In the Virtual Stage project, Danish fashion, textile and furniture brands have become first movers of virtual technology.
One of the goals of Virtual Stage was to find out if you, as a customer or buyer, can have a sensory shopping experience without the ability to touch the fabric, sit in the chair or see the lamp at home in the living room.
Yes, you can, according to the initial results from the project which is a collaboration between, among others, Virsabi and Lifestyle & Design Cluster and carried out together with ten Danish fashion and furniture brands, and with CBS as a research partner.
In the shadow of the corona crisis, closed shops and restrictive travel options have limited the physical and three-dimensional sensing of materials and products, which for the most are part of the basis for deciding on a purchase.
Therefore, a selection of brands in the lifestyle industry have helped to test a number of virtual technologies that can give users an emotional and present experience.
Step into the design world
Virtual Stage has sent seven sensory boxes with VR headsets around to international architects and buyers, who have been very enthusiastic with the results.
“It’s cool that Danish furniture brands are first movers in this field,” says the Belgian interior designer Arjaan De Feyter. “It puts these brands in a good light that they invest time, money and effort into it.”
He sees great potential in using VR technology as an intermediary when designing a home. Here he would be able to use the technology to introduce customers to different furniture, kitchens and the like, so that they get a taste of what it might look like before they decide.
In the VR headset, users enter a world where they can get up close and personal with designs from the seven furniture brands and three fashion brands and see the material from all angles. Users can also watch a presentation video of each company, where the glasses give the illusion of a cinema experience, just as there are 360-degree videos recorded in the manufacturers’ workshops or in their showrooms.
As a user, you move around between the different brands in the way you would move around in a virtual world in a computer game. It provides an experience of reflection and presence.
And it works.
Authentic, up close, and personal
Several of the users who have tried out the VR experience have stated to Copenhagen Business School that they felt unique when they were “directly faced” with a designer or architect in the virtual universe. It gave
them a more personal experience to be guided around – instead of, for example, having to surf a website. They didn’t feel that they were standing alone in the universe.
It was also emphasized in the responses to CBS that users were happy with the authenticity of the storytelling – and that they felt more like a guest than a customer.
Norwegian designer Nadine Fumiko Schaub is also excited after trying on the headsets.
“It’s a great alternative to newsletters and social media,” says the product designer, who is ready to invest in this type of technology herself to use it with her own customers.
However, she believes that VR technology alone cannot replace the physical experience of the products where she, as a buyer, has to choose products from a supplier.
“I see a greater value in using VR technology between me and my customers,” she says.
Bring the sunny islands to Copenhagen
Digital consultant at Dansk Mode & Textil, Jakob Simmelkjær, sees great opportunities for fashion brands in using Virsabi’s Virtual Studio, where the participating companies have recorded their cinema-like films.
Here, via a large LED screen and with a 3D environment as a background, you can form the framework for video and still image recordings in a setting where you have full control over light, shadows, weather and the placement of the elements in relation to each other. It provides a huge flexibility and time saving, as you are not dependent on traveling to remote locations with a team of models, make-up artists, photographers and more. Instead, you can bring it all into a local studio and complete the tasks in a significantly shorter time,” says Jakob Simmelkjær.
The big advantage of using this technology, rather than traditional green screens, is that you avoid slow and expensive finishing of the image material, as everything is completed on the set. Read more about our Virtual Production Studio.
Virtual Stage is supported by Industriens Fond as part of the foundation’s special corona effort genstartNU.dk, and Industriens Fond also sees obvious opportunities in the technology.
“When Danish companies manage to utilize a new technology in a good way, their competitiveness increases,” says Thomas Hofman-Bang, CEO of Industriens Fond.
“This is what we need to achieve through Virtual Stage; to use digital channels to showcase physical projects and reach relevant customers and partners,” he says, calling it an obviously good idea at a time when people cannot meet physically.
“But the prospects also extend further into the future, where virtual display of new products can increase efficiency and make both production and distribution more sustainable,” says Thomas Hofman-Bang.
Experiences reaching far into the future
The starting point for Virtual Stage was to help the Danish design industry through the corona crisis, as a large part of the sales for the fashion and furniture industry take place at trade fairs and fashion weeks around the world. However, the results of the project go beyond both the industries involved and the restrictions associated with COVID-19.
“If we look at the long run, we hope that other companies and other industries will be inspired by the first-mover companies that participate in the project,” says Heidi Svane, project manager at Virtual stage.
“It is not a straightforward solution that saves the fashion week, but we must experiment, test and become wiser about which technologies can grow the export of Danish design,” she says and points out that a development project like Virtual Stage is important for companies and the industry in general, as it helps to maintain curiosity about new technologies and innovation. At the same time, the hope is that the project can also in the long term help to reduce costs, reduce climate footprints and reduce resource consumption after the crisis.
Virtual Stage - a project that strengthens exports through technology
Virtual Stage is a project targeted at Danish design companies. The project will test and investigate how virtual, augmented and mixed reality can support the export of Danish furniture and fashion design. Behind the project is the national business cluster for fashion, furniture and design, Lifestyle & Design Cluster, the technology company Virsabi and Copenhagen Business School. Virtual Stage is supported by Industriens Fonds’ initiative GenstartNU.dk, which aims to ensure Danish competitiveness during and after the corona crisis.
The participating brands in Virtual Stage:
Carl Hansen & Søn
Copenhagen Business School
Lifestyle & Design Cluster
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Virsabi is a company that explores the intersection of creativity and technologies and is one of the first Virtual – and Augmented Reality dedicated companies offering both business advisory work and technical development for the utilization of Virtual Production, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Mixed Reality and other new visualization technologies.