Nathan Maclean, Managing Director of 3D and 4D design software supplier Virtual Worlds, talks to Trend-Monitor about how technology is set to influence the KBB retail sector in the future
Interview by Emma Hedges
TM. How did Virtual Worlds come about?
NM. Virtual Worlds launched in 1997 as the first company to develop 3D design software for KBB retailers, and then in 2015 it was the first to introduce 4D virtual reality technology to the same market, with the aim to revolutionise the way that people buy kitchens and bathrooms for good, and to overcome many of the challenges that retailers face, in particular lack of showroom space.
TM. What role do you see technology generally playing in retail, and where do you think it’s going next?
NM. Technology is changing the whole showroom experience, for the retailer and the consumer. 4D Theatre, for example, is shaping the future of KBB retail, helping retailers overcome the problem of restricted display space and enabling consumers to fully immerse themselves in the design process to eradicate the problems associated with buyer’s remorse.
Technology is empowering showrooms to close more sales, increase margins and shorten their sales cycle, all while offering a more attractive proposition to online or what the DIY sheds can offer.
It’s not just VR technology which is providing opportunities; the data and analytics captured from packages such as Virtual Worlds One Price, are providing insight into which products are being specified in designs (and which ones are less popular), offering both retailers and manufacturers valuable insights into design trends.
TM. What technologies do you see emerging that will influence kitchen and bathroom design in the future?
NM. Billions of pounds are being invested in technology for this market so it is continually evolving and getting even better, with the user experience being enhanced all the time.
TM. Is the way in which people use kitchens changing and how will this affect kitchen design in the future?
NM. The way that the kitchen is used is changing and as such the way that the space is designed also needs to change. Open-plan living is here to stay and with it, the kitchen becomes the centre of the home, a multi-functional space that is used night and day for a variety of tasks, not just food preparation.
Kitchen design is therefore very much a lifestyle choice, with consumers seeking assurance that the plans they choose will suit their needs now and in the future. 4D technology gives them this assurance, by immersing them into the design where they can walk around and interact with the fixtures and fittings, helping them to fully experience what the end result will be before any work begins.
TM. Are there any wider social trends emerging that you foresee affecting the way in which people will live in their homes in the future?
NM. People are living smarter and seeking out new technology that gives them more control over their home, allows for improved security and provides additional comforts and luxuries. The emergence of home technology and the proliferation of smartphones and other devices signals the move towards a smart life.