Computer program lets users click into interior design mode

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 09 May, 2011, 12:00am


Clueless about interior decoration or how best to arrange your furniture? Relax, a new computer programme has come to the rescue.

The Make It Home software programme, developed jointly by professors and students from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and University of California, Los Angeles, will automatically generate a number of room design ideas in just 20 seconds.

The virtual room design package helps place a user's furniture according to their needs. For example, users can specify that a TV must be placed opposite a sofa, and a window has to be visible from a certain desk.

Once specified, the software will automatically display the many different possible arrangements.

Software designer Yeung Sai-kit, a HKUST alumna and UCLA postdoctoral scholar, said the program was a 'remarkable modification of manual systems like that of furniture retailer IKEA'.

The IKEA program requires a user to manually move furniture items from an on-screen library into the room and see how they can fit. Make It Home can do this automatically, 60 times faster than the IKEA system.

It only takes 20 seconds to move 30 objects in a room and provides as many options as possible; whereas the traditional system takes 20 minutes to do the same thing and provides just one solution.

The program's use was not confined to room arrangement, it could also handle shopping mall layouts, city planning and even troop organisation for military use, Yeung said.

HKUST president Tony Chan, who is also part of the team, said he saw unlimited potential for the software. IKEA says its software was downloaded four million times in 2010. Chan expected the team's more advanced program to receive an even better response.

Besides real-life design arrangement, movie set designers and video game developers would also find the software useful, said one of the program's other designers, Craig Yu Lap-yin, also a UCLA PhD student.

For example, in the video game GTA4, the virtual New York City lacked details in rooms inside buildings as it would require a huge amount of labour for game designers to model all these interiors, he said. With the Make It Home software, it would be much easier to set up different interior designs for different rooms in every building, in order to make it more authentic.

The team's success was reported in the highly regarded international science journal New Scientist last month.

It will showcase Make It Home, which it is considering patenting, at the Siggraph computer graphics conference to be held in Vancouver in August.