When you hear the term “virtual” or “augmented” reality, it’s hard to picture how the concept can translate to the consumer. Those terms are often reserved for video games, but Wayfair, an expansive online shopping destination for furniture and dÃ©cor, is in the early stages of taking interior decorating to a new, virtual level. At the Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit, we got a sneak peek at the new technology.
Wayfair Next, the research and development arm of the company, has been developing the Wayfair VR Experience (Patio Playground) and WayfairView, two applications that will change the way consumers shop for and interact with furniture. Both take furniture pieces and place them in real spaces, offering viewers a chance to see how furniture and other objects look in a home, if the dimensions work, and more.
Patio Playground, the current Wayfair VR game, comes with a pre-loaded selection of furniture pieces that users can rearrange on a make-believe patio. If users are equipped with the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality gaming system, they can download the app and rearrange furniture in life-like spaces. Wayfair representatives hope this technology will become more accessible in the future (currently, the Rift platform retails at $600), and will include shoppable elements so users’ can purchase their favorite pieces, as well as the ability to load in a users’ actual space to decorate.
For a more practical way to reach consumers, Wayfair Next has developed the WayfairView app, currently available in Google Play. This is an “augmented” reality platform. For virtual reality newbies: augmented reality allows a user to stay in the “real world” while engaging in a simulation; virtual reality is a completely immersive experience, often involving a headset or goggles, that makes the user unable to see their present surroundings and completely encompass themselves in the virtual reality platform. This augmented reality app, WayfairView, allows a user to scan their room and load in a list of (shoppable) furniture options from Wayfair’s database. Then, you can place 3D renderings of furniture and dÃ©cor into your actual space, and see how it looks. Are you an indecisive shopper? Are you working with a tricky layout? This advanced technology allows you to see how everything will look in your room—from color, to style, to dimension—before actually buying.
Currently, only 7 percent of the furniture shopping business is done online, says Mike Festa, the director of Wayfair Next. The hope is that in the next few years, this technology will become more affordable and accessible to consumers, and allow them to “be inspired and creative” when decorating their homes.