As virtual reality, currently a much-hyped focus at CES, becomes more commonplace in the design and real estate industries, experts expect the immersive technology will play an increasingly larger role in how we shape and design our living spaces. Prefab homes, with modular designs and customizable features, seem like an ideal fit for the kind of interactive touring and catalog browsing opportunities VR can provide. Blu Homes, a manufacturer of upscale prefab dwellings (starting at $225,000 for studio/one bed-sized option), recently released a Blu Design Studio app that provides potential homebuyers with a means to personalize homes on their phones. Curbed was given a demo of the app, an early foray into the company's embrace of VR marketing, and while it offers a small range of customization options, it does provide a glimpse of where the industry may be heading.
As much a marketing and information-gathering tool as a practical home design program, the app lets users tour and personalize their potential prefab home. Available on both a tablet and phone, the program lets users move through a 3D rendering of one of four different home models, altering appliance and finishing packages as they travel between rooms. Throughout the experience of touring a virtual blueprint and exploring a fully rendered home, a sidebar lists price increases.
"We've found that once people walk inside our homes, they understand they're not a regular prefab or shipping container," says Robin Schick, art director and marketing manager at Blu Homes. "You wouldn't know it's a manufactured home. When we walk them through this app, when they go inside, they get a real spatial feel, and what it's like to stand inside."
At the moment, the app offers a limited range of customization options and represents the early stages of the company's virtual reality roadmap. This isn't an app with a "buy now" button at the end, says Jeremy Schwartz, another company art director, it's more of a marketing tool limited by the computing power of mobile devices. But as the app and related technologies develop, the company envisions it forming the core of an ecosystem of digital tools. Users could begin customizing a home on their phone, or viewing a virtual design on a potential home site, then perhaps port their design over to a more robust desktop application to finish customization and complete the buying experience
Blu Homes is currently one of the first prefab companies to utilize such a tool, and have been developing the software in house (it's currently running on a video game platform). But the growth in augmented and virtual reality suggests others will soon follow.
"This is just version 1.0," says Schwartz. "It's really an exploratory tool. In subsequent versions, when we port this over for desktop, users are going to have the ability to configure pretty much anything they want. It's going to evolve into a true configuration and design tool.
· Sleek New App Lets You Design Furniture on Your Phone [Curbed]
· Blu Homes coverage [Curbed]
· Prefab overage [Curbed]