very easy by the introduction of ARKit by Apple, for their iOS platform, and ARCore by Google, for their Android platform. These Software Development Kits (SDKs) allow developers to rapidly build Augmented Reality apps for smartphones by abstracting common Augmented Reality tasks – like Motion Tracking, Environmental Understanding, and Light Estimation – so that developers can focus on building the best experience for their users without worrying about the implementation of such advanced concepts1.

In the future, we hope to see many such apps available to the public, which allow people to not only see what they are buying, but also allow them to feel them. Companies like HaptX2 and Teslasuit3 have already started looking into how we can achieve this for Virtual Reality applications. The same technology can be brought into the realm of Augmented Reality, and help tailor such experiences where users can feel the fabric of the clothes they are browsing. Coupled with the ability to project a realistic avatar of themselves, will be a major breakthrough in the fashion industry. You will be able to quickly sift through hundreds of clothing, while trying them on at the same time, without the time overhead of changing in and out of clothes, thus making online apparel shopping even more convenient and efficient!

Likewise, you can use the combination of augmented reality and full-body haptics, for furniture and all other kinds of shopping. Apart from that, this can have applications in Augmented Reality simulations and trainings, and even for making AR e-book readers, that look and feel like real books! This technology will make our augmented worlds feel more real!

References / Further Reading