Michal Stachowski

Blurred lines: 3D, AR recast possibilities for furniture designers, manufacturers

HIGH POINT – Until relatively recently, a furniture designer or manufacturer wishing to implement serious 3D rendering had to be willing to make ongoing investments in specialized hardware such as graphics workstations.

Cloud-based rendering has been a game-changer for this sector, with the major software vendors now doing the heavy graphical lifting on their own servers.

Each of the software vendors in the field have a different approach to maintaining their platforms, but all strike a balance between three considerations when doing so: speed of rendering, ease of use and graphical fidelity.

AI-powered technologies, particularly in terms of image generation and product customization, are increasingly playing a role in creating solutions that are faster and more efficient for the end user, but all tech solutions providers agree that human input into these tools is not going anywhere, at least not in the short or medium term.

Michal Stachowski

Michal Stachowski, the CEO and co-founder of 3D graphical rendering and configuration platform Intiaro, whose clients in the furniture industry include Lexington Home Brands, American Leather, Classic Home and Century, said his company is in a constant cycle of improvement in its product based on client needs.

“The question is always, ‘What problem are we solving?’” Stachowski noted. “There is never an ‘end-point’ in any technology solution.”

Intiaro’s latest update to its rendering software, Renderer 2.0, is one example of how this feedback cycle drives improvement. The fully cloud-based solution included a significant increase in rendering speed, but Stachowski said that post-release user feedback gave his company an insight that they immediately applied to the product.

“There is no difference, really, between 10 milliseconds and 100 milliseconds for a human being, so based on that we decided that we can take some of that gain in speed and apply it instead to quality,” he said.

Future proofing

Companies such as Intiaro are continually reassessing what solutions are best for their customers given the capabilities of current technology. There will likely come a day, Stachowski cited as an example, that user devices become sophisticated enough to make rendering on them preferable to the cloud.

“It all boils down to making sure that you are future proofing your company’s software solution,” he pointed out. “And future proofing doesn’t mean that you are always having to invest in the newest tech; it means that you make smart investments in tech flexible enough that you can move wherever the world takes you.”

Stachowski added that machine learning (ML) is the main AI-powered application that his company is concerning itself with in the immediate term, noting that ML has the potential to help designers account for product customizations on a scale that would have previously been unimaginable.

“We have hundreds of millions of 3D models in our database right now,” he said. “The way we store items is not in one chunk, but each configurable item is its own model.”

What an ML-powered AI-solution can do, he said, is “account for all of the potential combinations and give the configure or designer their usable options, in real time, based on whatever parameters they input.”

The necessity of user input, he believes, is not going away any time soon; rather the user’s life will be made easier. “A good machine-learning tool can reduce your time to design completion as much as 10-fold,” Stachowski said, but at present, the work of configuration “requires an interplay between the human and the machine.”

New product to market

Another benefit of these tools for manufacturers and designers is their ability to help synergize the different business units involved in getting a new product to market.

Preet Singh
Preet Singh

Preet Singh, the founder and CEO at 3D product visualization platform Imagine.io, which services companies in the furniture space including Sarreid and the Great American Home Store, noted that his platform has enabled companies to integrate different business units in the creative chain, from the design stage all the way to production of marketing content for the retailer.

“Manufacturers and designers are leveraging Imagine.io to send design prototypes securely and get internal/external stakeholder approval without the need for physical samples or travel,” said Singh. “One of the most popular use cases from manufacturers is producing their product catalogs, website product pages and social media content.”

He believes that as AI-powered digital tools develop further they will come to overlap with things such as virtual reality in ways that could blur the distinction between real world and digital experiences, with huge implications for the furniture and design industries in the medium and long term.

“AI-driven design tools are also evolving to offer more sophisticated features, such as predictive modeling and automated customization based on user preferences,” Singh said. “Augmented reality or mixed reality, which is a combination of AR and VR, will further blur the lines between physical and digital experiences, enabling users to visualize furniture and interior designs in real-world settings and in real-time.”

See also:

  • Ready or not, the age of A.I. has come to the furniture industry | Bill McLoughlin
  • Don’t let the A.I. revolution start without you

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