Look Before You Buy: Virtual Reality Comes to Home Improvement

Family Standing Outside Suburban Home


You’re about to shell out a significant amount of money to upgrade your house, and the choices make your head spin. Traditional asphalt or slate shingles? Summer blue or teardrop blue paint for the walls?

Until recently, unless your imagination rivaled a sci-fi novelist’s, you wouldn’t know if you’d made the right choice till the project was finished. And then, if you’d gotten it wrong — if you had one of those “what was I thinking” moments — you’d either have to live with your mistake or spend even more bucks to fix it.

But now, thanks to the explosion of online virtual reality, augmented reality, and 3D rendering tools, all that has changed to the point where consumers can get a pretty clear vision of what those shingles, say, would look like on their roof before committing.

“It’s definitely the wave of the future, because it allows the general population to make design decisions without feeling hesitant or insecure,” Khoi Vo, a professor and the chair of the department of interior design at Savannah College of Art and design, told the New York Times.

Feel like playing architect and interior designer all at once? One of the more advanced programs, RoomSketcher, lets you do just that by creating your own floor plan, furnishing and decorating the space, and then visualizing your work in 3D “as if you are actually there.”

Heck, Better Homes & Gardens even has a tool that lets you create an elaborate garden design plan — complete with a pond — by dragging and dropping “more than 150 trees, shrubs and flowers.”

What about the house trim and exterior walls? White or something more daring?

It’s worth noting that one of the nicer features of most of the virtual reality tools, is that they let you solicit feedback from others by sharing your finished creation via email or social media. That way — like having a friend along while trying on clothes at a brick-and-mortar store — you can get a second opinion on whether your choice is becoming or not.