IKEA uses CGI to recreate Stranger Things

So, by now you’ve all seen the magic we can create with realistic room sets. But to show the illusion behind CGI replacing photography in interiors, IKEA has taken it one step further. And we love it.

It’s just a still from Stranger things, right? Wrong! Just like the series itself, everything is not quite as it seems. The retail giant has used its own products in 3D visualisation to recreate the famed living room interior – alphabet and fairy lights included. But if we’re honest, we would have taken it one step further and made the set as if it was upside down, just saying…

But it doesn’t stop there. They have also recreated The Simpsons’ living room, and Monica’s apartment from F.R.I.E.N.D.S. It’s a clever little ploy. I mean, we’re not convinces that there will be a queue of customers ready to buy a clay orange sofa and paint their walls in pastel pink in homage to Homer and Marge, but it definitely makes you look twice.

Orbital Awarded Best New Supplier 2019

Award-Winning Agency, Orbital… it has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?


At Orbital, we have been honing our craft for three years, but it was 18 months ago when we streamlined our business to focus on the furniture industry. We turned our attention to perfecting the art of recreating interiors, furniture and fabrics in 3D. The work we have developed over that time has not come easily!


We have been lucky enough to have a team that works and thinks hard and has carved a place for our agency in the industry. We have grown quickly, which just goes to show us that our hard work really is paying off. This year we have had huge names in the industry join our books, including Sofa Workshop, Duresta, Warwick Fabrics, Linwood, Style/Library and on…


We have not only honed a craft but are developing new technologies that are going to transform the face of furniture online sales. Especially when it comes to our magic fabric solution which can have a physical fabric sample, flawlessly tiled on screen in a matter of minutes. Anyone who has ever tried to tile a fabric before will know that this is a major breakthrough (or if you hire full time employees solely for this job).


We would like to say a huge thank you to the readers of Interiors Monthly for voting for us. Don’t mind us, we are just off to pop open a bottle of bubbly to celebrate and are looking forward to the next steps that this win may bring for us.


Make sure to keep an eye out for more Orbital appearances. Most recently on the websites of John Lewis and Sofa Workshop, where our CGI images are in action. Make sure you also follow our social media pages to keep an eye on sneak peeks of new collection launches from the likes of Linwood, Warwick Fabrics, Duresta and Sofa Workshop.


If you are planning to head down to Long Point this year, make sure you pop into our studio and say hello. We are smack bang opposite the infamous Harrington Mills, and we will be housing exhibitors Staud and Hugo Park. We also just love showing off some technical wizardry to anyone who is interested in seeing it.


Or you can pick up the latest copy of Furniture news, where we were honoured to grace the front page. Yes, we did fake the moon landing, with a bit of an Orbital twist...


See more about the awards, and the full list of winners here: https://interiorsmonthly.co.uk/3685-interiors-monthly-awards-2019

Faking the Moon Landing

Is it Fake? Isn’t it? There is something mysterious about the flag waving in the wind in a place where there is no atmosphere….

But, surely, we can all agree that in the time before even mainstream colour television, we did not hold the knowledge of technology to fake a moon landing that still looks believable in this day and age?

But in 2019, we do. Our team had fun this month creating a fake moon landing and adding our famous leather chair, recreated in steel. It even features a little Neil Armstrong giving you a wave outside of the Apollo 11. Featured on the front cover of August’s issue of Furniture News.

We have shown off a lot of our skills with our room set and product images, so we thought it was about time to show off what we are really capable of, and have a little fun and creativity at the same time. At Orbital we love a challenge, and no idea is out of reach for our Unreal Creatives.

The inspiration behind this project was the idea that with Orbital, virtually, anything really is possible. We wanted to commemorate the developments in technology that the trip to the lunar surface afforded humanity. We were thinking about how far technology has come, and where it is going. We also love the idea that the desperate deadline to land on the moon opened up the minds of people, globally, that if we work hard and think outside of the box, we can achieve things that we hadn’t even considered to be possible.

This creation is to project the idea that with Orbital, Virtually, anything really is possible. Everything is not always as it seems…

Celebrating 50 Years: 5 Facts You Didn't Know About the Moon Landing

This month is the 50th anniversary of the infamous Moon Landing. Here at Orbital, we are taking the opportunity to look back at how far technology has come, and where it is taking us next.


To kick off the celebrations, we have 5 facts that we bet you didn’t know about man’s first steps in space.

1. The first drink consumed on the moon was wine

Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin actually remembers his first drink on the moon being wine, and the way it “curled” up the side of his cup gracefully. As he told Guideposts, “In the radio blackout I opened the little plastic packages which contained bread and wine.” He had wanted to televise the moment to share with the world, but apparently NASA wasn’t entirely comfortable with the idea. Madalyn Murray O'Hair had previously protested the reading of Genesis by Apollo 8, so the idea that the second man to step onto the moon would perform a religious act may have been a bit much in that climate.



So, Aldrin drank his wine privately. We think Wine is the perfect way to commemorate such a long journey. Let’s just hope Neil Armstrong was the designated driver.

2. Armstrong carried with him a piece of wood from Wright brothers' aeroplane

The first recorded flight was achieved by the Wright Brothers in 1903, 66 years before the Apollo 11 lunar mission. Neil Armstrong chose to take with him fragments of wood from the pioneering Wright plane along with a piece of fabric from the plane in the hopes that the lunar mission would be just as iconic in its success.

3. The astronauts declared "moon rock and moon dust samples" to customs when they returned to Earth

In 2015, Buzz Aldrin tweeted a picture of his "travel voucher" outlining the list of expenses from his trip to space, just like somebody would for a family holiday. He then revealed that the astronauts had to sign customs forms on their return to Earth, where they were required to declare the "moon rock and moon dust samples" they were carrying.

4. The astronauts landed with only 25 seconds of fuel to spare

During the planning of the Apollo 11 mission, a site on the Moon was picked as the landing site that was thought to be safe and flat. But while the Apollo was descending, Aldrin and Armstrong realised the site was covered in boulders and knew it would be dangerous to attempt the planned landing. So, Armstrong began to manually navigate the probe; skimming over the risky site, a decision which meantmore fuel would be consumed while finding a new location. The probe had a fuel limit which would make the mission automatically abort if reached. The probe landed just 25 seconds before reaching its limit. If the probe had landed 25 seconds later than it did, the probe would automatically reverse back into the moon’s orbit, to head back to Earth, and no man would have stepped on the moon’s surface.

5. The Apollo Mission required the work of over 400,000 engineers, technicians and scientists

Many of these people had never worked in the aerospace industry, and none had worked before on machines designed to transport humans to another world. Overnight, as their companies won Apollo contracts, their day jobssuddenly took on a greater purpose. Achieving technicalmiracles, an accomplishment which, if achieved, would transcend nationhood. Such global unity was something that no peacemaker, politician or prophet had ever quite achieved. But 400,000 engineers with a promise to keep to a president managed it.

Designing in a Virtual World

Forget starting your new design with a pen and paper, new virtual reality (VR) technology boasts the ability to see and walk around a 3D sketch of your new product at the very first stages of the design process.


Using new headset technologies, it is now possible to conjure 3D shapes out of thin air, using a ‘virtual pen’, and share the life-like design with clients and colleagues around the world, in real time.


While a similar process is already available, where companies are cutting time and money by sending prototype sketches to 3D agencies (like us) to create and edit their new products without building a single piece, the whole process is looking to become more accessible over the next few years. For those who have the budget, that is. VR is finally beginning to fulfil its potential for business.


"You can walk around your sketches so you can see how your lines work in a 3D environment, and move freely in a room, explains Jan Pflueger , augmented and virtual reality co-ordinator for German car firm Audi.


In the past, the technology - hardware, software, connectivity - simply wasn't up to the job.


"Designers didn't like using headsets because the image resolution was too low," says Mr Pflueger.


As well as low resolution images, the headsets were bulky and full of wires making them uncomfortable and impractical. But now, with advancing technologies and internet speeds VR is becoming more like reality every day.


Looking at the big players ahead of the game, Audi is working with Finnish start-up Varjo, “which has recently starting selling a high-end (€5,995; £5,170) headset boasting ‘human eye resolution’ using a technique called ‘foveated rendering’. It uses eye-tracking technology to tell which part of the image you're focusing on, then concentrates its processing power on that section to render it in high definition.”


With the images being high resolution, it means that designers can see necessary modifications and make changes before any expensive physical prototypes have been made speeding up the design process at a very early stage. Not only can you share the designs with colleagues, but also clients. The efficiency of the process is heightened by adding input from the end-user at the very beginning. Pretty cool if you ask us.


The possibilities this opens is endless, with customers being able to walk round a show home or car showroom, and tailored designs available to edit in real-time, taking away lengthy waiting times on decision making and removing the hesitation from the buying process. Giving the interchangeable choice of colour schemes, flooring and carpet choices, kitchen options and on. But such high-quality graphics require a lot of processing power, so most high-end headsets have to be "tethered" to a powerful computer. But not for long.


A big breakthrough will be to offer near human-eye resolution VR without the need for any cables. And this is where high-speed 5G connections will have a big impact. With streaming speeds 10 to 20 times faster than existing connections, the high-res images will be sent to the headsets wirelessly.


Looking into our Orbital crystal ball, we can see that design processes will be completely transformed over the next five to ten years as VR technology becomes more accessible. But if you’re not quite ready to take into account this type of spending, take the first step and see how we can revolutionise your marketing materials, with the use of 3D.

Digitising Your Fabrics: Our Process

We understand that not everyone has been immersed in the world of 3D. You may have been told that you will need 3D assets of your fabrics, but you are not sure how the process works and it is stopping you from taking that first step. So, we thought we’d give some clarity:

1. The Pitch

We want to show off what we can do, and we want to make sure that will help the development of your business. So, the first step is inviting you to come to our office to have a peek of the projects we are currently working on, and we will probably show off some technical wizardry – the team is pretty talented, we can’t help showing them off. We will then sit you down and talk about where the gaps in your visual marketing and online sales are, and the best way to solve them. Don’t expect any visual concepts yet, but we can show you some of our case studies that may sway you. (We also serve a great lunch which is worth the visit alone.)


Then there is increased SEO. Search engines favour relevant content. And images getting clicks are exactly that type of materials: they bring visitors to the website, lead them to explore its content and interact with it. So, the more successful images you have, the more chance you have of getting and keeping top positions in the search results.


Needless to say, each product shot needs alt and title tags, and descriptions. So when your high-quality, engaging product design renderings have well-written attributes with relevant keywords, search engine rankings will know that your page content is high-quality and therefore useful for your target audience.

2. The Brief

Once we’ve got the job (thanks!), we will ask for a swatch or flat photograph of each fabric that you need digitalised so that we can work our magic. If you were really great clients you would also send us a lifestyle shot of the fabric, wrapping a product, so we can see the way light hits it at different angles.

3. The Build

Our team will then recreate your fabrics with flawless step and repeat patterns, photo-realistic textures and colour matching perfection. You don’t need to know too much about this part, except that we can recreate your fabrics in record time. Seriously, we can have a fabric swatch perfectly digitised in under ten minutes. You really won’t believe it.

4. The Finished Product

You have proofed and fallen in love with all the images. So now it is up to you where you are going to use them. We can put them in a great brochure design. Use them to drastically improve your eCommerce website or ask us to build room sets for them to be placed into for a time and cost effective alternative to photoshoots .

It really is as simple as that. We always make sure you’re involved in the whole process and our door is always open. Why not check out some of our previous work here . Come and meet us (or Skype if you’re too far away), send us your fabrics and that’s it! You’ll have your perfect 3D assets in no time at all. What are you waiting for?

Why IKEA is Thriving in the “Retail Graveyard”

This Swedish powerhouse really needs no introduction, with genius branding and advertising, they know exactly who they are, and so does the rest of the world. It was the brainchild of 17-year-old Ingvar Kamprad in 1943 but has been named on Forbes’ World’s Most Valuable Brand list in May 2019. So how is this flat-pack furniture brand still ruling the retail industry and staying so relevant? The secret is staying ahead of the market in not only trends, but technology. Every furniture seller should be taking a leaf out of their infamous catalogue to share some of the success. And here’s how.


In April 2018, the retail giant realised that it was facing a problem: it hadn’t been keeping up with the digital world and this sparked a shift in their business development strategy. Although IKEA has been ahead of other furniture companies, technology had been globally advancing, leaving many retailers behind. They started by investing in “personalisation at scale” allowing it to send precisely-targeted communications to people based on what they are doing online. “When people buy a bed, they actually spend two weeks researching online. There is a lot of information that we gather so that we can actually be relevant to the person wanting to buy a bed in those two weeks”. -  Barbara Martin Coppola, IKEA’s Chief Digital Officer, talking to CNBC.


The key to this strategy shift was the incorporation of CGI on a large scale. The Swedish furniture company has been aggressively ramping up its use of computer generated imagery in their catalogues, starting in 2006 with their first CGI photo of a Bertil pinewood chair. By 2012, the Wall Street Journel reported that 25% of their products were computer generated. And with its rapid globalisation, with products reaching multiple cultures CGI and 3D rendering is invaluable.


The newest addition to IKEA’s futureproof strategy is the Place app. Allowing customers to place IKEA furniture into their own home, digitally, before purchase. It automatically scales products – based on room dimensions – with 98 per cent accuracy. Customers can see the texture of the fabric, as well as how light and shadows are rendered on furnishings.


The secret to IKEA’s success? Always being one step ahead. Especially in technology. With retail ever struggling, a business strategy that constantly stays ahead of technology and is digitally driven will drive sales and success. And what is the first step to the forefront? 3D rendering and digital marketing. It all started with the humble furniture visualisation. Once a company’s products are rendered, it opens a world of possibilities that are then ready-made.


To talk about how your products can be digitalised, get in touch with us today.

An Honest Consumer: Why Good CGI Will Make Me Buy Your Product

Taking my Orbital hat off just for a moment, I would like to tell you the story of a consumer (spoiler: it’s me). It is easy to forget our own consumer story when we are emerged in our own company strategy, but isn’t that who all manufacturers and retailers are targeting? So, let’s take a look at why CGI on an e-commerce website is so important in my consumer driven situation in 2019.


I have just bought my first property (somehow, I managed to get on that ladder). And while it took me eight long months to finally get the keys, and a month’s worth of living in said property, it is still standing empty of furniture. As you can probably tell by these stats, I am a very fussy (indecisive) buyer when it comes to commitment heavy purchases. However, I finally have a bed frame and two gorgeous dark green velvet sofas arriving in a week’s time, and I want to take you through my buying process and why, unknowingly, CGI is so incredibly important for taking out hesitation time and allowing me, like many others, to commit to a big purchase.


As a 2019 shopper the first place I went, along with the majority, is online. I was convinced that I would not be buying a large piece of furniture without seeing it in a showroom, sitting on it, feeling the fabric, seeing the true colour, all these things that play on a seller’s mind when targeting their consumers. But that all changed quite quickly when I saw a small number of well-made websites with great 3D renders. You see, it’s not all about replacing photoshoots, but making a consumer’s online experience bespoke. Alas, I ended up buying two large sofas online without seeing them in person, and 4 weeks on, I have no regrets.


I found myself clicking away from any website that either didn’t allow me to wrap my chosen product in the fabric I wanted, or if it did, and the render wasn’t convincing, I left said sites immediately, not being able to visualise true colour or texture that I may be blindly ordering. I would find a sofa online, travel to a showroom, and either find that the sofa wasn’t available to view in the fabric I wanted, or wasn’t available to view at all. Getting exhausted with this process that always ended up in failure, I solely used websites that let me see a virtual but realistic render of the product that would end up on my doorstep, and crucially, allowing me to wrap my chosen product in a realistic render of my fabric, which is difficult to find, when you’re looking at velvet!


What really amazed and surprised me is how quickly I exited the sites of, even well-trusted retailers and manufacturers, those which didn’t have this service. Even if it looked like my sofa of dreams, there was no way I could commit. It made me realise the importance of what we do at Orbital. I am usually amazed by the magic of the graphics team, how they can create something digital which is indistinguishable from photoshoots, but as a consumer was where I truly realised the change in sales that we are creating for companies who work with us. It is revolutionising, and a much-needed solution to a great risk-immersed industry in a world of online sales.


If you want to the difference Orbital’s Swatch Selector can make to your online sales, get in touch with us today for a chat.

Furniture News cameo written by Paul Farley, Editor-in-Chief

This month, Orbital Vision have made a three page cameo in Furniture News Magazine. A great write up courtesy of Paul Farley, Editor-in-Chief, explaining what we have been up to since our pledge at the January Furniture Show. Read the original article here


For those of you who missed it, Orbital pledged to create this years five winners of The Furniture Awards - Sealy UK, Weimann, Hartman UK, Parker knoll and ALF Uno - star products rendered in all it's photorealistic glory, using specialist 3D software. Furniture News checked in to see how the project was coming along...


We collected all reference imagery and photographed the measurements of the products in person. Using that imagery we then build the furniture in 3Ds Max.  Devil is in the detail and therefore the building stage is probably the most time consuming. We spent a lot of time ensuring that every piece of detail is spot on, including all the little imperfections that which make all the different to to a build looking real or fake.


Once the five builds were completed, the winners received a white-out of their product so they could sign off the overall shapes. We didn't apply any fabrics or materials at this point purely so they can focus on the shape.


Once they were happy, it was time to get down to mapping. This consists of setting up the product so fabric can be applied and where it sits on the Fram. It's a little bit like a digital jigsaw for simpler terms. Next, we look closely at the fabric - in order for us to get the best results, we treat fabrics as a separate part of the process and how we build the fabrics is all dependent on the type we're dealing with. From simple cottons, to fabrics with multiple layers and weaves to velvets.

With the products built and mapped, this can be rendered out in every different fabric option, at any cameo angle (including 360s). For most, the next step is to situate their product in a room-set.Like any photoshoot, we start by putting together a mood-board of the what look we want to achieve, and which accessories to use and colour scheme to go with. From here we build everything from the ground up, unique to the winners. A benefit of this is that the room-set is the free to use over and over again for upcoming projects, just by changing the colours and accessories, walls and floors to make it look like an entirely new room!


Reaching the final stage of the process, this is where things really come to life. With our super high-tech rendering machines, we can render out any model in any fabric range of different colours and even at any angle all with the click of a button. Everything is rendered in high resolution, so can be used in print, PoS, online and social media marketing.


Working with this years award winners has been so diverse for Team Orbital. From creating all the different types of furniture to also introducing our 3D services and showing the alternative to a traditional photoshoot.

The Secret of High-Profile Retailers Driving Sales Using Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality in 2019

These are doubtless challenging times for brick-and-mortar retailers who prove slow to incorporate new technologies in their operations. But disruption also means opportunity for those who embrace innovation and are willing to reinvent themselves in the digital age, and immersive technologies are becoming an increasingly big part of that picture.


According to a number of studies, e-commerce is expected to be the number one sector for AR technologies. Smart retailers are looking to visualisation tools like 3D products, Augmented Reality, and Virtual Reality as a way to show off more products in less space reducing the need for square footage.


Amazon, IKEA, and Wayfair are all using these technologies to bring together the advantages of online shopping with brick and mortar retailing to add value to real-world shopping experiences with a minimal learning curve for both employees and customers. In the U.S, Macy’s has introduced a Virtual Reality furniture experience allowing people to design their own living spaces, populating it with items from Macy’s extensive catalogue of products, using a VR headset to then walk around these spaces in Virtual Reality.


Ikea is one retailer that shows how the combination of physical and digital space can be used successfully by providing VR as an on-site service in strategic places where it makes sense to do so, such as helping shoppers build their kitchen with a specialist and visualize it in an immersive way. In parallel they also offer AR capabilities to let customers see how items look in their own home environment with the Ikea Place mobile app.


The world’s largest retailer, Walmart, has also embraced immersive technology in a wide variety of ways. They have actively explored the use of Mixed Reality technology to streamline its warehouse operations and recently integrated an AR functionality into their official app to help customers price check items quickly in store. Walmart’s most ambitious VR rollout to date, however, has been in staff training. They are scaling up their use of VR training program on the Oculus Go in a bid to offer access to such training to every one of its U.S. based employees.


The opportunities that will soon be widely available with the availability of AR and VR, especially once 5G becomes widely accessible are endless. If established retailers are able to use immersive technology to energize customers and give them reasons to not only visit their stores, but make more purchases and fewer returns, this could prove a game changer for struggling high streets and provide a much-needed boost for the economy. Successful retailers need to always be at the forefront of technology so as not to be left behind, VR and AR are very much on the rise.