Andrey Ustyugov is the CEO at Planner 5D, an easy-to-use home design platform powered by AI, AR & VR technologies. 


People tend to desire changes, and that includes changes to their surrounding home spaces. The numbers speak for themselves — according to Global Marketing Insights, the home improvement market exceeded $762.9 billion in 2020 and will grow at 4.3% from 2021 to 2027.

Sometimes, the annual trip to Ikea for a new couch doesn’t bring happiness anymore and a more radical intervention is required. Most people would engage a professional interior designer, but they’re expensive, and it’s hard to find the right one for your own style. Imagine an infinitely knowledgeable designer that serves thousands of clients — artificial intelligence doesn’t have limits.

At some point, we’ll all have a model of our living spaces.

In order to fully apply artificial intelligence technologies to home improvement, you must meet a few prerequisites. First of all, AI needs data, and it’s fitting that we’re slowly moving toward digital copies of everything we have, including our homes.

The world is adopting the BIM standard, which is basically a digital blueprint that also includes metadata, down to the grade of steel used in the balcony lintels. All details are embedded into the architectural plan, digitized and standardized. That helps architects and construction companies optimize costs break down any object in the house. Most new buildings are digitized that way and built according to BIM standards, but even older buildings could be processed in this way after the fact. Digitizing housing that have already been built is a big market presenting a huge opportunity for any company. 

At some point, everyone will have a digital image of their living space, with a serial number assigned to each object therein. Wayfair, a company that sells furniture and household goods, is building a new industrial format that will include a digital image of your house, including all its furniture, and a number of companies, including Google, Amazon, Target and Ikea are on board. They don’t want to sell you a couch; they want to learn what kind of home you have and what else they can offer to you.

All these digitized objects from the real world raw data, and machine learning algorithms thrive on data. With the help of big data, companies will have the opportunity to offer a timely replacement for light bulbs, appliances or outdated furniture. Amazon wants to send you a bag of laundry detergent as soon as you’re out of it. Furniture and appliance companies are similar.

With the help of computer vision, AI can already help find relevant furniture from the catalogs and predict the best location for it based on your particular apartment, your window placement, the time when the sun rises in your area and so on. No human designer, albeit the most competent one, can match it.

Still, there are challenges facing us on that path.

We don’t have digital plans for most buildings.

Even though the concept of BIM has been in development since the 1970s, it only became mainstream in the last two decades. And while governments around the world are beginning to demand fully collaborative 3-D BIM assets — along with all project and asset information, documentation and data being electronic for new projects — there’s not much we can do now for the existing buildings out there.

There are companies, like Matterport, that specialize in creating digital floor plans for homes and apartments. A schematic floor plan for a single unit, from what I’ve seen in the market, costs $12.99. There are around 29 million households in the U.K. alone, so you can calculate the price — on top of camera equipment or subscription plans. 

But in order to leverage this data through machine learning, we need more than floor plans. Ideally, we’d love to have exact schematics of what’s happening behind walls and know the types of floor tiles and light bulbs you have. It’s not really possible to collect all that metadata for pre-existing households. The only option is to work with developers from the start and ensure they collect and provide this data in advance. 

In fact, current BIM standards don’t even focus on the inside of your apartment and its furniture and devices. We, as an industry, would first have to work on augmenting these standards or creating a unified standard outlining the exact interior of living spaces, materials used for your kitchen, etc.

Developers can keep their buyers as customers.

In fact, this opens up a new line of business for real estate developers. Right now these workers focus on acquiring land and building houses to sell, but their relationships with customers stop there. In a world where every company is looking for recurring revenue, developers can begin by digitizing the environments they build and making them accessible through an app. 

Imagine that you’ve rented or just bought an apartment and a light bulb in your kitchen has suddenly died. Nobody ever remembers what kind of a light bulb they have, as they die so rarely these days. In an ideal world, you’d open an app provided by your developer and see a perfect digital representation of your apartment with tags on every object. You’d see what kind of a lamp you need to buy — and might get a set of offers from nearby stores.

To see this future to fruition, developers would need to rebuild their entire businesses. You can’t just give an AutoCAD file to your customers; they need a nice-looking consumer app loaded with that data. Developers don’t have the necessary expertise, and most likely, they will need to find a partner to create a fully digital lifestyle experience — or build this expertise internally.

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