Carmel closet designer to use VR to help customers envision spaces

Businesses across multiple industries are trying to figure out how to harness the power of virtual reality, a technology that allows users to explore a three-dimensional simulation that appears to be real.  

VR is making a huge splash in entertainment, especially in gaming, and is beginning to show major promise in retail, where buyers increasingly want to shop remotely, and in real estate, where builders, architects, designers and real estate agents are exploring the technology as a way to show customers what’s possible.

Enter the local franchise of California Closets, which is set to launch the national brand’s first VR experience for customers—initially at the DesignBuild trade show in Cincinnati this weekend and then at its studio in the Carmel Arts & Design District next week.

“We have a passion for design, and technologies like this allow us to deliver on some of our core values—delivering a very differentiated experience and helping clients truly understand and interact with the design process,” said Marcus Hall, vice president of marketing and sales at California Closets in Carmel.

California Closets designs, sells and installs custom storage products for closets, pantries, garages, offices and residential and commercial spaces. Already, customers can see systems installed at the franchise’s design studio at 1 Rangeline Road and use an iPad or other technology to view computer-assisted designs and 360-degree images.

But the VR system will allow customers to use an Oculus Rift headset to virtually explore a closet or other space designed specifically for them. Hall said customers will be able to essentially walk around the space, experiencing it in virtual 3-D that allows them to sense the size and depth.

“In our industry, in particular, it’s very exciting because typically we’ve found it’s hard for the average consumer to visualize and get a grasp of how their design and what we’ve co-created for them will come to life in their space,” Hall said. Virtual reality “gives you a real, lifelike feel for what the actual finished product would be.”

Initially, customers will only be viewing the products and design. But Hall said the VR system will eventually let them interact with the products by virtually opening drawers and doors.

“You’ll be able to immerse yourself into the design,” he said.

The local franchise took the lead on the virtual reality project and developed the system with a computer-assisted design firm that works with California Closets. Hall declined to reveal how much the technology cost or how much it’s expected to boost sales.

“Like any technology investment, we had to evaluate the opportunity cost,” he said. “And we think, within reason, the investments make sense to continue to deliver a really unparalleled client experience.”

Hall said other California Closets franchisees have been asking questions about the experience but he’s not sure how soon it will roll out in other places. The Carmel location also owns design studios in Cincinnati and Louisville, where the technology will be available in the coming weeks.

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