Several home furnishing retailers now let you try out a piece of furniture in augmented reality, placing it in your home to see if it fits with your space and decor. The problem is, the AR apps all deal with single objects – a table in the kitchen or a sofa by the wall. It’s an enormous step up from the days of purchasing furniture only to find out that it didn’t work where you envisioned it. Now, Amazon’s new AR shopping tool is taking it a step further. You can populate your entire room or house with virtual versions of the furniture you’re thinking of purchasing – ideal for packrats, or anyone who is into a home makeover.
Amazon has been working on expanding the use of augmented reality for years, first rolling out AR View back in 2017. About 50% of Amazon’s iOS customers already have access to Room Decorator and the rest will have it by mid-September.
Amazon’s New AR Shopping Tool
Here’s the description from TechCrunch,
The feature is available across thousands of furniture products available on Amazon, including those offered both by Amazon and some of its third-party sellers. When a consumer happens upon one of these items, they’ll click the “View in Your Room” button to get started. This button will appear under the eligible furniture products in the Amazon shopping app for iOS and desktop web browsers.
Within the AR experience, consumers will be presented with suggestions of complementary products to the one they were first viewing. As shoppers browse these recommendations, they can add the other products to their same room and rearrange them to get a better look.
Of course, it’s ideal for upselling furniture sets – don’t just buy the sofa, get the bookcases, the chairs, and the coffee table. Even better from Amazon’s standpoint, you can save a room in iOS to a new Your Rooms section in your Amazon account so that you think about your decision, even share it with others. Just call it what it is – the perfect combination of consumer empowerment and retail selling.
Virtual Shopping Everything Else in the Future
With Apple’s Quick Look released earlier this year, companies are laying the foundation for a new way of shopping that is perfect for a global pandemic. There will be fewer reasons to visit a store in person. The only major issue that will take years to resolve is providing the haptic feedback so that you can actually feel what it’s like to sit in the chair or rub your hands along a table.
That may sound like an insurmountable challenge, but we’ll get there. Just not in the current decade.
But Amazon’s new AR shopping tool also points to other ways we’ll use augmented reality in our lives. Once we have AR glasses that we wear all day, will wall decor be all that important? Why not change it from week to week, or even day to day if we get bored. And why not populate our workplaces and educational learning spaces with virtual objects that situate us in the context of the topic being discussed? For every AR advance in shopping, there’s a potential use in education – if only we have the inspiration to see it. And of course, there are tremendous possibilities in art and new media which artists like Nancy Baker Cahill and KAWS are already investigating.
Artists are always the first to cross these new frontiers.
You may be thinking what we’re thinking right now – that our physical spaces in the future will be cluttered with digital objects. That may lead to a new definition of what it means to clean the house.
That cuts both ways, as AR will lead to the commercialization of even the space in our homes. But it will equally open up new possibilities in human creativity in transforming our environments. Amazon’s new AR shopping tool is just a hazy glimpse of what’s to come. Something like a ship on the horizon – when you barely know what a ship is.
For now, it’s still just an app on your phone. But it won’t be long before we have AR glasses that will let us integrate augmented reality into every aspect of our lives. It’ll happen sooner than you think.
Emory Craig is a writer, speaker, and VR consultant with extensive experience in art, new media, and higher education. He speaks at global conferences on innovation, education, and ethical technology in the future. He has published widely and worked with the US Agency for International Development, the United Nations, and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Living at the intersection of learning, games, and immersive storytelling, he is fascinated by AI-based avatars, digital twins, and the ethical implications of blurring the boundaries between the real and the virtual.