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The Rise of Augmented Reality in Interior Design and Property Development

Curious about augmented reality in interior design and property development? Find answers to some of your questions in this article.

No matter how amazing augmented reality (AR) is, it is still mostly associated with games and entertainment. But this versatile technology has many more practical applications. Industries such as automotive, healthcare, retail, manufacturing, and more are already benefiting from AR capabilities. And the property sector isn’t too far behind, as augmented reality developers are creating a diverse range of property development apps, some of which we’ll explore below.

Augmented reality in interior design is remarkably useful as well, as evidenced by the apps emerging from major home furnishing, hardware, and interior design retailers like IKEA and Lowes. So to compensate for the industry’s lack of adoption transparency, we’re going to highlight how augmented reality is taking off, how AR apps are being used, and how the technology is adding value on both the supply and demand sides of the property development vertical.

Today’s augmented reality developers are creating a diverse range of interior design and property development apps.
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The Value of Augmented Reality in Property Construction

Let’s begin with the earliest stages of the property development lifecycle. This is where you might typically consider the involvement of architects, who already make good use of AR in their design activities.

These early days are when architects face one of their biggest challenges of getting a structure off the drawing board and into the real-world environment, and AR appears to be a viable solution.

ARki app for architects

AR technology is valuable for architecture because of its ability to generate pop-up 3D models of projected structures, enrich them with additional digital content, and overlay them with animated simulations that analyze how people and equipment will eventually flow through and around them.

When projects shift from prototyping to construction, AR can be used to enhance or even replace the digital drawings used by fabricators and engineers. Ultimately, AR will help reduce errors and omissions in development projects, thus saving time and money for construction and development companies.

Augmented Reality in Interior Design Marketing and Sales

Of course, enhanced plans and drawings are helpful in the marketing and sale of interior design. Augmented reality could be particularly useful for marketing developments before they are even completed, as it can realistically visualize how imagined or partially developed projects will look when completed.

At some point during this lifecycle, attention turns from form and function to the more aesthetically oriented aspects, like the look and feel of a building’s interior. Here too, augmented reality finds good use, not only by architects, designers, and marketers, but also by those on the demand side.

Whether working with professional interior designers or taking the do-it-yourself approach, property buyers of all kinds can use AR applications to experiment with design elements and define how rooms will look before they ever have to commit to choices in coverings, furnishing, or fixtures.

Supply-side Benefits

It remains difficult to pinpoint the hard benefits of AR for property developers, designers, sellers, and buyers. For example, when interviewed, architect Greg Lynn refused to identify any specific future benefits of augmented reality for members of his profession, despite his own positive experiences with augmented reality.

However, the picture is clearer in the business of marketing and selling property, where AR technology is already becoming widespread.

AR virtual tours

On the supply side, buyers can use augmented reality apps to take virtual tours of buildings just by pointing their smartphones at an image. This can decrease the need for expensive and time-consuming property staging. The same applications can extend marketers’ reach, since they make it more practical for faraway buyers to make better informed decisions.

Demand-side Benefits

The benefits noted above extend to the demand side, too. Perhaps surprisingly, buyers don’t always feel the need to visit a prospective purchase. One in five property purchases in 2018 was made on a property-unseen basis, according to research by Statista.

However, when 3D virtual walkthroughs are possible with just a brochure and a mobile device, “unvisited” no longer needs to mean “unseen,” so purchasers can make faster, more confident choices when navigating their customer journey.

This also holds true for prospective buyers in local markets, because although they can conduct physical viewings, time and expenses can be saved by completing highly realistic, AR-driven virtual property inspections, during which they can move around the visualization at will. This is already possible on websites offering 3D virtual tours, but augmented reality makes the process more authentic—and accessible.

AR also allows buyers to more easily share their visualizations with friends, family, and colleagues. After all, what could be easier than laying a photo down and looking through your phone for a quick 3D tour?

Early AR Adopters Seem Confident in ROI

While the potential benefits of AR interior design and property development uses may still be somewhat speculative, the interest and investment its receiving is undeniable.

Consider the case of Turner Construction. Turner is a leading international company that readily embraces new industry technology, including augmented reality.

Turner claims it has received a 10:1 ROI ratio on the $50,000 it spent on AR models for a particular construction project. The company told news site The Real Deal that this is because the client had clear visibility of the completed project early on in the process, and therefore did not need to request changes during later stages of construction.

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On the supply side, some AR apps take buyers on virtual tours of buildings just by pointing smartphones at images.
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Augmented Reality Interior Design: Apps on the Market

While even mentioning AR tends to conjure images of complex 3D animations springing up from the kitchen table, one of the most professional augmented reality apps currently available for interior design performs a far less grand, yet nonetheless vital function.

Measure: Aimed at design professionals, Measure is Google’s AR app that enables measuring and mapping of interior design spaces (in readiness for CAD design) with just a few taps of a smartphone.

While Measure uses low-level AR, other interior design apps stretch the technology’s capabilities somewhat further. If you’ve read our other articles on augmented reality, you’ll be familiar with our love for Place, IKEA’s interior furnishing app, which uses AR to allow users to virtually place 3D models of furniture in their homes.

IKEA Place: The Place app shares some characteristics with Measure: it uses AR to actually measure and map the space where the furniture is placed. This allows the 3D furniture to be scaled to the dimensions of the room, meaning that when you squeeze a virtual easy chair into an alcove and it fits, the same will be true of the real chair.

IKEA claims that the Place app, developed using Apple’s ARKit SDK, renders scaled-down furniture at an accuracy of 98%. In other words, rather than simply being an app that makes you want IKEA furniture in your home, it really helps solve practical interior design problems. This truly is one of the better augmented reality home design apps.

Hutch: One of the most sophisticated AR interior design apps is Hutch, effectively a complete augmented reality app interior design service. Users can take a photo of a room, try out different looks using style filters, then submit the finished image for virtual design. The finished design—complete with white-label furniture and products available through the app—is returned to the user within an hour.

Hutch app

Property Development AR App Examples: Architecture and Marketing

Of course, interior design can be complicated, so augmented reality’s advantages will be warmly welcomed by DIY fans and professional designers alike. But the challenges of interior design pale in comparison to those of creating or restoring an entire structure.

Therefore, our first example of a property development AR app successfully eases the mental workload for architects and development professionals.

ARki for Architects

ARki is an architect’s AR app that brings conventional 2D blueprints to life, both by overlaying them with accurate 3D models and by adding extra interactivity and animation layers. For example, ARki can show how a construction will look with different building materials, conduct shadow analysis, and demonstrate wind circulation.

Floor plans and elevations are too simple, and 3D models only tell part of the story. AR fills in many of the missing pieces, enabling architects to interact meaningfully with prototypes of their proposed creations.

Street Peek for Property Buyers

We’ve already mentioned the benefits of AR property brochures for property buyers. But what about people who do it the old-fashioned way? There’s undeniable adventure in cruising around a locality, looking at all the properties with “for sale” or “for rent” signs—or even peeking at those that don’t appear to be on the market.

Trusted homebuyers’ resource firm Realtor.com has the AR answer for those who enjoy old-fashioned house hunting. The company has improved its app by adding augmented reality features, one of which is called Street Peek.

With the app installed on a mobile device, a house hunter can simply point the camera at a property, and immediately see the database information about it:

  • Listing or rental prices
  • Estimated property value
  • Number of bedrooms
  • Number of bathrooms

Simply tilting the camera allows the user to see a map of the immediate area, showing the schools, facilities, and other features nearby. For those who’d rather not just look at 3D models, as enthralling as they may be, Street Peek seems to be the right app to take on a house-hunting expedition.

Current Technology Limitations

Augmented reality clearly promises a lot in the interior design and property sectors, but there’s still some way to go before it delivers its full potential. Some existing limitations might turn off users who aren’t consummate AR enthusiasts.

Realism: While 3D building-models have the accuracy of scale and detail to aid architects, they don’t necessarily convey an emotional experience to nonprofessional property browsers. When using AR, potential buyers want the same bright impression offered by print brochures, but in full, interactive 3D effect. Even the latest AR property tech is not ready to make models as compelling as the real thing.

Depth of data: Homebuyers’ apps for use in the field could also be improved, but their issue is more to do with data availability than the visual experience. Often a property is all-but-sold before it’s even listed. So it’s entirely possible to be impressed by the data that’s revealed from pointing your phone at a beautiful home, only to be told by the agent that it’s already under contract.

However, with technology moving at its break-neck pace, solutions to these issues are just around the corner. And certainly AR technology’s advantages outweigh current technological constraints. In fact, before we finish, it’s worth looking at how future developments might influence AR interior design and property development in the not-too-distant future.

What’s Next for AR in Interior Design and Property Development?

Hardware really could be the biggest constraint on the success of augmented reality in property development, interior design, and many other industries. No matter how powerful smartphones become, or how well they render graphics, AR’s big problem on these devices is the lack of true immersion.

Improved Immersion

An ultra-modern kitchen’s beautifully clean lines displayed on a phone screen may not be so convincing with the interior design’s real mismatched cabinets and cracked floor tiles visible in your peripheral vision. AR headsets or glasses can certainly solve this issue, that is, once viable designs enter the market and people overcome their reluctance to wear them.

As the image above suggests, such hardware is close to becoming reality. It may be AR’s catalyst to become an essential tool for property development and interior design professionals, property buyers, and DIY home design enthusiasts.

Exclusive Personalized Design Services

Perhaps the future will bring improvements to services like Hutch too, combining AR with human touch to deliver customized AR interior design and architectural services. Hutch actually started that way, but it has since graduated into an almost fully automated solution.

We should expect the unexpected in a technological field that is continually evolving. AR uses may take some surprising new directions in the near future. In any case, augmented reality has currently found a good home in the property development realm and is enjoying a warm welcome from builders, sellers, designers, and buyers alike.

No matter how powerful smartphones become, or how well they render graphics, AR’s big problem on these devices is the lack of true immersion.
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