Walking around the IMM Cologne stands, it’s almost a given that brands will try to showcase as much of their new collections as possible. Imagine my surprise, then, when I headed over to New Tendency’s space and noticed that they were being rather demure with their display: there was a selection of products in a slate shade, a few iPhones and a green-screen background.

But it turned out to be wonderfully misleading: by using AR tech, the German brand turned the IMM visitor into a fellow exhibition designer. ‘The visitor should be part of the stage and be able to participate in it,’ said Manuel Goller, the studio’s co-founder. We’ve seen the application of this method to the fashion industry, with clothing visualization, but this is one of the first times we’ve seen it somewhere as physically oriented as a furniture trade fair.

Inside the stand, the green surface is the basis for fusing real and virtual elements. By using a web app, users scan the green surface and can then individually change colours and patterns. This allowed the designers to present one single sample of each item in the physical space, but still showcase every possible colour in the virtual environment.

By using AR tech, the German brand turned the IMM visitor into a fellow exhibition designer

The duo selected Meiré and Meiré for the stand design. Why did they pick such a strategy for something that is ultimately one of the industry’s biggest opportunities to engage in some wide-and-deep showrooming? ‘Because trade fair architecture is becoming one communicating interface, which does not only serve the representation of the products, but also creates a dialog with the visitors,’ explained founder Mike Meiré.

But ultimately, the trio also acknowledged the need for a real physical experience, and that’s the reason why you still see part of the New Tendency collection present in the space – one should be able to touch the leather of a sofa and sit on it.