Imagine if you could virtually decorate your living room before taking the plunge on that colourful wallpaper or corner sofa.
DigitalBridge founder and CEO David Levine was faced with such a scenario when his wife presented him with wallpaper samples from B&Q.
“I couldn’t visualise how they would look on the walls in my house,” he told BusinessCloud. “I looked around for a virtual tool to help me and what was out there was really, really poor.”
The encounter convinced Levine to give up a “dream corporate role” as global director for automotive telematics at Vodafone to found the mixed reality company, which is based at Manchester Science Park, in 2013.
Its technology allows the introduction of carpet and wallpaper designs and furniture, which resize as you drag them around the room. Machine learning techniques judge the dimensions of the room, calculate boundaries between objects and give accurate lighting.
“There is an imagination gap as people cannot visualise décor,” added Levine. “If you fill that, your conversion rate for sales goes up massively.
“There is no undo button in interior design – DigitalBridge is that undo button.”
The interior design solution is web-based as “retailers don’t like mobile apps as they are expensive to develop and maintain, and people have to download them”, according to Levine. Users will generate a pin number on the retailer website hosting the technology and enter this into their mobile phone or tablet before taking a picture of the room to be decorated.
Levine demonstrated the tool for BusinessCloud. It takes less than 10 seconds for a virtual representation of the room to load before you begin playing with the design options.
It is not yet fully tested, with Levine claiming the final deployed solution will be much improved, but I was impressed by its speed and functionality.
The firm received a major boost last year when it was named ‘partners’ choice’ at John Lewis’ accelerator JLAB awards in London.
DigitalBridge was granted £100,000 to accelerate development of its tech after impressing senior executives at John Lewis with its commercial potential. It is in talks with the department store regarding deployment of its design tool next year.
Levine said there is a “very high chance” that the deal will be concluded and customers will be able to virtually decorate their home on the John Lewis website.
“We had a phenomenally successful trial in a John Lewis store in Cheadle. But we expect that 99 per cent of the tool’s use will be online rather than in store,” he said.
“We won’t have an exclusive deal with John Lewis. Maybe there will be some exclusivity in some area in the short-term, while we’re getting the product right – they are likely to be our first customer, after all.
“But we are also in talks with a global DIY retailer and are looking to build a room visualisation solution for them.”
DigitalBridge, which received a grant from Manchester City Council from the European Development Fund to accelerate its development, employs 12 people including former video game developers.
It is backed by private investment, with Levine as the majority shareholder.
“We’re looking to deploy with a number of retailers in the UK and Europe in 2017,” Levine continued. “If we prove ourselves there the plan is to move into the US, which is a far bigger market.
“We will be cash-positive in the next six months – and I expect we will be a £100m business within two to three years.”