The future is here. And it has arrived in the form of a black, beetle-eyed headset. Seriously. This fully immersive virtual reality (VR) experience practically screams The Matrix. Users put on the headset and then step into a kitchen so real, so homey, they’re compelled to put on a kettle for tea, pluck an apple from the fruit bowl and read the paper that’s waiting on the counter.
KBIS is the destination for industry professionals annually showcasing the latest in products, trends and technologies. The event provides an unparalleled opportunity to network and see what’s new. This year, nearly 600 leading brands exhibited, and hundreds of designers, builders, dealers and suppliers descended on Orlando, FL for the mega event in January. No wonder Caesarstone wanted to make a big (back)splash.
From Real to Virtual
Luckily, ARS was ahead of the curve. We believe in investing in innovation and had been experimenting with what VR could do. When we showed Caesarstone our prototype, they were thrilled to bring it to KBIS.
So what, exactly, did our creative team envision? Two virtual kitchens. Show attendees would be able to not only move around within the environments, but switch out the countertops and backsplashes, mixing and matching the show’s featured surfaces: White Attica, Georgian Bluffs, Noble Grey, Statuario Nuvo, and Sleek Concrete.
Our team had just one month to turn the prototype into a complete, polished experience, a feat of sci-fi proportions. But we worked diligently, leveraging our knowledge of 3-D, set design and photography to make the virtual environments as highly realistic as possible. The process was tedious and intricate, requiring just the right shades, nuance and depth to mimic real life — but the creative team made it happen.
“This is just the first generation, and we’ve been able to push the visual experience to be authentically immersive,” said VP, Creative Director Renee Martin. “And that’s pretty gratifying.”
Our tech brainchild addresses a considerable pain point for dealers and customers. The kitchen is the heart of the home — and its focal point is the countertops. They’re a critical concern in a redesign project and inform the rest of a customer’s aesthetic choices. As high-investment products, they’re worth getting right.
Small, square color samples are helpful but ultimately ineffective in allowing the customer to imagine what the countertops will actually look like. It’s like zooming into a painting and cutting out a swatch of it — what happened to the big picture?
But with virtual reality, you get a 360° view. With ARS’s creation, you can see what Caesarstone’s surfaces look and (perhaps more importantly) feel like in a real kitchen — from all angles, in fine detail. You don’t have to imagine your new kitchen design anymore. You can see it, walk around in it, decide whether White Attica really feels like home.
This Booth’s Got Buzz
Caesarstone’s KBIS booth was already inviting with its polished kitchen setups, innovative Transform displays, adult coloring book station, and coffee, wine and dessert bar, but VR was where it was at. Show attendees were initially hesitant to try on the bug-like headset and timid to interact with the virtual environment. But as soon as they saw how easy, effective and strangely addictive it was, word started to spread.
Soon everybody wanted to try it. Small crowds formed, and the reaction was overwhelmingly positive. Dealers couldn’t wait to use it; customers wished they’d had it when redesigning their kitchens. Everyone was struck by what a natural fit interior design and VR are.
Caesarstone was pleased with the show’s success and the hot buzz surrounding their countertops. We look forward to expanding and refining the technology, putting it on showroom floors and ultimately allowing customers to overlay Caesarstone surfaces in a virtual replica of their own kitchen.
As our VP of Digital and Omnichannel Kashif Zaman put it, “We’re just scratching the surface of a completely new dimension of storytelling, and we are really excited about the possibilities.”
Welcome to the new reality.
*We want to give a shout out to the creative team who lent their talent and hard work to this project and made it a (virtual) reality. Senior Front-End Developer Nam Pham, Associate Design Director Erin Pine-Moore and Account Directors Erin Taylor and Megan Cook, you rocked it. We’re over the moon.
If you’d like us to help you brainstorm some of the ways VR could play a role in the future of your business, give us a buzz.