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Demo preview: How mixed reality can help interior designers ditch the measuring tape

December 8, 2022
by Jani Ylinen, 3D Graphics Specialist, Varjo

Try virtual furniture on for size, move sofas around effortlessly, and completely change the appearance of any given space, with a simple pinch of the hand. Mixed reality can offer interior designers an unforeseen dimension of creativity, precision, and decision-making confidence.

In this new demo, we model furniture and decorative items to a living space with the help of mixed reality. Here’s how we made it happen.

How we built this demo: Playing with virtual light, shadow, and hand tracking

In order to seamlessly blend mixed reality and hand-tracking features, this model living room was designed for the Varjo mixed reality headset. The interactions are implemented with Ultraleap hand tracking, and the demo is built with the Unity game engine’s High Definition Render Pipeline (HDRP). All 3D models react realistically to virtual light, thanks to high-resolution PBR textures created with the Adobe Substance package.

In the demo, you can add, rearrange, and remove furniture available in the model catalog, and experience how virtual light makes items cast a life-like shadow on the floor. Why realistic shadow projection is an extremely important feature for next-gen interior design: shadows act as a glue between virtual objects and reality. “If it casts a shadow, it must be real” is essentially how the mind treats virtual objects in a real environment. Control light direction so that it aligns with your brightest light source, and observe how translucent materials – such as Shoji screens and potted plants – take on the shadows of objects behind them.

In our model living room, you’ll find an invisible plane on the floor that catches the shadows from virtual objects – and, while the feature has not been implemented in this demo, it is also possible to cast virtual shadows on the walls.

Redecorating with a single pair of hands

For interactions, we use hand-tracking, and you’ll find both direct interactions and hand gesture-based interactions in it.

Select furniture from the catalog and drag it around from virtual handles using direct interaction; move, drag and rotate the furniture already in the space with a pinching gesture. Expect to face a slight learning curve here: once you get the hang of the gestures available, object manipulation becomes fast, easy, and fun.

To haul things around, the only gesture you really need is a pinch with your thumb and index finger, on either hand.

Simply look at the item you want moved, place your hand in your line of sight, and pinch. The demo automatically detects how big or small the pinch movement is. When you release the pinch, the object is released; pinching slightly acts as a focus; and a full pinch makes objects movable.

The potential of mixed reality in interior design…and beyond

Because virtual furniture always appears on top of reality, the experience is immersive like no other: you can, for example, replace an existing sofa with a virtual one – then sit on the real sofa, looking at the virtual one and what’s in front of it.

While this demo’s furniture catalog is rather limited, it is entirely possible to make the entire catalog of a furniture design shop available in mixed reality. In fact, the objects in the catalog need not be furniture at all: factories could use the technology to map out significantly larger spaces with significantly larger objects, such as industrial machinery. Film producers could design and tour virtual sets and replace furniture objects with animated characters or digital actors. The options are virtually limitless.

We recently built a demo on designing a kitchen as well – head on over to the article to find out how that went.

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