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Mobile devices and cloud computing are revolutionizing interior design

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Editor’s note: This article was supported by Kujiale. We believe in transparency in our publishing and monetization model. Read more here.

“If you are a building a really good design tool, the tool is not important. The designer’s idea is more important,”  said Wang Lei. “We want them to forget about the tool and focus on designing something.”

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The best methods for client presentations

Michael J. Berens

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

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The best methods for client presentations

While some still prefer the napkin sketch, architects and designers today have a battery of tools they can employ to convey their visions to clients and stakeholders. But which have the biggest impact on viewers?

It may seem a no-brainer that animated digital representations such as virtual reality (VR) and artificial reality (AR) win hands down. That, however, is not always the case.

Researchers who have studied the effect of digital A&D representations on client or stakeholder viewers almost always reach the same conclusion. What matters most is not the medium, but the message.

In other words, which method or tool is most effective depends on what you are trying to convey to the viewer or what you want them to experience.

A pair of researchers, Claudia Ziegler Acemy and Philip Kortum, with the Department of Psychology at Rice University in Houston conducted a literature review of research on the evaluations of and responses to an environment in three different conditions: the physical environment, a photograph, and a dynamic, virtual reality simulation. What they found is that responses tend to be very similar.

The researchers then tested whether photorealistic renderings of the environment would make a difference in viewers’ assessment of the usability of a space. Participants viewed one of two built environments by either standing in the physical space, examining a photograph of it, or looking at a rendering of it.

Again, the findings showed the type of medium had little to no impact on viewers’ assessments. They conclude that static, simulated images of the built environment, such as photos or photorealistic renderings, can be used in evaluations just as effectively as standing in the physical environment.

For the viewer who is not a designer or a builder, what matters is the context. What are they looking at and what are they supposed to evaluate?

If you want to wow a client, then dynamic, virtual representations are the way to go. They are the most impactful means of immersing the client in the proposed built environment. And it also helps that clients find the technology to be really cool. For other purposes, however, more accessible, less expensive media can work just as well or better.

It has also been suggested that the available media have not been exploited to their fullest. In a presentation at the International Conference on Design and Technology Educational Research (IDATER), David C. Chang and Peter Salzapaj of the School of Architecture at Sheffield University, demonstrated how computer-generated simulation can be used not only to render designs, but also to convey design ideas.

That is to say, the dynamic capabilities of the medium make it possible to share the designer’s design thinking with the viewer, not just the solution arrived at. Chang and Salzapaj note that for such an approach to be effective, viewers need to be trained in order to be able to observe the possibilities being presented to them.

More advanced or elaborate visual representation media do not necessarily lead to better decision-making. In fact, they can at times distract the viewer from focusing on what is important.

First, decide what information you need to convey to the viewer and what type of feedback you need from them. Then, choose the most appropriate visual medium for the context. Maybe that’s just a sketch on a napkin.

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About the Author

Michael J. Berens

Michael J. Berens is a freelance researcher and writer with more than 30 years of experience in association communication and management. He can be reached at mjberensresearch@gmail.com.

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10 Social-Media Trends to Prepare for in 2018

In the past year, a number of significant stories involved social media: Facebook lured Snapchat users to Instagram, the president of the United States communicated official policy positions in 140 characters and Apple announced plans to alter the way we interact with our mobile devices.

Next year, social media is poised to create even more disruption as a number of new technological advancements go mainstream, and as social norms related to social media change. Here are the top 10 social media trends to prepare for as 2018 draws near.

1. Rise of augmented reality

At the first-ever event hosted in the Steve Jobs Theater, Apple announced the iPhone 8 and the iPhone X. Both devices incorporate a new chip that allows the phones to provide users with extraordinary augmented reality experiences. While augmented reality will have its initial impact on mobile gaming, it is likely that social media platforms will find ways to incorporate the new technology as well.

In the past year, a number of significant stories involved social media: Facebook lured Snapchat users to Instagram, the president of the United States communicated official policy positions in 140 characters and Apple announced plans to alter the way we interact with our mobile devices.

Next year, social media is poised to create even more disruption as a number of new technological advancements go mainstream, and as social norms related to social media change. Here are the top 10 social media trends to prepare for as 2018 draws near.

1. Rise of augmented reality

At the first-ever event hosted in the Steve Jobs Theater, Apple announced the iPhone 8 and the iPhone X. Both devices incorporate a new chip that allows the phones to provide users with extraordinary augmented reality experiences. While augmented reality will have its initial impact on mobile gaming, it is likely that social media platforms will find ways to incorporate the new technology as well.

2. Increasing popularity of Instagram Stories

Over 200 million people use Instagram Stories each month, which is over 50 million more than those who use Snapchat — and Instagram Stories is just one year old! At this rate, nearly half of all Instagram users will be using Stories by the end of 2018. This means that brands interested in connecting with Instagram users must take the time to master Instagram Stories.

 

Related: The Low-Down On Using Instagram Stories For Your Business

3. Continued investment in influencer marketing

Over 90 percent of marketers who employ an influencer marketing strategy believe it is successful. Companies like North Face, Hubspot and Rolex use social media–based influencer marketing strategies to connect with new audiences and improve engagement with existing audiences.

This year we saw that brands that opted for traditional advertising strategies struggled to connect to social media users. Next year, it is likely that more brands will embrace influencer marketing as a way to connect with audiences who tend to ignore traditional strategies.

Related: Why Brands Big and Small Continue to Fail at Influencer Marketing

4. Focus on Generation Z

A recent study conducted by Goldman Sachs concluded that Generation Z was more valuable to most organizations than millennials. Today, the oldest Gen Zers are 22 years old. They are just beginning to enter the labor force, and will have increased buying power for some time.

Brands will begin to recognize this, and will shift their social media strategies accordingly. Expect great investment in platforms loved by Gen Zers like Snapchat and Instagram.

Related: 4 Marketing Tactics for Appealing to Generation Z

5. Increasing brand participation in messaging platforms

Over 2.5 billion people use messaging platforms globally, and yet brands are still primarily focused on connecting with consumers on pure social networks. In 2018, expect brands to invest more time and money in connecting with consumers on messaging platforms. Artificial intelligence, voice assistants and chatbots will enable brands to offer personalized shopping experiences on messaging platforms like Messenger, WhatsApp and Kik.

Related: The Future Of Native Advertising for Brands and Publishers

6. Expansion of live streaming

What was once a novel gimmick has become a mainstream part of social media. Today, brands big and small have started using live streaming to capture the attention of followers.

GORUCK, a backpack manufacturer and the organizer of extreme endurance events, is one example of a medium-sized brand that has grown its reach by live streaming compelling content on Facebook. Thousands of followers tuned in to watch 48-hour coverage of a recent endurance race.

In 2018, more brands will begin to realize the power of live streaming, and will incorporate it into their monthly content plans.

Related: 12 Live Streaming Video Tips to Build Your Brand and Business

7. Rethinking Twitter

Twitter has failed to grow followers significantly in 2017. In fact, LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram all have more social media followers. This year, Twitter also lost access to streaming NFL games (Amazon won the rights). In 2018, it is likely that Twitter leadership will aim to rethink how the platform operates.

Augmented Reality: the Latest in Real Estate Technology

Stephanie Small spent months thinking about what kind of countertop to get for a new wine bar she will soon open with a partner in Somers, N.Y., part of Westchester County.

Besides mulling over the durability and price, Ms. Small thought long and hard about how the 16-foot bar would look, not just in the inside, but through the window from the outside. “I spent hours trying to visualize things and I just couldn’t,” she said.

Then a friend who worked for Cambria, a countertop manufacturer based in Eden Prairie, Minn., told her about the firm’s new augmented reality app, which lays digital images on top of the real world when people look through a smartphone lens.

After downloading the app onto her cellphone, she pointed the device to where the counter would be installed. An image of the bar appeared in its intended spot and she quickly realized that one of her most recent picks — a dark gray marble top — would look too much like the concrete floor. “It was remarkable to see it in the real space,” she said. “It changed my whole vision.”

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Pandora Reality, an augmented reality developer, builds tools for brokers and developers who want to show the potential of an unfinished space. CreditPandora Reality

Although the technology behind augmented reality has been around for years, the average consumer had little to do with it until last summer, when Apple released ARKit, a tool kit that allows developers to make augmented reality apps. Then Apple also made its latest operating system augmented reality compatible, suddenly allowing millions of people to use any augmented reality tool available through the app store.

Tim Merel, managing director of Digi-Capital, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based augmented and virtual reality adviser, predicted that by the end of 2018, there could be as many as 900 million smartphones and tablets capable of supporting augmented reality apps created from tool kits like Apple’s ARKit, Google’s ARCore and Facebook’s Camera Effects. And that number could grow to more than three billion by 2021.

At the moment, developers are creating simple tools. For example, MeasureKit is essentially a digital ruler, while PLNAR helps a user take dimensions of a room to create a floor plan. And Homesnap, a real estate search engine, has a “Walk the Property Lines” tool that shows the property lines around any home.

When you’re able to swap or move images at a push of a button, you can convey the “what-ifs instantaneously” to clients, making the decision-making process quicker, said Matthew Miller, the founder of StudioLAB, a Manhattan architectural and design firm.

With new technology, it’s all about the ease of use, said Brian Peters, chief marketing officer at Cambria. “I made sure both my 12-year-old daughter and my 41-year-old wife were able to use the app,” he said.

Augmented reality is also helpful for home-goods manufacturers who need to send out samples or swatches, Mr. Peters said. “We think our customers will be able to narrow their choices further on the app, before requesting a sample.”

Michael Schroeder, the director of virtual design and construction at SGA, an architectural and design firm with offices in New York and Boston, said that augmented reality could also help fill a major data gap for developers. For example, a tool could be created to show traffic patterns at a building site, or another could depict the texture of various building materials, which a developer could then quickly change on an iPad as while walking around a raw space.

 

“There’s a lot of data that architects and builders need to assess at the design phase and changes are made constantly,” he said. “If I’m able to stand at the site and see the shadow impact a building has on the surrounding area, it might alter the height of the building.”

To help builders and engineers, Daqri, a Los Angeles-based augmented reality firm, has been promoting its Smart Helmet, where augmented reality glasses are part of the construction helmet. The helmet allows the user to see data about machinery, including a generator’s rotation speed and when it was last inspected. It also has a thermal camera, which shows the temperature of pipes. Colleagues in a remote location can also see a repair as it happens and send instructions, if needed.

Clelia Warburg Peters, the president of Warburg Realty, thinks augmented reality has the possibility to become a key tool in the home-buying process. Virtual reality, which has been used by brokers to entice customers to buy homes in faraway cities, conveys what the builder wants to show. However, augmented reality puts the buyer in the actual space, which can take people from the, “‘what is’, to the ‘what it could be,’” she said.

“Buying a home can be very emotional. If you can change and personalize things, it can help with the decision-making process,” she added.

Pandora Reality, an augmented reality developer based in New York and Istanbul, builds augmented reality tools for brokers and developers who want to show the potential of an unfinished space. Alper Guler, Pandora’s head of operations in the United States, thinks real estate marketers could use technology to help keep their client’s attention.

“Home buying is a weekslong process. You can keep clients engaged with augmented reality much more than a link to a website,” he said.

One current drawback, experts said, is the lack of realism of the computer-generated image. They still look too fake, Mr. Miller said.

“I think augmented reality will find a large audience when people can’t tell the difference between the real thing and the computer-generated image,” he said. “But I’m sure that’s right around the corner, like all things tech.”

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How smart is your sofa?

The way technology is impacting the furniture industry and the manner in which we buy furniture

Until even a decade ago, no one thought AR-VR (augmented reality-virtual reality) would change the way the furniture business operated or the way we’d shop for a sofa.

“When our parents bought a bed that turned out to be too big for the room, they would probably arrange their lives around it,” says Ramakant Sharma, head of technology and operations and co-founder of Livspace, which offers end-to-end home interiors solutions. Livspace launched, what they claim is, the world’s first design automation platform, called Canvas. It allows home owners to design, decorate and furnish their homes virtually. “Today, consumers want to have good-looking homes. At the same time, there is a massive information asymmetry: if they are buying a piece of furniture at a particular price, they have no way of validating the price,” says Sharma.

 

 Problem-solving

Livspace solves this and other issues by allowing customers, who are assigned to a designer, to convey their ideas and have the designer realise their vision for them. The designer then uses the inbuilt software to take into account the right measurements of the space and choose items from the catalogue to design the home. This is done first in 2D, then in 3D, which is accessible on their website. Customers can walk into a virtual reality vision of their home (currently available at the Livspace centres in select cities including Bengaluru). Any changes can be incorporated.

The minute the customer places or changes an order, it goes all the way up to the factory and the warehouse. The time taken for delivery is a reflection of the product that takes the longest time to manufacture in the cart.

“The price point is a simple arithmetic summation of all the items used in the design. Technology is the key in the design tool. It plays three roles here, in customer relationship management, visualisation (which includes virtual reality and order tracking) and supply chain management. This way, the information asymmetry is also decreasing with time, as the customer knows why each item costs as much as it does,” says Sharma.

Urban Ladder is yet another tech-based furniture retailer which is taking on the challenge of integrating technology across four aspects: of customer experience, supply chain systems, visualisation through AR and VR and retail systems.

Look and feel

Urban Ladder began with their e-tail platform and application, and evolved to include AR. “We first built an app calling Living Spaces, which enabled customers to visualise sofas in their homes through AR. It allowed customers to understand how the sofa fits into the house and how it looks in their space, but not what it feels like. Obviously, tech has not solved the third question yet,” says Rajiv Srivatsa, co-founder.

The technology also allowed customers to change settings according to their preferences, with a 90% accuracy through AR. “Then in 2015, we expanded the technology to allow customers to see how wardrobes fit into their houses. And we have now taken the next big step, six months ago, by building a VR application in our physical stores that allows customers to experience, virtually, how a product would look in their home by simulating the space in the technology,” he says.

 Since VR is expected to take a few more years to become mainstream. Urban Ladder is hosting the device in their physical stores and the sofa is the first product they want to perfect. “But in the next few years, AR is going to become part of mobile phone technology, like it already is in the latest iPhone and Google Pixel variants. These phones can deduce the dimensions of physical places, so people can get a sense of how products fit into their homes, through their phones and through our app, which will be customised to AR,” says Srivatsa.

At the same time, they also plan to continue investing in applications that will optimise the supply chain and delivery side of things as well as data access for consultants. “This is hard to build because the entire ecosystem has to be aligned and built at one go. This means that there must not be loss of information between the designer and the consumer and the manufacturer,” says Sharma.

That’s why Livspace used a cloud-based system to align the ecosystem, cutting delivery time of the final product to just weeks. The technology is likely to be refined and deepened in the future, as design education seeks to impart more holistic insights into furniture design. Which is why it’s important to get design students on board with the idea.

Customers still like to touch and feel the furniture they are buying. “One of the projects that I ran in Srishti, which addressed the concept of online brands seeking to expand offline in order to offer a tactical experience, resulted in a unique idea. The student who came up with it suggested that brands could, instead of building a showroom, hire a few hotel suites curated by the brands, in order to offer the consumer a real-time experience,” explains Janak Mistry, design principal at the Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology.

 Because furniture is a high-cost venture, for both buyer and seller, the solution is to get everything right the first time. This is where technology helps, in ensuring the system is well connected, right from the visualisation to the supply-chain.

Technology in sustainable architecture

Architect Sampath Reddy, founder of Pop-Up Housing, and Program Manager, Built Environment at Selco Foundation, is currently working on micro-rack supported building using heavy-duty slotted angle frames and palette racks. Inspired by storage solutions in industrial warehouses, buildings as high as 20 floors can be built with this technology. Slotted angle frames can also be used to make everything fro mezzanine floors, modular units, furniture, and bunk beds.

These can then be combined with other materials such as wood or bamboo for the interiors. Sampath says he uses Google Maps extensively to look for underutilized spaces in the city where these housing solutions can be applied.

Sampath, who also works as a Program Manager, Built Environment at Selco Foundation, He is now working on using these new-age building materials for low-cost, sustainable construction, He is targeting the slums -dwelling communities and as well schools and health centres in rural areas, including medical centres, which and medical centres who need portable housing. Furniture is integrated into the construction.

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Designing the perfect home, through virtual reality

This week, during the NYCxDesign festival, visitors to The Future Perfect can take in a full tour of Casa Perfect, the brand’s beautiful, airy Los Angeles show house, without ever leaving Great Jones Street design gallery.

The exhibition of glasswork by Seattle artist John Hogan takes place both IRL and in virtual reality, enabling visitors to see the pieces carefully lit on a mirrored pedestal in the gallery setting and installed in a classic Mid-Century Modern home nestled in the hills of West Hollywood and through VR headsets scattered throughout the New York space. (You can experience a version of the installation on your browser here.)

Crossovers between the tech and design worlds are cropping up everywhere as designers, galleries and even big-box home-goods retailers look to virtual reality as a way to create spaces that customers can experience in 360 degrees. Even more promising, virtual-reality proponents suggest that the emerging technology may soon become a powerful tool for both architects and designers.

The Future Perfect’s John Hogan show follows a similar recent exhibition at New York’s Jewish Museum, where visitors could interact with the work of designer Pierre Chareau through virtual reality. Inspired, Future Perfect founder David Alhadeff and his team got to work on an experience of their own, purchasing equipment, investigating the presentation possibilities and recruiting a virtual-reality photographer.

According to Alhadeff, the transition is surprisingly scalable for a small companies. “Yes, we had to plan, prepare and execute the concept,” he says. “But I initially thought VR might be completely out of reach, and it turned out to be accessible to us.”

For Alhadeff, virtual reality offers a way to showcase work in an “unexpected context,” while also sharing it beyond the bounds of his physical gallery. To him, it’s a valuable tool to help designers and architects communicate with clients. “What can be easier to approve than to see materials, lighting and furniture within the context of the future residential or commercial project?” he says. “I know this is already at play, but it’s currently very expensive and time consuming. In the future, I expect this will be increasingly accessible.”

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