The pandemic has accelerated the process of digitalisation in every aspect of our life in a way that very few expected or thought was possible. And this is true for every industry and interior design, as well both from a professional perspective and from that of the end-user.
This is the other big trend, along with sustainability (with which it is unavoidably intertwined), that is changing forever our sector and the impact that interior design has in our lives. So, let’s go through the biggest technological innovations that we saw emerging prominently on the global stage:
1. Virtual and Augmented Reality
Virtual and augmented reality are surely the first that come to mind. Both are only in their infancy but they will open endless opportunities, especially as the technology becomes more effective and precise, and overall prices decrease. One allows to create digital spaces on which to adapt a design idea. Being able to work on it directly by designing the three-dimensional replica of a building is something that can make the design process much more efficient, rapid, and also streamlined when it comes to communication and relationship with the developers. This can ultimately become also an important advantage for the budget definition, before committing to certain design specifications.
Augmented reality devices like Microsoft’s HoloLens on the other hand, can map a real environment allowing the viewers to project virtual elements on a real space, which is a further step in making the design process more involving and efficient. A similar effect can also be achieved through apps that do not usually operate in real-time as AR visors do, but thanks to 360 degrees technology can replicate an exact copy of the space being designed.
We touched on this topic already when reviewing the 5 Most Important Changes for Interior Design in 2021, but as these tools become more accessible they will benefit also the clients or privates who will be able to autonomously try different furniture solutions on their own, or communicate more effectively with the designer.
2. 3D Printing
3D Printing is becoming more popular and opened new opportunities in design and furniture production as well as décor and lighting. It represents a new way to diversify, create bespoke and innovative solutions.
Another important factor that ties new technology and sustainability as mentioned in the beginning is the fact that it is a technique that can be perfectly adapted to recycled materials. One example is the one that we discussed in our report about the London Design Festival where designer James Shaw effectively used a 3d printing technique with recycled plastic material to create bespoke sustainable pieces.
As materials and technology evolve, 3D printing paired with AI, will also enable the creation of lighter yet structurally stronger pieces like the ones produced by Cucune for AI Build
Some have even started talking about 4D printing. Something through which a printed object can further transform thanks to external elements such as temperature, light, or other external agents.
3. Digital Copies and Blockchain
More and more assets today are being conceived with their own digital copies (or twins), for reasons of value, traceability, ownership, repairability and so on. One example we reported previously was the one of Stykka a Danish company that produces sustainable furniture with modular components. They pair each piece with a twin and a QR code that allows information to be shared quickly with architects and also be tracked down easily when substitution is needed.
*Image by Stykka
In this context, integrations with the blockchain complement this technology by helping with each piece’s traceability and ownership verification.
Like in other sectors, digital twins can also be extremely helpful for clients and designers to pick modular pieces and choose specifications.
4. Smart Homes
When it comes to smart technologies, the possibilities are so many that we could dedicate entire articles just to these. However, I will try to summarise its potential applications and benefits.
Most of us use an increasing number of electronic appliances, and smart devices in our daily lives, and these can significantly impact the interior design of both residential and commercial spaces.
Smart speakers and integrated AIs are good examples. They are common objects that only a few years ago were not present in any home. Luckily, design nowadays is so ingrained in the ownership and brand experience that it has become an integral part of any product. So, modern speakers are always developed with sleek and beautiful designs.
*Source Google and Layer for Bang & Olufsen
Other smart homes are operated more often than ever through screens or sometimes even with vocal commands. This means fewer needs for remote controls and in general cleaner surfaces and lines. If on the one hand, the overall look can be sleeker, on the other it is the work of a designer to make sure that the space doesn’t look too cold or unwelcoming.
From the material point of view, there are also innovative paints that have the ability to purify the air, like we mentioned previously in 6 Top Materials for a Sustainable Interior in 2021.
One last point that interests me a lot with regards to technology is the development in lighting. Not only today with LED we have much more energy-efficient lighting which is in turn also more sustainable, but there are other innovations coming.
One that is often discussed today is laser lighting. A laser diode in fact is not only significantly smaller than LEDs and other solutions but also more powerful and efficient. It is estimated, in fact, that a laser could produce 1,000 times the light of an LED while just using a fraction of the energy. If they become popular in interior design use, thanks to size and intensity they are definitely going to impact how we approach interior lighting.
Finally, another interesting step further in lighting that is directly connected with Biophilic Design this time, is circadian lighting. The idea at the base of this tech is to make artificial light as close as possible to the natural ones in order to accompany our natural circadian rhythm instead of affecting it as it happens with regular artificial light. Artificial light from certain devices and electric lights can affect melatonin production and thus worsen our sleep.
*Image by amBX
The right application of this technology instead should reconnect us with our natural world outside and subsequently improve our health. This is obtained through light intensity and colour tuning according to the specific hour of the day.
So, here is my list of five technologies that are already present in our society, but some are not yet popular or commonly used. However, they all have the potential to change how we interpret different aspects of interior design and if used properly they all have great potential to improve our lives. What do you think? Do you agree with my shortlist or I forgot something?