Collaborative Interior Design

The collaborative design system developed at ECRC is a demonstration of interactive graphics and real-time video for the purpose of interior design. The system combines the use of a heterogeneous database system of graphical models, an augmented reality system, and the distribution of 3D graphics events over a computer network. This application shows how improvements in computing and communication hardware can be combined with sophisticated software platforms to produce powerful results for end users.


The scenario for this application consists of an office manager who is working with an interior designer on the layout of a room. The office manager intends to order furniture for the room. On a computer monitor the pair see a picture of the room from the viewpoint of the camera. By interacting with various manufacturers over a network, they select furniture by querying databases using a graphical paradigm. The system provides descriptions and pictures of furniture that is available from the various manufactures who have made models available in their databases. Pieces or groups of furniture that meet certain requirements such as colour, manufacturer, or price may be requested. The users choose pieces from this "electronic catalogue" and 3D renderings of this furniture appear on the monitor along with the view of the room. The furniture is positioned using a 3D mouse. Furniture can be deleted, added, and rearranged until the users are satisfied with the result; they view these pieces on the monitor as they would appear in the actual room. As they move the camera they can see the furnished room from different points of view.

The users can consult with colleagues at remote sites who are running the same system. Users at remote sites manipulate the same set of furniture using a static picture of the room that is being designed. Changes by one user are seen instantaneously by all of the others, and a distributed locking mechanism ensures that a piece of furniture is moved by only one user at a time. In this way groups of users at different sites can work together on the layout of the room (see figure). The group can record a list of furniture and the layout of that furniture in the room for future reference.


The 3D graphics and augmented reality components of the system are built with GSP, a software platform which combines interactive 3D graphics and computer vision technology to calibrate, align, and display 3D models and real-time video.

The system also provides a means of distributing graphics events in a transparent manner. The communication of these events to multiple GSP applications, the locking, and the management of users joining and leaving the group is achieved through Facile, a distributed programming language, which provides the tools for reliable connections, disconnects, and multicasting.

The database is implemented by using the ECLiPSe system developed at ECRC as a constraint solver engine and an interface to Exodus, a low level storage management system that supports a client-server architecture.

We see a wide range of uses for this combination of technologies which includes other areas of design such automobiles, fashion, and architecture. We also expect it to be useful in other settings where users need to communicate and discuss a problem in a 3D context such as electronic and mechanical repair or medicine.

Contact point for additional information:
Ross Whitaker

Adapted from an Article published in: ECRC Today, Dec. 1994, "Applications and Demonstrators", page 7.
Last Modified on June 1, 1996.