AR helps Stannah bring virtual stairlifts into homes worldwide

Augmented reality (AR) is helping prospective stairlift customers get a clearer picture of how a stairlift might fit into their home, thanks to a new development from Stannah.

The global provider of lifting technology has tapped into the expertise of PTC to develop Envisage, a second-generation app that can be used to bring a virtual stairlift into the home of a potential customer.

Sales engineers can minimise the time spent in the homes of people by using AR to quickly show exactly how the product will look, including curved and straight stairlifts, movements and positions and differences in upholstery fabrics.

The process reportedly takes a few moments to complete and the customer can then see the product set-up in their home. They can zoom in on specific features and will receive images they can send on to their family, who may not be present at the consultation, but could play a role in the decision-making.

It is the next stage in Stannah’s digital transformation journey, which has seen it use PTC’s Creo and Windchill technology to enhance its design and product lifecycle management.

“Augmented reality helps alleviate the hurdles of purchase and the questions that customers have. We can use AR to explain the product features and we can show the clear benefits for them rather than focusing on their challenges that led them here,” explains Ross Pascoe, chief technology and design officer at Stannah.

“We noticed that a lot of customers needed an additional tool to envisage how their purchase would look in their homes. This is where Augmented Reality and our strategic partnership with PTC came into its own.

“Our development team took twelve months to create Envisage, and our sales consultants are now using it when visiting clients, giving people a clear idea of how the stairlift will look whilst exploring which models are best suited to the environment.”

He continues, “We have been making use of AR technology for some time. However, we quickly realised when the pandemic struck that this technology could also help with social distancing and, importantly, minimise the time we spent in people’s homes.

“Envisage was recently launched and will be rolled-out across all of our UK and international teams, working in more than 46 countries across the world,” says Pascoe.

Stannah has worked closely with PTC’s AR Centre of Excellence on the development of the Envisage app, tapping into its Vuforia Engine software to unleash the full power of Augmented Reality.

Its markerless AR technology detects objects or characteristic points of a scene without any prior knowledge of the environment, allowing the company to simplify and streamline the process so the capture does not distract from the actual sales conversation.

The intuitive and easy-to-use format of the PTC Vuforia Engine technology also meant that the training of all engineers was completed in a matter of weeks.

Ross Pascoe continues, “The long-term relationship we have with PTC really accelerated our approach to this project. Its experts understand our business and how its technology portfolio can alleviate some of our pain points and this sparked a lot of digital conversations that has improved the functionality and speed of Envisage.

“A lot of people wouldn’t automatically associate a stairlift manufacturer with Augmented Reality when, in real life, the technology lends itself perfectly to protecting vulnerable people whilst still giving them another layer of confidence and engagement in the sales process.”

David Grammer, general manager for UKI for PTC, adds, “AR is rapidly changing how we live our lives and is coming up with solutions to everyday issues. Stannah is passionate about embracing the digital thread and has already seen the operational and customer benefits of cutting-edge design capability and now Envisage. The latter is using Augmented Reality to improve lives and that is the most important thing.”

Stannah was founded by Joseph Stannah back in 1867, providing cranes and hoists for the docks of a developing London. Today, the Andover, UK-based business is still in fifth-generation family ownership and has a turnover in excess of £260 million (€301 million), employing more than 2,000 people and providing stairlifts, commercial passenger lifts, service lifts and goods lifts to a global customer base.

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