Designing for the metaverse will be part of the "next digital era."

The rising ‘metaverse’ offers furniture industry a potential meta-market

Erica Crawford//Associate Editor, Furniture Today//December 2, 2021

CHICAGO — Threekit, an online platform that specializes in 3D configurations, virtual photography and augmented reality, has some practical insight into how the home furnishings industry could be part of the metaverse, creating and selling virtual representations of furniture.

The rising phenomenon of the metaverse is a collection of virtual experiences across devices, time and place that is 2D or 3D and can be blended with real life. These experiences will be enabled by new infrastructure that allows instant global communication and new ways to manage interactions, earn and spend money, and secure assets.

With people now rushing to buy virtual real estate in the metaverse, according to the NY Times, technology experts say other industries will soon be able to take advantage of this new reality. While it may be easy to imagine how the metaverse will benefit areas of life such as gaming, it poses the question of what role will it play in the furniture industry.

CTO and founder of Threekit, Ben Houston, said in the future, furniture companies will be able to offer branded virtual products to people playing video games such as Roblox, an online game platform and creation system that allows its users to program games as well as play games created by others. The game features free building, allowing its users to create spaces that they desire, such as their own homes.

“My daughter plays Roblox, and in this game she custom builds her doll houses with digital representations of our physical goods. In the metaverse, you can have digital twins to everything in your reality,” said Houston. “Furniture can be branded in these virtual worlds, and brands need to get in there with these virtual representations. I can virtually sit on Herman Miller chairs with a Crate & Barrel table in the middle and know exactly what that would look like if I purchased it in real life.”

An important part of understanding the metaverse, according to Houston, is that non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are unique and non-interchangeable units of data stored on a digital ledger. NFTs use blockchain technology to give a public proof of ownership, enabling Internet users to truly own the digital assets purchased in the metaverse. The lack of interchangeability distinguishes NFTs from blockchain cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin.

A large opportunity for businesses in the metaverse will be selling virtual products, and NFTs allow assurance that the goods are authentic and not counterfeit. Companies need to be able to protect their intellectual property, and NFTs provide products with a stamp of certification that is tracked properly.

The metaverse will offer the home furnishings industry a room planning benefit as well. The metaverse will allow consumers to have digital twins to their entire physical inventory, which will make room planning much easier in the future.

“Room planners online are hard to use right now,” said Houston. “They never seem to have furniture that matches exactly what you have or are looking for, but once you have these digital twins of your personal inventory, it becomes much simpler to view different arrangements, envision how certain items will add to a room and even play around will all kinds of colors. Threekit is working on its room planners, and I foresee this to be a requirement in the furniture industry on both a personal and corporate level.”

Houston also predicts that new furniture brands that only produce virtual furniture will emerge, and he pointed out those creating virtual prototypes in the metaverse before actually physically producing them will save money by taking advantage of demand testing. He believes companies will be able to see consumer response to products without actually producing them.

Associate Editor Anne Flynn Wear contributed to this story.

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