This week on the Bright Ideas series presented by Acuity Brands®, Vice President of Product Visualization Scott Butler joins us to discuss how people are visualizing their products more virtually rather than physically, thanks to some new and innovative showcasing and marketing tools.
The three main digital design tools in the industry right now are:
- 360º spins
- Web-Based 3D Viewers and Configurators
- Augmented Reality (AR)
- Virtual Reality (VR).
1. 360º SPINS
360º spins are collections of images taken of a product at varying angles and degrees. The images are then stitched together in such a way that, when a user clicks and drags across the media, the product appears to rotate and move responsively.
The manufacturer pre-defines which angles the customer is using to look at the product, so the experience is not 100% organic. However, it still allows users to better visualize the proportions of the product, almost as if it were a 3D model.
2. WEB-BASED 3D VIEWERS AND CONFIGURATORS
For an enhanced 3D experience, however, web-based 3D viewers are required. These are separate from 360º spins and are more organic, because the manufacturer is not predefining what the customer can look at.
Additionally, these simulations can also include animated portions that may have been more difficult or even impossible to add into the 360º spins. Users can open doors, pull levers, close or adjust flaps on a product, etc. They can also add accessories to tweak the product and see what it might look like with new features.
3. AUGMENTED REALITY
The next step in the simulated product journey is augmented reality. AR, as seen in many home-improvement apps for paint colors or new furniture, allows consumers to overlay images of products into their space in real time. After downloading the app from the Apple or Android store, they can use their mobile device to view a room and then add a new light fixture or other product onto the screen to determine how well it may fit the environment.
These simulated light fixtures can change colors, as well as appear illuminated or not. If outdoors, the application can darken the image to simulate more of an evening light, to show how the fixtures might appear closer to nighttime. Fixtures can also be laid out in patterns or grids, so users can simulate dozens of fixtures in an office or warehouse space. For Acuity Brands customers, when they find a product they like in the app, they can select an icon in the top center button to instantly view the specification sheet for that fixture.
4. VIRTUAL REALITY
After AR comes VR – virtual reality. This involves goggles that are most often used by consumers to play video games. Whereas augmented reality overlays simulated images onto the existing environment, virtual reality creates the entire digital environment as well. This allows for a greater sense of scale.
VR could help a customer who works from home, but is searching for the right lighting fixtures to fill a 15,000 square foot warehouse. In Acuity’s case, their VR app comes with several pre-developed environments so that users can see indoor, outdoor, and industrial spaces with different lighting choices.
Virtual reality can also be used not just in product marketing, but also in education and training for distributors or contractors. Learning studies show that physical participation helps the human brain to retain 75% of a lesson, versus 5-10% through general reading or lectures alone. VR goggles allow for that participatory experience which leads to a greater retention of the training received.
A new and valuable VR tool in the Acuity Brands app is their CDE tool. This allows developers to build and share their concepts for different product groups. In the past, static 2D renderings might look nice on paper, but leave something to be desired to feel the full effects of a fixture. Now with the CDE tool, users can get a better sense of scale and proportion in their environments to determine which concept they really do like the best.
Tools like AR and VR are only going to become more common in the days ahead, as their lidar (object-sensing) and digital technology keeps getting better and more affordable. One such field for these assets is the residential market, which will be the topic of next week’s episode. Until then, you can learn more about Acuity’s digital design tools by downloading the Acuity Brands AR App in the App Store or on Google Play.
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