ENVISION THE FUTURE
HIGH-TECH TOOLS HELP HOMEOWNERS IMAGINE REAL WORLD POSSIBILITIES
Try before you buy. That’s a big selling point for many products, but it’s more difficult for home upgrades. We can test drive a car, but laying new residential flooring or putting in a new patio is difficult for us to visualize until the work is actually underway. Thanks to the latest AR (augmented reality) technology and 3D modeling, local companies are helping homeowners to better picture their space in a virtual world, so they can achieve their dreams in the real world.
Home design is an art form, but not all of us are artists. We may know how we want our home and yard to function, but in the end most of us must rely on a design professional to literally sketch out the plans for us.
Photos: Courtesy of Lynchburg Landscapes
The experienced landscape architects at Lynchburg Landscapes are using the latest technology to make it easier for clients to truly see how their designs could enhance their property.
Scott MacLeod, president of Lynchburg Landscapes, says AR — the digital platform used to view three-dimensional renderings in real-life environments — plays a crucial role in their landscape design services, allowing clients to experience a virtual walkthrough of a design before it is installed.
“Our 2D designs are detailed and colorful, but our use of 3D and AR greatly enhances our landscape design process by providing visualizations with real-world depth and interactive experiences,” he says. “With these two modes of technology, we can better analyze sight lines and views from different perspectives, study the play of light and shadows, and identify potential design conflicts or challenges.”
The technology itself is fascinating. With AR, designers can provide a more immersive and realistic experience than looking at a drawing. They can simulate how sunlight moves across the outdoor space at different times of the day and throughout the year.
“This helps in optimizing the placement of trees, structures and other elements to create desired lighting conditions and enhance the overall aesthetic appeal,” MacLeod says.
As customers review the virtual landscape model with the designer, they can better understand the spatial layout and the scale of the project. Clients can express their needs, and designers can make real-time adjustments to the design, from modifying plant placement to adjusting the size and shape of features.
“These programs enhance client engagement and help facilitate clearer communication and collaboration through the design process,” MacLeod says. “Clients can visualize how different design elements interact and coexist within different spaces. By overlaying 3D models of plants, hardscape elements and other design features onto the real-world environment, they can visualize how the finished landscape will look and make informed decisions.”
“These programs enhance client engagement and help facilitate clearer communication and collaboration.”
— Scott MacLeod, president of Lynchburg Landscapes
AR is also seeing increased use for interior projects. With a cellphone in hand, you can snap a photo of your room and use AR to overlay different flooring, wallpaper and even furniture and décor. Many large home improvement retailers are taking advantage of AR. You can stand in your bathroom, for example, choose a new tub from the company’s website and instantly see how it would look in your space. One of the more widely used “room visualizer” apps is Roomvo, marketed as the “ultimate visualizer” for flooring, paint, carpet, countertops and more. (See more helpful programs and apps in the box at the end of this article). According to data from Shopify, products that feature AR capabilities saw a 94 percent higher conversion rate than the products without it. It’s called “spatial commerce,” where the homeowner can generate 3D models, get cost estimates and, ultimately, click “add to cart” all in the same app session.
Charles Snider, CEO of Piedmont Floor Show in Lynchburg, says Roomvo has become a popular tool in the last few years.
“Customers really enjoy it as a starting point; it can cultivate ideas,” he says.
While his showroom on Timberlake Road is full of samples, Roomvo can help customers “drill down” on their choices before entering the showroom and feeling overwhelmed by all the options. Then, when they visit, customers can use the manufacturers’ digital visualizer tools and view extended product offerings that may not be available on site. (Visit piedmontfloorshow.com to try out Roomvo — under the Room Visualizer tab on the home page.) Many of the products in the showroom also feature QR codes that customers can scan for additional product information.
Snider says while the technology is helpful, it is not the end-all.
“Pictures are worth a thousand words, but it’s not exact. The pitfall we see is lighting drastically changes most textile color in a room.”
With LED, fluorescent and bright whites, it’s hard to capture the look 100 percent. And with carpet, it’s even harder to rely on the 3D model.
“You can’t tell texture, density of carpet from an app — and those are the things that really matter,” Snider says. He stresses never giving approval until you’ve looked at the final product. “There’s still no substitute in our industry for that.”
Michael Esterline, a territory manager with Abraham Linc, a regional flooring distributor to Piedmont Floor Show, says it’s also a plus to bring the physical sample home. Samples can always be ordered if they are not readily available in the store.
“Lighting can be drastically different in a basement with LED lights, for example, and can warp the image [you take]. It [the technology] may change, but we can’t rely on it just yet; I wouldn’t be surprised in a couple years if it gets better with different lighting options.
“An AR app can be a great visualizer to explore ideas from the comfort of your own couch. But unlike buyer’s remorse on Amazon, where it’s OK to do a return, when you buy solely off AR for flooring, once it’s done, it’s done.” ✦
AR/AI programs & applications
• Live Home 3D
• Room Decorator
• PLNAR AR
• Measure app
• Homestyler app
• RoomSketcher app