App lets you visualise furniture at home before buying

(From left) Senior research scientist at ADSC Jiangbo Lu with Home Plus co-founders Han Feng and Huang Shouzhi. Set to be rolled out next month, the app allows users to visualise real products to design their homes and move them around virtually.
(From left) Senior research scientist at ADSC Jiangbo Lu with Home Plus co-founders Han Feng and Huang Shouzhi. Set to be rolled out next month, the app allows users to visualise real products to design their homes and move them around virtually.ST PHOTO: ALICIA CHAN

Buying furniture can pose a problem for many shoppers.

An armchair or coffee table may look good in the store, but will it match the curtains at home?

Four research developers from China have created an app that can help furniture buyers visualise better how a piece of furniture will look in their home.

The app, Home Plus, is set to be rolled out next month.

It uses a technology the quartet - Mr Han Feng, Mr Huang Shouzhi, Mr Niu Zeping and Mr Liu Jingming - had developed while working at the Advanced Digital Sciences Centre (ADSC), a research centre in Singapore that is affiliated to the University of Illinois in the United States. ADSC is supported by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research.

They took almost a year to create the app, using the augmented reality technology they had developed at ADSC. In March this year, they founded the Dimension 5 Techs company to fine-tune the technology, and build and market the app.

Mr Han, 28, said he was inspired to create the app when he and his wife went shopping last year for furniture to decorate their marital home in China.

This is how the app works: A 3D model of a piece of furniture is first built in a digital format and uploaded onto the app's database. The app's camera is turned on and pointed at the room where the furniture is supposed to go.

The 3D model of the desired furniture is then "dragged and dropped" into the camera frame, enabling the user to see how the piece of furniture would fit into the room. After that, the user can inspect the piece up close, or turn it around to see how it looks from different angles.

"The app allows a user to see the furniture at home in its real size and design.

"Virtual and augmented reality is usually used for training or gaming, but this platform can change the experience of furniture buyers, " said Mr Han.

He and his team are in the final stages of fine-tuning the app.

It is targeted mainly at interior designers and furniture retailers, he said.

But his company is also working with researchers at ADSC to develop another platform to bring together furniture retailers, interior designers, home owners and contractors. "With such a virtual furniture mall, users can use real products to design their homes - from the type of furniture to the type of wallpaper," Mr Han said.

Mrs Cheryl Govindan, 25, who is due to collect the keys to her new Housing Board home in 2017, is looking forward to the new app.

The marketing executive, whose husband Daniel, 27, is a bank analyst, said: "The app will be useful if I can use it to decide on the type of furniture I want, after the interior designer has narrowed the list of choices for his design."

Audrey Tan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 18, 2015, with the headline 'App lets you visualise furniture at home before buying'. Print Edition | Subscribe