This article has been republished with the permission of Furniture Today USA.
Words: Alex Milstein
Modsy, a technology, art and design company, created a different type of augmented reality tool that focuses on the shopping experience.
Instead of an in-store AR app, Modsy has created an AR product that allows consumers to shop home furnishings, design a room and preview what it looks like fully furnished, all from the comfort of their own home.
Shanna Tellerman, CEO, founded the company after she and her husband had a less-than-positive experience trying to furnish their own home. They were frustrated that they couldn’t picture how an entire room would come together as one when furnished. With a background in 3D design, Tellerman set out to create the shopping experience she wished she had.
The result was Modsy, a new type of product that uses augmented reality and style quizzes to help consumers have an easier shopping experience. Founded two years ago, Modsy now partners with more than 100 retailers including West Elm, Crate and Barrel and Anthropologie.
Here’s how it works: A consumer takes photos from all four corners of the room she wants furnished. She sends the pictures to Modsy and takes a style quiz to give Modsy information about what products the consumer might like. Consumers are also matched to a mood board, which Tellerman describes as a pre-populated Pinterest board. Once Modsy knows the consumer’s style, it fills the mood board with products fitting the consumer’s determined style and lets the consumer add and delete things as they see fit.
Meanwhile, Modsy takes all of that information and renders it into a realistic 3D model of the room. Consumers receive two room design ideas from Modsy’s designers, and from there consumers can move and edit things in the room, as well as see an aerial view.
Tellerman said she came up with the idea to send two design ideas to every customer because she feels strongly that consumers need a starting point.
“It’s intimidating to start with a blank room, and customers become unlocked the moment they get an idea,” said Tellerman. “They can totally transform the room or make small changes. Everything you see in that digital design is real furniture from more than 100 different retailers.”
Tellerman emphasized that Modsy focuses on the customer experience and the core problems shoppers face. “For most customers there’s an intimidation or frustration factor that happens when thinking about designing their home or buying furniture. Most people who come to Modsy are at a moment where they need some level of help and support.”
She said a major challenge that many AR apps don’t solve is what products consumers should start looking for. For a lot of people, trying to understand what the possibilities are and what could be is actually the beginning of the journey. That’s where Modsy creates a different experience.
“Consumers don’t do any heavy lifting on their end before they are presented back with a vision of what could be, at which point we welcome them to make changes and tweaks,” said Tellerman. “That’s a core difference when thinking about an AR app, feature or virtual reality — you’re putting the customer in a position where they have to make all of these decisions and learn how to use a new technology at a point where they’re already potentially overwhelmed or frustrated. What you end up with is people trying it and then moving on to a different approach to solve their needs.
“The experience we try to create is to take away a lot of the frustration factors and blockers that make you feel stuck, and then give you a starting point and something to react to that brings some joy back into the process of deciding what you want to buy.”
A few major things differentiate Modsy from its competitors in the AR realm. Customers don’t need to leave their home to use it, and they don’t need a special device, as this can all be done from a desktop or laptop. The rooms can be photographed with other things in the space like furniture, pets or people, and consumers can even include their existing furniture in their Modsy design.
Another thing separating Modsy from its AR competitors is that Modsy doesn’t use a depth-sensing camera. Instead, consumers take the pictures, and Modsy creates a to-scale 3D model. Tellerman said a big challenge with AR is trying to use it in real time.
“With AR apps you’re dealing with all the things in reality — furniture already in the scene, bad lighting, messy rooms and bad camera angles,” Tellerman said. “All of these things, from my perspective, negate the emotional response you want to have when trying to make a purchasing decision.”
This is why she decided to take a different approach and post-process the customer’s photos. The decision has paid off in big ways. Not only has the company already partnered with major retailers, it’s also preparing to be featured on a new Bravo television show called Cyrus vs. Cyrus, where Tish and Brandi Cyrus (Miley’s mom and sister) will pitch design ideas to their clients and use Modsy to present their designs.
Perhaps the most unique thing about Modsy is that it’s the only product of its kind right now.
“That’s what excites me,” said Tellerman. “While some big companies are getting stuck on the AR feature, just as a feature, Modsy is rethinking the whole process of how people will buy furniture. This idea is that the experience around it and having a 3D model allows consumers to create many different design iterations over the lifetime of living in that space. That’s the future.”