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Augmented-reality tech fills your living room with virtual furniture

Cimagine’s virtual-shopping system makes it easy to see how that sofa will look when it gets home

A virtual Shop Direct chair in a potential customer's living room, courtesy of augmented-reality technology (Courtesy)
A virtual Shop Direct chair in a potential customer's living room, courtesy of augmented-reality technology (Courtesy)

When shopping for clothes, most consumers insist on trying them on before buying — but that hasn’t usually been an option when shopping for furniture. Now it is — except that, instead of buying a sofa and having it delivered to see how it looks, consumers can use technology by Israel’s Cimagine to virtually visualize how a piece of furniture will fit in with their décor.

At last week’s Augmented World Expo in Silicon Valley, Cimagine unveiled a new version of its augmented-reality shopping platform — a system that lets users virtually “furnish” an empty room from an online catalog using their mobile device. With the system, users can see an array of virtual products positioned at various locations in the same room.

For example, interior decorators could design an entire room with pieces of furniture, lighting fixtures and appliances all at once, and get a realistic portrayal of what the finished room would look like.

It’s a major upgrade for the Cimagine platform, which until now could virtually envision just one object on a background. Cimagine is already being used by several retailers, including Shop Direct, the UK’s fourth-largest retailer. Using the company’s technology, Shop Direct has now digitized about 1,000 pieces of furniture; and, using an app and a smartphone, customers can see exactly how the furniture will look in their living rooms or bedrooms, without having to enter a showroom.

Using the technology, Cimagine said, shoppers at Shop Direct’s Littlewoods.com site can visualize furniture items in their own surroundings at the click of a button, from any angle or distance, at 10 times higher resolution than the industry standard.

The Cimagine solution is based on an advanced augmented-reality (AR) engine, which combines with information from the internal sensors of a mobile device. Using unique computer vision algorithms, Cimagine’s patent-pending technology allows it to scan the environment, identify surfaces, and overlay 3D product representations in an accurate manner. The system also keeps the rendered image in place, allowing users to walk around the room and maintain the overlaid object in the same spot on the background. Users can also view an object from different angles and distances.

It’s perfect for furniture shopping, said Yoni Nevo, CEO of Cimagine Media. “We are very excited to show the world our latest development, which is, without a doubt, a significant advancement in the AR space. Our multiple-item platform will no doubt revolutionize the user experience, adding value to shoppers and retailers alike.

“We believe that this technological breakthrough allows AR to become a mainstream tool for augmented commerce as it finally makes AR intuitive and fit for the mass-market consumer,” Nevo added.

Cimagine plans to bring its updated technology to Shop Direct, as well as to other retailers, the company said — and that’s good news for Shop Direct, Jonathan Wall, e-commerce director, told The Times of Israel in a recent interview. “Furniture is one-third of our business, but selling furniture is a long process, because there is a major commitment factor in each purchase,” explained Wall. “Cimagine’s user-friendly and retailer-friendly technology makes it much easier for customers to visualize what they are purchasing, which leads to increased purchases.

“By letting customers virtually see how products would look in their homes, we reduce the perceived risk that’s sometimes associated with online shopping,” added Wall. “Their Software-as-a-Service solution was easy to integrate, and the team was open to accommodating our customers’ needs. Israel has been very helpful to us on both ends, and we’ve learned a lot from Israel’s tech ecosystem and its start-ups about both business and new technology.”

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