New visualization solutions for interior and architectural design

Virtual modelling makes the selection easier for consumers

The new visualization solutions developed to support interior and architectural design combine virtual modelling with reality. In augmented reality, virtual models of a product or building are added to the real-time video picture, which can be viewed in 3D in a real environment by means of a palmtop, data glasses or a camera phone. This, for example, makes it possible to present different pieces of furniture to the consumer and check how they fit in the real environment before making a decision to buy. VTT’s software technology has already been used for gaming and entertainment applications and in the product catalogue of playground equipment manufacturer Lappset Group.

Augmented reality combines the virtual and the real, and so it is different from virtual reality, which refers to creating completely virtual worlds. Augmented reality solutions can be viewed in real time, interactively and in 3D, using lighter equipment than that used in virtual reality.

The 3D location of the virtual model in the picture is defined by markers

In augmented reality, virtual models of the real world are added to the picture seen by the user. The 3D locations of the virtual objects are often defined by so-called markers. The location of a marker is defined in the video image, and the virtual object is added on top of or next to it. In the simplest solution, the application works by means of a computer and a Web camera. The use of the application does not require any preparation, it works anywhere and at anytime.

Already applied to product catalogues

Augmented reality has already been applied to product catalogues. Virtual objects “emerge” from the catalogue, and they can be viewed in 3D by wearing data glasses as the pages are turned. The object stays in view, even if the marker disappears or is removed. It is also possible to adjust the lights and the shadows of the view. In addition to a Web camera, the application can be controlled with a camera phone as well.

Aid for interior design

In interior design, each marker corresponds to a virtual piece of furniture. A design composition is created by moving the markers on the floor, and they are realized by means of a Web camera or data glasses.

The method makes it possible to test the suitability of different furniture models for real rooms, such as homes and offices, and thus help in making a decision to buy in advance.

The consumer can also evaluate design solutions by means of digital photographs, which he or she can upload to a PC. After this, virtual pieces of furniture can be introduced into the picture, which can be moved and rotated at will. The pieces of furniture will stay in place even when moving to another picture. By using a marker placed in the room, the application ensures that the pieces of furniture are always to scale and in the correct perspective on the floor.

Future visualization with a camera cell phone

In the future, it will also be possible to assess design solutions with a camera cell phone. The consumer will be able to upload an interesting piece of furniture from a furniture advertisement to his or her cell phone in 3D by reading a matrix code and pressing a button. The piece of furniture will be positioned in the required place on the cell phone’s video picture by moving a model. After the positioning, the piece of furniture will stay in place even when the cell phone is moved. The method is based on feature detection from the cell phone’s picture, and it requires no markers. A software prototype designed by VTT already exists, but VTT is still looking for interested parties to commercialize it, offering it to Finnish furniture manufacturers, among others. 

Adaptation of buildings to the environment

VTT has used its programmes in designing its current headquarters Digitalo. They used different virtual and augmented reality methods, all served by a common virtual model. Augmented reality was applied by means of a virtual model, an augmented Web camera and outdoors visualization using a mobile device. Google Earth was also used as a content bank in which the augmented reality implemented in the 3D maps makes it possible to identify buildings by using aerial photographs and map data.

In the initial stages of planning Digitalo, the inner spaces were outlined on the walls of the Lumeportti virtual reality system, which is based on inexpensive PC devices and graphics programmes known from games. Virtual movement within the building was realized by gesture movements. Reality was augmented by adding different properties to the virtual model, which could be viewed on the conference table with video glasses both from the inside and from the outside.

Markers can be replaced with GPS position data

Digitalo was also visualized on the planned building site in advance by means of a hand-held PDA device. In the original realization, markers were used to position the building. Nowadays, a similar mobile application is realized without markers by using GPS position data and maps. The method was recently also applied to the visualization of the Helsinki Music Centre that is currently being built in Helsinki.

VTT’s vision for the future involves introducing augmented reality to the everyday lives of people as a seamless application that can be used everywhere. VTT has earlier applied augmented reality to CamBall, a networked table tennis game, and the camera phone version of the game SymBall. In addition to gaming and entertainment applications, VTT’s latest augmented reality projects are related to applications used on assembly lines and for servicing tasks in plants.


Additional information

VTT is an impartial expert organisation. Its objective is to develop new technologies, create new innovations and value added thus increasing customer's competencies. With its know how VTT produces research, development, testing and information services to public sector and companies as well as international organisations.