The rapid advancement of technology, particularly in the realms of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Augmented Reality (AR), has sparked discussions and debates across various industries. Some have answered with fear: “Where will jobs go?”. Others, with overzealous positivity: “Is a world void of work ahead of us?”. The answer, as usual, is somewhere in the middle. The job market will inevitably change, but humans are not out of the equation just yet.
The world of interior design has been no exception to this speculative chatter, with AI and AR technologies offering new avenues for creativity, visualisation, and customer engagement. However, the overarching question lingers: Will AI and AR eventually replace designers, showrooms, and trade shows?
AI and AR have made significant strides, revolutionising the way we interact with the world around us. AI-powered algorithms can analyse vast amounts of data, generate design suggestions, and assist with tasks like space planning, material selection, and budgeting. Meanwhile, AR enables customers to visualise and experience design concepts in their own spaces through the use of virtual overlays. These technologies undoubtedly hold immense potential for streamlining processes, enhancing customer experiences, and sparking innovation via low-cost creations.
However, AI and AR bring automation and efficiency, they cannot replace the human touch and creative insight that designers bring to the table. Designers possess a deep understanding of human emotions, cultural nuances, and the ability to conceptualise unique and personalised spaces. They combine technical expertise with an artistic flair, ensuring that spaces are not only aesthetically pleasing but also functional and sustainable.
Perhaps the most poignant aspect of designers’ capacity is their ability to connect and profoundly empathise with their clients’ needs and wants. Only the most skilled of designers can ask and glean the psychology of their clients and convert it into an accurate design, encapsulating their realities, dreams and taste in one sole space.
Rather than perceiving AI and AR as threats, designers can embrace these technologies as powerful tools in their arsenal. AI algorithms can sift through vast design databases, analysing trends and patterns, providing designers with valuable insights and inspiration. Augmented Reality allows designers to create immersive experiences for clients, enabling them to virtually explore and fine-tune design concepts – and even source furniture from their homes, thus opening up a whole new international clientele to the designer.
By looking at technology in this way, designers become curators, using select technology to amplify their creative vision, rather than being replaced by it.
Showrooms have long been essential for designers and clients to interact with materials, finishes, and furniture firsthand. While virtual showrooms and online catalogues have gained popularity, they cannot replicate the multisensory experience of physically engaging with design elements. The tactile feedback, the play of light on textures, and the ability to gauge proportions in real-time are irreplaceable aspects of the showroom experience.
AI and AR can augment this experience, sure, and offering virtual showrooms that blend the physical and digital realms, but they cannot fully replace the tangible and immersive nature of a physical space. Technology should only replace the boring, non-human aspects of showrooms: the project management, the 100 email chains, the amalgamation of quotes… Not the experience of looking at the natural stone for the first time, or feeling a Persian rug. That’s the beauty of the industry, and no machine could replace that.
Trade shows have traditionally served as catalysts for inspiration, networking, and business opportunities within the interior design community. They offer a platform for professionals to showcase their work, discover new products, and engage in face-to-face interactions.
2020 and 2021’s virtual trade shows tried to replicate these feelings of connection and excitement, but they all lacked the same personal spark and serendipitous encounters that physical trade shows foster. AI and AR can enhance trade show experiences, enabling virtual attendance and interactive demonstrations, but they cannot replicate the organic connections forged in a bustling exhibition hall.
For us, nothing replaces meeting one’s audience, or hearing feedback right from the people supporting us. Technology, at least right now, is not seamless – there is still a disconnecting veil between the two people. It can be the screen, or more psychologically, the inability to be totally spontaneous. Technology still requires and enforces a distance between people, and the special touch of designers, showrooms and tradeshows will always benefit from an in-person approach.
Artificial Intelligence and Augmented Reality are transforming the interior design industry, offering designers and clients exciting new possibilities. However, the role of designers, showrooms, and trade shows remains invaluable. Designers bring a unique blend of creativity, expertise, and human understanding to the design process, while showrooms and trade shows provide tactile experiences and foster personal connections. As technology evolves, it will continue to enhance and augment the work of designers, but it cannot replace the essence of human ingenuity and the desire for authentic, tangible experiences. The future lies in the harmony of both.