Opendesk offers augmented-reality shopping for its open-source furniture

Opendesk launches augmented-reality shopping for its open-source furniture

Opendesk customers can now use augmented reality to see how the furniture brand's pieces look in their homes before ordering them from local makers.

The augmented-reality (AR) experience launched with the arrival of Apple's iOS 12 operating system this week. It enables customers to use their smartphones to view some of Opendesk's furniture superimposed on the room in front of them.

Opendesk augmented reality meets distributed manufacturing

Customers can now see what size desk fits in their study nook without having to use a tape measure, or test different finishes against their wall paint.

The feature is accessed through the phone's native browser and doesn't require a third-party app.

The addition of AR is significant for the Opendesk shopping experience as the brand has no showrooms and no stock. Instead, products are sold through its website and made on-demand via a "distributed manufacturing" model. After choosing a product through the site, customers receive quotes from independent local fabricators willing to make it.

The designs are also open-source, so users can alternatively download the digital fabrication files and make the furniture themselves.

"Furniture is generally made for a warehouse or retail space — a one-size-fits-all approach," said Opendesk co-CEO and co-founder Joni Steiner.

"Augmented reality, coupled with local, on-demand fabrication means products can be showcased in your own home or office before being made directly, through the Opendesk platform."

Opendesk augmented reality meets distributed manufacturing

"For Opendesk it's particularly useful, because everything we do is made on demand," added Steiner. "AR becomes the way to try before it's made for you. We can now provide a showroom experience whilst still holding no inventory. AR is also fun, and makes for a personal, unique experience."

The AR feature is initially only being made available for only three of Opendesk's popular designs, which had to be modelled in fine detail, including with realistic shadows and lighting. The three designs are the Johann stool, Linnea bookshelf and Bundle desk.

Opendesk augmented reality meets distributed manufacturing

Users can test them at various sizes and zoom in on the materials and design details using the AR feature, which is activated by clicking an icon in Opendesk's online store.

"I think AR is going to bring people closer to physical things," said Steiner. "It's going to empower users to be more demanding, which will lead to better physical products – whether a desk or an entire workspace."

Opendesk augmented reality meets distributed manufacturing

Opendesk evolved from a 2012 project of architects Joni Steiner and Nick Ierodiaconou, and launched with a crowdfunding campaign in 2014. It runs a "desks on demand" service for London's workplaces.

The London-based company worked with VRTX Lab, a German studio specialising in AR and VR, to create this new experience using Apple's ARKit 2, the AR development platform for iPhones and iPads.

The company is one of the first to launch an AR shopping experience. Another is IKEA, which has an app, Place, dedicated to the feature.