From Virtual to Reality

DSC_1018

Ten years ago the virtual reality (VR) concept would render images of cheesy 80’s Sci-Fi’s and nascent gaming technology, appearing more like a fantasy for technologists with little bearing in the real world.

That is, of course, until now. Today, VR is not so much creeping but rather leaping into the mainstream.

Only last year we saw Oculus, Samsung and Sony get seriously big on VR, keenly competing to achieve media share for their latest headsets and this trend shows no sign of abating anytime soon.

But, you may ask, can VR really have a tangible business impact in the KBB world? The answer is irrevocably yes, and for those retailers who aren’t already using it the (not so virtual) reality is that it really is no longer a case of ‘if’ but rather ‘when’…..

More in Store

For the large part, VR allows KBB retainers to create that all-important USP in what, with the dominance of e-commerce, has become a keenly competitive market.

Today’s abundance of online KBB retailers, many of which offer a fast delivery and cheap prices, mean it can be all too tempting for consumers to buy their kitchen or bathroom on the Internet from the comfort of their home.

This, in turn, has put increased pressure on traditional retailers to create a 4D Plus imagetangible differentiation to win business. This is clearly reflected in the latest Mintel report on the bathroom sector which concurs ‘Retailers need to build a wide suite of skills to service the complex requirements of a bathroom make-over – services will become increasingly sophisticated, with branded elements to add reassurance for shoppers.’1

Here, the remit then is about thinking outside the box and applying the use of the technology to a retail advantage: cue the VR revolution.

The integration of VR with design consultancy quite simply takes the customer experience to another level. Virtual Worlds’ 4D CAD technology, for example, delivers high quality, virtual reality and an interactive buying experience via a futuristic headset whereby users can realise a 4D simulation of physically being in their dream kitchen or bathroom design.

Sitting comfortably in their chair complete with an avatar (which is even matched with appearance) they can experience every socket, every stitch, each and every fine detail of their concept and how it may look and feel in real-time. Want to check how much space is between the island unit and the oven? Check. Extend drawers to ensure sufficient storage? Check. Operate functional fittings such as magic corner units? Check.

This digital transformation of blended reality experience with product design takes the ‘try before you buy’ concept to whole new level and it is a very powerful business tool.

From our experience, most consumers will struggle to grasp an overhead, 3D plan or flat render, however realistic it looks, yet our 4D experience negates this problem entirely by allowing designers to express their ideas in a precise way that their clients physically experience. It also enables installers to plan work with confidence, knowing the design will work as ‘real’ products have been tried out in the design.

4d KitchenThe result is the end of ‘buyer remorse’. Given that a new bathroom or kitchen is a huge investment for the average consumer, it is, of course, extremely important that they get it right. In this way, it effectively alleviates the fear factor associated to buying these big ticket items – and given the fact that two thirds2 (63%) of shoppers admit they don’t get the best experience online this makes for a very appealing proposition.

Testament to this, here at Virtual Worlds, our customers have reported an average 50 per cent increase in sales conversions since using our CAD technology – with some reporting a conversion rate of 80%.

Future Gazing 

While VR has certainly come a long way in recent years, it really is just beginning.

Having already launched the industry’s first 4D CAD software in 2016, here at Virtual Worlds we are all geared up for the launch of the next generation of product which will truly blur the lines between virtual and reality like never before. And we have lots more in the pipeline.

Indeed, while good customer service and expert design consultancy will always be the pinnacles of success in the KBB world, the blending lines of VR for consumer and enterprise use cannot be ignored. It is the future and what all retailers should be aspiring to in this age of digital transformation.

 Sources

1 http://store.mintel.com/bathrooms-and-bathroom-accessories-uk-august-2013

2 http://www.information-age.com/industry/uk-industry/123459020/two-thirds-shoppers-unhappy-online-customer-experience

Winner Of ‘SHOWROOM DESIGNER OF THE YEAR’ Award Announced

IMG_0023 online
The winning designer was Emma Knight of Elliotts Lymington Living Spaces

The winner of the inaugural ‘Sottini Showroom Designer of the Year’ competition has been announced – with the design by Emma Knight of Elliotts Lymington Living Spaces Showroom scooping the £2000 prize after being selected by a judging panel made up of leading industry names. The winning entry was commended for combining style and innovation with excellence and simplistic functionality in its design.

Luxury bathroom brand Sottini ran the competition to find the nation’s pride of showroom design, in partnership with Virtual Worlds, the UK’s leader in CAD technology for the KBB sector. Entrants had to submit their design proposals in a 3D CAD format, using a software package such as Virtual Worlds, to include all key elements of the bathroom and with an ethos on creating a showroom that was inspiring and innovative, but also realistic.

IMG_0054[1]
Judges got to experience the designs in virtual reality using Virtual Worlds 4D Theatre
 It received a great response from the Designer community across the UK, with a final shortlist of 20 entries considered by judges. The judging panel was made up of industry experts from Barratt Homes, Potton Homes, Millwood Designer Homes, Colemore Tang and Conran Design, as well as Virtual Worlds, Ideal Standard and EKBB magazine. The judging took place at The Bathroom Showroom in London with the judges initially looking at the designs on paper before getting to experience the rooms in Virtual Worlds 4D Theatre software. The unique design presentation from Virtual Worlds allowed the judges to explore the rooms in virtual reality to fully appreciate the design, before finally choosing their winner.

Such was the quality of entries in fact, a further two entries received a highly commended accolade: Ben Mellor of Oakland’s (Leicester) and Dean Saoud-Easton of Just Add Water (Kings Cross, London).

IMG_0032 online
Winner, Emma Knight, with highly commended designers Ben Mellor of Oakland’s (left) and Dean Saoud-Easton of Just Add Water.

Steve Breen, Sottini Sales Director, comments:  “The aim of this competition was to reward and acknowledge the talents of the UK’s finest KBB designers who continue to go the extra mile when it comes to creating truly stunning showrooms which excite, entice and inspire customers.

“We received a fantastic response and I’d like to say thank you to everyone who entered and congratulate the winner, but also add that the standard of designs submitted was testament to the talent and hard work of the designers who dedicate thousands of hours to creating truly stunning showrooms destined to ‘wow’ customers – and in doing so demonstrated the multitude of combinations that our Sottini collection offers.”

IMG_0059 online
Virtual World’s MD Nathan Maclean presenting the award.

Nathan Maclean, managing director at Virtual Worlds, adds:  “We really do have some of the most hardworking, talented KBB designers here in the UK, so it is great to have an opportunity to give them the credit they deserve.”

Winning bathroom designer, Emma Knight, said: “I love doing what I do, so I am absolutely thrilled to have won this award and really enjoyed creating the design for the competition.

“The split levels allow the stylish products to stand out against a stunning back drop, as well as increasing the sense of space – I can imagine relaxing for hours in this bathroom!

“My manager, Andrew, gives me great support and I’ve learnt so much from him. Winning this award has given me inspiration and increased confidence to do more fabulous designs for our customers at Elliotts Living Spaces.”

Dynamic Duo Join Virtual Worlds

Virtual Worlds is continuing to grow with the addition of two new regional sales representatives to its busy team.

Miles Maunganidze and Brandon Kwesiga have joined the firm to help drive sales of its market-leading 3D & 4D Design software and raise awareness of the product in businesses across the south of England, the Midlands and Wales.

New sales representative for Virtual Worlds 3d design software
Brandon will cover London and the South East regions.

Brandon will be covering London and the South East of England and has 10 years’ experience in the bathroom industry since first joining the Bathstore as a sales consultant in 2006. He most recently worked at bathroom supplier Farmiloe where he was the company’s brand manager, having been promoted from the position of business development manager earlier in 2016.

New sales representative for Virtual Worlds design software.
Miles will cover the Midlands and South West regions.

With an equally impressive retail background, Miles will be bringing a fresh perspective to Virtual Worlds, following a successful career in retail store management including spells at House of Fraser and Superdry.

With a business management degree from Brunel University, he will be able to use his customer experience skills to get retailers on board whilst managing sales across the Midlands, South West and Wales.

Nathan MacLean, managing director at Virtual Worlds, said: “We’re delighted to welcome both Miles and Brandon to the team. We’re sure they will both prove to be a real asset to the business in the months and years ahead.

“Having two additional experienced sales representatives in our team will allow us to continue to grow and develop our business, and ensure many more customers are able to take advantage of Virtual Worlds’ design package when they visit retailers and create their dream kitchen or bathroom.”

For more information on Virtual Worlds, please visit www.virtualworlds.co.uk.

Version 5.10 released

We’re pleased to announce the launch of Virtual Worlds version 5.10 which is available to download now from the user centre.

This new version improves the display of the Virtual Worlds homepage, allowing you to easily define your own text fields, view social media feeds and improve how templates are defined. You can also take advantage of the updated Tile Catalogue Browser interface and the new advanced moulding features which allow for faster application of architraves, skirtings and covings. For those of you using the Virtual Worlds 4D Showroom or the Design Viewer, there are new buttons available to simplify and speed up the process.

 

Virtual Worlds Creates New Role to Champion 4D Installations.

Virtual Worlds at Logicom, the innovation-led CAD company, has appointed Jamie Gibbs as its first Customer Experience Manager. The new role reflects the company’s expansion into software which delivers both advanced CAD design and consumer-interfacing experiences, including its new Showroom 4D. Gibbs will be an external-facing customer champion.

Jamie
Jamie Gibbs – New Customer Experience Manager

Nathan Maclean, Acting Managing Director at Logicom explains the thinking behind the new position: “Our recently launched Virtual Worlds One package provides customers with a formidable array of powerful design and selling tools, including the exciting new 4D technology. Take-up has been exceptional and Jamie will be providing invaluable after-sales service, helping customers to use all the technology to its full potential and tailor it to their business”.

Gibbs has in-depth knowledge of the Virtual Worlds suite of software, having worked in Support and Training for the last three years. He explains: “My prime focus will be new users, including those of our 4D showroom software, providing hands-on support from the very out-set, so that they quickly get up to speed. The 4D technology is awesome and I’ll be going the extra mile to make sure our customers get the most from it.”

Under a subscription known as Virtual Worlds One, Virtual Worlds 4D is bundled together with Virtual Worlds Professional interactive 3D CAD software, its Viewer App and 2D Planning. Logicom is behind Virtual Worlds and it is understood that more innovations are currently in development, including a pricing module, which will be made available to all Virtual Worlds One subscribers.

First Impressions of the New 4D CAD Experience for Showrooms

A new CAD consumer experience is being rolled-out by Logicom, which could significantly change the way retailers sell.   Launched at the May Design Series, Virtual Worlds 4D proved a popular attraction for visitors who queued up to don the futuristic headset and experience a 4D world. One or two sceptics suggested it was a techie gimmick, whereas most thought it could transform the showroom experience and prove an exciting new selling tool.  The first installations are completed and the early indications are that this latest innovation could be a game changer.

The technology

Virtual Worlds 4D is an adjunct to the popular Virtual Worlds Professional 3D interactive CAD software. Key to the technology is the Virtual Worlds unique interactive platform and the advanced, simulating headset. When worn by the customer, it places them centre stage, in the designed space. Look down and the customer sees an avatar of themselves, sitting in their new room.

VW4Dsmall

Designs in Virtual Worlds 4D appear with exceptionally realistic depth, scale and parallax, made possible by Virtual Worlds’ unique 3D modelling. Users of 4D have access to all the current product catalogues of a vast choice of KBB manufacturers’ brands. Each manufacturer has worked closely with Virtual Worlds to ensure their product collections are accurately replicated in 3D format and update their catalogues regularly.

In 4D the 110 degree viewing angle places the customer directly in the room rather than looking in through a screen. The response to eye movement is immediate, facilitating 360 degree head-tracking and interaction with moving elements of the room, including opening cupboards, looking inside drawers and stepping into showers.

A first for the KBB sector, Virtual Worlds 4D claims to deliver a ground-breaking, virtual reality and interactive buying experience, which is compelling and optimises the sales potential of excellent design.

Subscription based

Under a subscription known as Virtual Worlds One, Virtual Worlds 4D is bundled together with Virtual Worlds Professional interactive 3D CAD software, its Viewer App, 2D Planning and Pricing Module. The software specialist Logicom is behind Virtual Worlds and it is understood that more innovations are currently in development, which will be made available to all subscribers.

A unique showroom experience

Reese James is one of the first retailers to install 4D. Owned and managed by Nigel Mason, the company has a showroom located in Shirley, near Solihull. A hot spot for kitchen and bathroom showrooms, Reese James has three competitors within a five minute walk. Working in such close proximity to other kitchen and bathroom businesses is a key reason Mason was eager to sign up to the 4D package, as he explains.

“Our whole approach is to offer the consumer a unique and outstanding experience from beginning to end. Having seen the 4D demo, I was sold hook, line and sinker. I knew our customers would be wowed and I wanted it immediately for our showroom. This is a major, major way that we are different from the guys down the road.

Nigel Mason of Reese James with customer using Virtual Worlds 4D lr

On the day the software was installed Mason and his staff demonstrated its capabilities to a steady stream of staff from neighbouring businesses, intrigued by the experience. “It was comical, we’d complete one demo and another person would pop in saying they’d heard our goggles were amazing and could they have a go. We were the talk of the area and the experience spread by word of mouth, within hours. It made us begin to realise what a powerful marketing tool this was going to be.”

The showroom is split 50:50 between bathroom and kitchen settings with Rotpunkt, Dornbracht and Laufen products on prominent display. Mason considers the technologically advanced 4D is in keeping with these brands and the company’s upmarket and forward-looking image: “I want customers to enter our showroom and be so impressed with what they see and the shopping experience we promise that they commit without delay. For us 4D is instrumental in achieving this”.

Like Mason, Derek Waddington owner of Broadway Bathrooms in Putney, London was immediately excited by the whole concept of 4D: “I’ve used Virtual Worlds for five years now and love it. When I saw the 4D demonstration, I immediately thought it was for us. It’s an additional investment but our showroom is not that large and needs to work hard for us – I feel 4D will really help”.

Pre-empts installation issues

It is early days for 4D and Mason is the first to admit that he and his staff are still honing their sales pitch, when it comes to introducing consumers to it. His commitment to the technology is such that all potential customers are given a brief demonstration of the ability of the “goggles”, as he refers to the headset, at preliminary discussions and visits to the showroom. “We show them how their kitchen or bathroom design will be visualised, how it will appear through the goggles and the outstanding level of detail they will be able to experience. So far each one has been amazed.  You can hear some of them leaving the showroom still excitedly talking about it. This is a major, major tool for us. We plan to use 4D with as many people as possible.”

Resolves spacial awareness

One of the key features of the technology is that the customer experiences their kitchen or bathroom as though they were walking through it in real life. The realism is impressive, so much so that both Waddington and Mason report that 4D provides the spacial awareness which so many customers lack.

Customer using 4D at James Reese lr

“Most customers struggle to grasp an overhead, 3D plan or flat render – however smart it looks. We find the 4D experience overcomes this problem entirely. They feel physically in the room and so they can see exactly how much space there is between the island units and the oven or the drawers fully extended and whether there is sufficient space for their requirements. It avoids all sorts of potential problems”, explains Mason.

Waddington agrees: “We use Virtual Worlds a lot in the showroom as it is real time and in 3D. Customers can relate to what they are seeing − they really get involved with the design. I anticipate 4D is gong to be that much better”.

As the customer physically experiences the room via the headset in 4D, the designer views the same design on a screen, only in 3D format. If required, adjustments to the design can be made and the customer can view the changes immediately. There is no additional work involved for the designer to go from standard 3D interactive stage to showing the customer the design in 4D.

Waddington thinks the consumer experience of 4D could negate the requirement for producing high resolution renders entirely: “High quality rendering is slow and dated; I think there will be no need once the consumer has seen their design through the goggles – we’ll be talking to them at an entirely different level”.

Design consultation fee potential

Installation of the new CAD technology has also made both retailers start to re-evaluate their approach to charging for design consultations. Like so many kitchen and bathroom retailers, Reese James does not currently charge for designs and Broadway Bathrooms do so rarely, both nervous of deterring potential clients. However, the introduction of the 4D experience is making them question this approach. Mason explains his thinking: “If you can bolt together an impressive showroom with strong design, personal service and add the wow factor of Virtual Worlds 4D experience, I am beginning to think a consultation fee could be feasible”.

Now that would be a game changer.

(Published in KBB Review, September 2015 edition, page 49.)

Virtual Worlds Sponsors Inaugural BKU Awards

The first ever BKU Awards are being held at Madame Tussauds, Thursday 25 June 2015. Virtual Worlds is a major sponsor of the event and is looking forward to the Awards, meeting the winners and finalists and networking with the KBB industry.

The occasion promises to be a fun evening, celebrating excellence and innovation in the kitchen and bathroom industry. In fact, Virtual Worlds is delighted to be named as a finalist in the CAD category. The evening is hosted by DJ Greg Burns, a familiar face on Have I got News for You and the Catherine Tate Show.

Nathan MacLean, acting Managing Director at Virtual Worlds explains: “Awards help drive the industry to develop and share ideas, whilst giving the due recognition to those that excel”. He added: “Sponsoring this major industry event provides the opportunity to thank our many existing clients for their ongoing support”.

For more information and book tickets visit: www.bkuawards.co.uk

 

Catalogue updates

Our team at the Virtual Worlds Towers have been hard at work leading to a number of catalogues updated and released over the last few Months. Maintained Virtual Worlds users can access the following from the Virtual Worlds User Centre:

Bisque

This new version, as well as an update to the main catalogue interface, now includes a selection of products from the Finn range of radiators.

Bosch

This new catalogue contains the complete range of ovens, hobs and cooker hoods available from Bosch. Note that this catalogue is only available to Virtual Worlds Kitchens users.

Duravit

This update adds the Delos, Esplanade, Karree, Ketho, Light and Mirrors, MirrorWall and Nahho ranges to the bath, furniture and sanitaryware Virtual Worlds catalogues.

Grant Westfield

This main Wall Panel catalogue includes multiPanel, polyPanel and tilePanel wall panels and extrusions, the worktops include the multiPanel Vanity Tops and hydroStone Vanity Tops.

The Tiling catalogue includes all the panels and extrusions for ceilingPanels, and twinFloorClick and twinFloorClick items.

Hansgrohe

This new version now includes the Logis range, as well as the ShowerSelect thermostatic valves.

Ideal Standard

This new version includes a wide range of their baths, furniture, sanitaryware, taps, showers and wastes available. Keep an eye out for further catalogue in the near future!

Ideal Standard – Sottini

The new version of this catalogue contains the complete range of sanitaryware, baths, taps showers and wastes available.

Kohler UK

A new version of the Kohler UK bathrooms catalogue is available which now includes the new Terrace range of furniture and sanitaryware.

Keuco

This new version of the Keuco bathroom furniture catalogue contains the complete range of bathroom furniture available from Keuco.Note that this catalogue is password protected for Keuco retailers.

Matki EauZone Plus

To coincide with the release of Virtual Worlds version 5.9, the standard and bespoke catalogues have been upgraded to include new functionality.

RAK

This catalogue contains a wide range of mirrors available from RAK Ceramics.

Roman

This update includes the complete range of shower enclosures, trays, bath screens and accessories available from Roman.

Siemens

This new catalogue contains a wide range of ovens, hobs, cooker hoods, dishwashers, fridges and freezers available from Siemens.

Symphony

The Lindo and Finishing Touches catalogues now contain the Naples range of fitted furniture and mirrors.

Utopia

This new version includes the complete range of fitted and modular furniture, sanitaryware, taps, accessories and tiles currently available from Utopia.

Victoria & Albert

This includes new products from the Amiata, Barcelona, Elwick and Maru ranges of baths and sanitaryware, and the new Staffordshire wall-mounted bath/shower mixer.

For any assistance with downloading or using any of the catalogues please do not hesitate to contact our support team on 01908 448899.

Not just the best 3D Design Software around…

…and granted, that’s pretty well up there for being more than enough accolade for anyone; but here at Virtual Worlds we have many strings to our bow!

Now, we all love a trade exhibition but stand competition can be pretty tough – so you have to make sure you capture the crowd as they pass by and make your product look the very best it can be. There’s no getting away from it, we live in a time where we all like things ‘instant’ and to truly engage with your audience, your stand must be compelling and attractive to draw in passers by and hopefully, maximise those selling opportunities!

What better way to do that, than with video! People usually like to watch something on a screen, in preference to reading a leaflet or booklet and will respond with much greater force.

Video marketing is becoming increasingly effective as a marketing medium, both online and in an environment like exhibitions. It’s quick and effective and encourages people to engage with your brand by saving them time… and it just so happens, back here at Virtual Worlds HQ, we can help you do just that!

Not only do we produce the ultimate 3D design software for the kbb industry and interior designers, but we have a great Video & Audio Production team who can create and produce a vast range of broadcast quality projects.

With fully equipped in-house facilities, including a video edit suite, HD video camera equipment, ISDN link and a professional sound recording studio! We offer a very cost effective solution to our clients, by having everything under one roof – not only do our audio and video departments work closely, but they also work together with our other creatives; so we can seamlessly integrate sound, video, 3D graphics and animations with your projects.

01908 663848

www.logicom.com

April – New Catalogues Releases & Updates

It’s been a busy month here at Virtual Worlds with many updates and new catalogue releases from our top manufacturers.  Our latest updates are all now available to download from the Virtual Worlds User Centre so don’t delay and download them today and improve your customer offering.
 

New Catalogues


TOTO’s impressive portfolio is featured in this new catalogue including a wide selection of products from TOTO’s ranges of sanitary ware, baths, furniture, taps, showers and accessories.

“TOTO is very pleased to be included in the Virtual Worlds catalogue of products. This is a valuable resource for our retail partners and their designers, helping them to create the perfect TOTO bathroom for each client.”
Mr Sohei Nishida, UK General Manager, TOTO Europe GmbH

___________________________________________________
 

New Product Launch – Don’t just have a bath –  love it… view our new collection of luxury contemporary freestanding baths – lovingly handcrafted using innovative manufacturing techniques and using the finest materials – specified by architects and interior designs and available only through an elite collection of exclusive bathroom retailers.

___________________________________________________

The standard catalogue for theshowerlab sees parametrics used for the first time in Virtual Worlds.  This new catalogue includes all of the standard shower enclosures, trays and customisable components in theshowerlab’s product range. Bespoke theshowerlab product catalogues will be available in the future.

___________________________________________________
 

New Versions

Laufen are signed up to the Virtual Worlds subscription service which means their catalogues will be updated regularly on new product releases. Download this update, the first of many, for the complete range of items from the LAUFEN pro, ILBAGNOALESSI one and palace ranges of baths, furniture, sanitaryware, taps, shower fittings, enclosures and trays. 

___________________________________________________
 

Includes many new collections of tiles from the Dune tile range giving you a greater selection of choice when designing. Additional Dune product updates will be available in the future.

___________________________________________________

Featuring the Drayton, Mozzano and Radford ranges of sanitaryware and baths.  This newly updated version also includes the Staffordshire range of taps and brassware and adds new items to the Tubo range of taps and brassware.
 

 ___________________________________________________
 

Generic Bathrooms
A great selection of generic sanitaryware, furniture, radiators, taps, showers and accessories including some new and more modern additions.  This catalogue provides everything needed to quickly test your bathroom design concepts before replacing the generic items with branded products.  The sanitaryware has most items in both traditional and contemporary styles, with every product type available in all configurations!
You can find it in the Generic section within the Catalogues in the Virtual Worlds User Centre.

___________________________________________________

For updates on all of our latest releases keep an eye on our website news section at www.virtualworlds.co.uk or on Twitter and Facebook.

Virtual Worlds Support Team
Helping you design better!