Industry insight: Augmented reality

By John Allsopp
December 11, 2019

Architect John Allsopp curated Design Encounter at Decorex. Here he explains how augmented reality enhanced visitors’ experience of the show

Augmented reality, or AR, is a heightened experience of reality, an added layer of sensory information on our everyday world which is about to revolutionise information discovery, networking, retail and gaming, not to mention architecture and interior design.

Today we can find many examples of AR, from digital sculpture at the Frieze Art Fair and viewing and walking around a virtual Apple computer on your desk (trying it on for size) to chasing Pokémon in the park (a scavenger hunt). In each case users have different motivations – but to some degree each example uses location, storytelling and visuals.

At Decorex, the motivation for using AR technology was personalisation, in keeping with an interior design event that celebrates personalised design. The journey through Design Encounter began with an invitation to identify interior design items you liked, with an ultimate goal of revealing a secret garden at the end of the journey that matched your personality type.

Logged into your personal account and armed with the Design Encounter augmented reality smartphone app, visitors were given a new way to experience and react to six interconnecting rooms, each created by an interior designer – a library by Samantha Todhunter, a living room by Sella Concept, a dining room by Zachary Pulman Design Studio, a withdrawing room by These White Walls, a master bedroom by Natalia Miyar and a kids’ bedroom by Run for The Hills.

If you know Instagram, you had a head start in using the app. It was in fact quite simple. In each space, ‘like’ hearts hovered over interior design fittings, finishes and furniture and ‘liking’ was as simple as it is on Instagram – tap and move to the next one.

This not only identified your preferences but also gave visitors further information about the designers, products and suppliers of the items. The likes were logged in your account to retrieve at any time in the future.

Meanwhile, through this activity, visitors built a profile in the background. The secret garden of the visual finale that matched their personality was also revealed through augmented reality.

AR gives us a new way to interact with design that can be applied to many other areas. The most immediately relevant is retail – indeed, it’s the next logical step. At Design Encounter, we had a personal account (via our badge). We had our wish-list (likes). Only a shopping cart awaits. Not only that, but all the other associated e-commerce features that we have become accustomed to – discovery (you might also be interested in) and so on.

And let us not forget that individual account. Could it be connected with others automatically or deliberately? Do you want to join a group with others that share your personality type? Are there ten, one hundred or a thousand people that all liked a particular product? Would the supplier like to know and offer a discount to those users?

The possibilities with augmented reality are, of course, endless but what Design Encounter shows is that AR can allow us to make the jump from flat screen cataloguing, discovering, buying and social networking to the three dimensions of the real world.