Honey, I Shrunk the Furniture

7 minute read

It’s 2018. Not being able to visualize whether an armchair will ruin the feng shui of your living room before you purchase it is simply unacceptable. For this reason, and a few others, the innovators at Amazon have released AR View, the company’s new augmented reality shopping experience.

Currently, AR View is only available for iOS 11.0+ devices, but it happened to drop at an opportune time for us. Mind Over Machines is expanding. Adding employees means adding office furniture, and we’re planning to refresh the place while we’re at it. In the last week, we have moved, repurposed or trashed many old pieces of furniture, turning the vibe of the office on its head.

Our Interior Design Objectives

Of course, our new office furniture must be comfortable and durable, but we also want to strike that balance between functional and fashionable. Our office space should “wow” prospective employees while continuing to nurture our current MINDs who still need a makerspace that enables collaboration and creativity.

It was time to do some research.

Office Furniture: Unsung Linchpin of Productivity

Have you ever stopped to consider how pivotal office furniture is? It can affect the look, feel, and mood of an entire operation. Sure, keeping costs low is always a critical business objective, but so is purchasing quality products.

Unless you have a standing desk (and kudos to you if you do!), you’re sitting in the same chair every day for roughly eight hours. That’s a major purchase. And when you’re outfitting your entire workforce, office furniture acquisition cannot be taken lightly. That’s why we scoured the web in search of every avenue that could help us find the best furnishings available. But how would each piece fit and look in our office?

Enter Amazon’s AR View

Familiarizing Ourselves with the Technology 

After watching Product Hunt’s introductory video, we were ready to open that Amazon app and hit the camera icon next to the search bar. Curiosity piqued, we clicked the AR View button and were presented with a multitude of choices. At the top of the display were categories ranging from “Top Picks” and “Living Room” down the line to “Toys and Games.” Our kid-in-a-candy-store instincts kicked in, and we immediately started playing with the technology. Naturally, we had to put a chair on a desk for any impromptu, elevated lounging that might be necessary.

Final Assessment

We experimented to our hearts’ content, but when the novelty wore off, we weren’t left with anything spectacular. Our Director of Emerging Technologies, Tim Kulp, broke down the pros and cons of our AR View user experience:

Pros: AR View allowed us to manipulate items easily. Great! The best part about the technology was being able to visualize how pieces looked together, which furniture fit into a cohesive whole. We could see how the room would look if we actually bought the items we were considering. Armed with the visual insights provided by AR View, we were better equipped to make purchasing decisions. This isn’t to say the experience or technology was perfect; it wasn’t.

Cons: AR View left us wanting more options and products to choose from. At first glance, it seemed like there were an infinite number of items to bring to life, but this did not prove to be the case. While the technology was great to interact with, there was no option for office furniture or anything close to it. We were limited to living room furniture and home décor. There were also times when the AR View took a while to find a flat surface, requiring us to awkwardly maneuver around the office, trying to adjust the camera to recognize the area accurately.

AR in Online Retail: The Context

This early iteration of AR View did not meet our needs as office furniture consumers, but it provided a first-hand look at what online shopping may become. “I am excited to see Amazon releasing services like AR View,” says our COO, Dmitry Cherches. “My theory is that online shopping as we currently know it could become a relic of the past, similar to what has been happening to brick-and-mortar shopping malls over the years. Augmented reality offers an interactive, fun future for retail. But as with any emerging technology, it’s wise to be wary; a wave of innovation is usually followed by a tsunami of disruption. Companies like Amazon have whole teams dedicated to building, failing and evolving technologies without much impact on their business. The majority of mid-sized business do not.”

Amazon’s AR View is just the latest entry into a growing AR-app-for-retail field that already includes IKEA, Houzz and Wayfair. While we certainly weren’t expecting it to be perfect for our real-world use case, we know the technology will continue to improve.

In the not too distant future, as adoption and demand grow, the flood gates will open. We wouldn’t be surprised if, one day, Amazon’s entire catalog is integrated with AR View and clothes shopping is done via an avatar with your precise measurements. We can see the wave cresting; it’s what we do.

As Dmitry points out, the majority of mid-sized businesses do not have the budgetary bandwidth to quickly experiment with and incorporate emerging technologies like augmented reality into their operations or consumer offerings. That’s where Mind Over Machines comes in. We partner with companies just like yours to explore, recommend and implement technologies that keep you riding the swell, instead of getting sucked under. If you’re curious how emerging technologies could be implemented for your company, give us a call today: 410.321.4700.