Over the past few months, I have been working with a web development team to create a new interactive application, which utilises the flexibility of CGI with some web programming magic. We wanted to create an application to allow users to interactively configure anything, then share, save or print their configuration.
The application has been given it's own brand new website, check out www.constructandconfigure.com to see what all the fuss is about, and to play with the two demo applications.
The application is a "configurator" and has been designed to enable users to change finishes, features and other options by clicking on buttons to access menus. In the kitchen demo, the user can change the kitchen finish, the door handles and the worktops, but almost any visual element of a product, space or architecture could be configurable. In the kitchen demo we could if we wanted to add the ability to change the appliances, the stools, or even the floor and wall finishes. This is one reason why using 3D is great, we can create these CGI variations quickly, store them digitally, and present them in a way which is quick and easy for the end users to see.
The application has been designed to work on most modern devices, PCs, laptops, tablets, smart phones, iPads and anything else with a modern web browser and a reasonably fast internet connection. We wanted to make the application accessible to as many people as possible, so it made sense to make the application run inside a web browser, without the need for any software downloads.
As standard, we have added 3 features to the app, save, print and share. The save button will download an image, overlaid with a description of the configuration, to your device. The print function simply prints the configuration, and again with a description so you know exactly the chosen configuration. The share button is perhaps the most complex function, but something we felt was required to allow users to share their configuration quickly and easily. When the user clicks the share button, a pop up window is displayed with a unique web address. The user can then highlight, copy and paste this address to Twitter, Facebook, email or anything else. When the address this then re-opened in a web browser, the users configuration is displayed. For this app we wanted to avoid user log-ins and passwords as we wanted the experience to be fast and user friendly, and using a unique web address works perfectly.
We see this app to be primarily used to visualise and configure products. A sales team could use the application to show potential buyers the various configurations of their product, which may help the buyers visualise their potential purchase, and hopefully secure a sale. Similarly the app could be used in show rooms, where it's physically impossible to show all the product variations, but with the app customers could quickly and easily see any configuration they wish.
The application could be used by housing developers to show potential house buyers their new home, and then allow them to choose fixtures and finishes, which many house builders now allow. The possibilities for the app is limitless!
The application has been fully custom made to suit our requirements. We did this for one important reason, we can modify, change, or add features to the application when required. The application is web based, and with the advances in HTML 5, more and more is possible. As an example we could add a clip board, user log-in, or even link the app with an e-commerce website allowing the users to purchase directly from the app.
Currently the configurator doesn't allow the user to build products, they can't alter the kitchen layout for example, but this isn't why we created this application. In order to visualise the products in a photo realistic manor, the app uses pre-rendered CGI images, layered on top of each other to create the users configuration. Advances in real-time visualisation has shown we can create almost photo-real visuals using technology such as Unity 3D or the Unreal game engine, however using this kind of software means the users have to download plugins or software suitable for their device, which is something we didn't want to do. In the future I'm sure this will change, but for now we believe our current approach is the best way!
So head over to http://www.constructandconfigure.com and play with the application demos.
If you have any questions or comments about the configurator, please get in touch!