California architect Greg Lynn, designer of a high-tech chair for Nike, recently stated in an interview with Dezeen that the furniture industry is struggling to keep pace with the movement to integrate technology into consumer products. In doing so, companies will likely disappear as consumers grow to expect more from their home furnishings. However, new technology developments have surfaced that are poised to change the industry.
Virtual and Augmented Reality
While consumers are attracted to professionally styled and curated lifestyle imagery that helps them determine what home furnishings to buy, Mike Festa of Wayfair believes that the next step to engaging consumers is virtual and augmented reality. For online retailers, three-dimensional (3D) technology would allow prospective buyers to explore pieces of furniture from all angles and select various finishes, trims, and fabrics to fully visualize their product. Beyond virtual reality, the ability to offer augmented reality will also be valuable. Like a game, it would give people the option to take their online customized furniture and place it in a room that resembles their home. The purpose is to help individuals see how it fits in their space, thus enticing them to make a purchase.
Though the technology seems ideal, Mr. Festa predicts that full integration of both will take upwards of 10 years. The most challenging part will be the cost of creating stock keeping units, also known as SKUs, and customization options for each product, as well as investment in 3D modeling and scanning. However, by the time online retailers have updated their technology, millennials will be the prime furniture purchasers and the demographic more likely to grasp on to the new way of shopping.
World’s Advanced Saving Project (WASP), an Italian company, focuses on 3D printing. Founded in 2003, the organization has created PowerWASP, a tool that mills wood and aluminum, and DeltaWASP, which accommodates small to large printing projects. One of its struggles has been cost, namely the expense of making a product. Until late, the company was only able to use filament to manufacture items. The product itself is very costly, making it impossible for people in underprivileged regions to afford 3D creations.
Fortunately, the DeltaWASP Pellet was the solution. The company developed the machinery to process polylactic acid pellets into strands that are four to 10 millimeters in diameter. It takes up to eight hours to process approximately 22 pounds of material. Afterward, the processed pellets can be modified to fit different designs. By using pellets over filament, the savings amounts to 90 percent.
Presently, WASP is positioning the machinery to aid in furniture manufacturing by working with design intern Giulio Buscaroli, who has transformed its service into beautifully designed chairs. The overall goal is to produce fashionable furnishings that can be customized by consumers through a partnership with FabLabs.
Developed by entrepreneurs in Latin America, Curvilux, a nightstand, is among the latest in smart furniture products to launch. The first of many smart furniture products the creators intend to release, the nightstand will be made available to consumers if crowdfunding on Indiegogo is successful.
The product was created to help people reach their full potential. It includes dual LED lights that serve three purposes: eliminating the need for a bedside light, illuminating the ground for people to safely walk in the middle of the night, and notifying sleepers that it is time to wake up by simulating a sunrise at a set time. It also offers a stereo audio system with Bluetooth connectivity. The technology gives owners the ability to listen to their favorite playlists and select a song to play when a phone call comes in. Other features include a charging dock and electronic lock. Ensuring Curvilux becomes an active part of a person’s life, the creators made a mobile app to control all aspects of the nightstand when away.
Wireless Charging Products
Like Curvilux, Ikea and Fonesalesman have grasped onto the idea that wireless charging furniture is a must. Fonesalesman, headquartered in London, created a line called FurniQi. As of the beginning of 2016, the line has released a side table made of hand-harvested Mao Zhu bamboo. Its minimalist design makes it easy to integrate into any home. The company utilized a standard interface by Wireless Power Consortium to ensure the wireless charging technology, known as Qi, can support a multitude of smartphone devices, from Microsoft to Samsung. The side table allows a person to place their phone on its surface to charge. Providing the answer to wireless living, the company intends to release more products with Qi technology in the future.
In 2015, Ikea joined the wireless charging scene with the debut of its own series of products in Europe. The collection includes lamps, nightstands, charging pads, and charging units. The company designed each piece to blend seamlessly into a home. For those wanting even more customization and hidden technology, Ikea offers JYSSEN, a wireless charger that was made for consumers to embed into furniture. Each item displays a plus sign, which signifies it has charging capabilities for products that are compatible with Qi technology. For those that do not support Qi technology, like iPhone products, an additional charging cover made by Ikea can be purchased to use items from the collection.