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Home decorating in the age Of AR
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Home decorating is something that we think of as involving a great deal of hands-on, personal touch. Particularly if you're dealing with your own home, you want to develop a feel for the space, tap into your own vision and instincts, and oversee the process in a very direct way - right down to feeling furniture fabrics or flipping through color swatches. In some ways, it's a very physical process. However, this could be changing in the near future thanks to some exciting developments in tech.

It’s likely that in the past year or so you’ve been noticing the terms VR and AR a lot - even if you don’t tend to pay particularly close attention to tech industries. VR stands for virtual reality, and it’s actually been around for a few years now. AR, however - augmented reality - was really only popularized late in 2017, and introduces a lot of new possibilities, including the changes in the home design process we just mentioned.

Most of what we've seen so far in AR is playful, and has little to do with altering our everyday lives. As you may be aware, Pokémon GO was the first mainstream augmented reality app, and actually preceded the broader arrival of AR by about a year. This game, for those who may not know it, allows people to find and capture the fictional creatures known as Pokémon in real life - sort of. The idea is to aim your mobile phone’s camera at the world around you. Looking through the screen, at the reality right in front of you, you can then see moving, 3D Pokémon as if they’re right there in the actual world. It’s a game that isn’t necessarily for everyone, but it’s a good way to explain how AR works and why it can be so much fun. 

From Pokémon GO we can see all kinds of interesting ways for AR to develop, primarily in the realm of gaming. The immediate rumors concerned a Harry Potter-themed game in Pokémon GO’s likeness, but many other character-based adventures are possible as well. We’ve seen strategy games with board-like settings brought to life, for instance, as well as animated combat arenas. The next big thing could well be a whole new twist on casino games, now that they’re being designed in 3D formats with added focus on animation. 3D characters could become visible on a tabletop right in front of you, reacting to slot spins or even spinning the slots as directed by you. The ideas go on and on; it truly is entertainment with limitless potential.

It's easy to see why possible developments like these command most of the spotlight. But because of this, some of the possible changes in home decorating and the design world in general can get lost in the shuffle. Such applications might seem like a far cry from gaming, but the above examples - Pokémon in the real world, animated strategy boards on tabletops, characters running games in 3D, etc. - actually help to paint the picture of how it all works. Because, soon after the first AR games were released to mobile phones, furniture shopping apps came out also. And they work more or less the same way.

If you’ve never tried the app IKEA Place, it’s a good one to start with. You get to run through a catalogue of furniture, highlight the pieces you like, point your mobile device at a corner of your home, and see it as if that furniture is actually there. It sounds at first like a fun gimmick or something to play around with. But think about how convenient this really is! You no longer have to guess if furniture will look nice in your home. You certainly don’t have to buy a couch, haul it back to your place, set it up, and then decide if it’s worth keeping. You can merely tap your phone a few times, hold it up, and get a look. (And as a sort of bonus, the IKEA app in particularly also helps with assembly.)

Now, just as we could look at Pokémon GO and project the next wave of games or genres that would make it into AR entertainment, we can do the same with AR home decorating. For instance, now we can envision furniture through AR. But what about pieces of art on the walls? What about different kinds of plants on window sills or in the garden out back? For that matter, what about entire renovation projects, such as a new wall or a new set of windows where right now there is nothing? These are all things that augmented reality will be able to help us picture in extraordinarily realistic ways. And the apps can help us get started on the actual work, too; already there are a few apps designed to quickly measure space in a real room, for instance.

It’s all very exciting, and in the next year or so it could completely change how we think about home decorating.

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