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Enhanced Reality: A Closer Look at Chief Architect Room Planner

This app helps you take measurements for making as-built drawings for estimating, as well as create 3-D renderings to help homeowners visualize the project

October 13, 2015
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An example of using Chief Architect's Room Planner digital libraries

Remodelers spend a lot of time taking measurements and making as-built drawings to use when they’re estimating projects. Increasingly, they also use 3-D digital renderings to help homeowners visualize what their remodeled home will look like. Wouldn’t it be handy if there was an app that would help you do both at once?

At last year’s Remodeling Show, I tried out an app from Chief Architect called Room Planner that does exactly that. I recently talked with Gary Doski, owner of 3D Home Design Services, a design/build firm in Sandy Hook, Conn., about how he uses the app in his day-to-day business.

When Doski first visits a client’s home, he brings up the Room Planner app on his phone, selects a room shape (freehand drawing is also an option), pairs a laser distance meter to the phone via Bluetooth, and imports dimensions as he walks around the house. 

“Once I have the information I need, I can save it and upload it to the cloud,” Doski says. “When I get back to the office, I download it into Chief Architect. But I’m a one-man show. If I had designers in the office, they could start working on the design even before I’d left the client’s house.”

Room Planner has many of the tools found in the Chief Architect desktop application, so you can create a fairly detailed design on the spot if need be. You can add and merge rooms and create bump-outs. You can use digital object libraries to drag and drop architectural elements, such as doors and windows, stairs, or fireplaces, and adjust their dimensions on the fly (below). Other libraries contain objects such as cabinets, furniture, and appliances.

You can change dimensions for walls and most objects either by dragging their “handles” or by direct entry through the keypad. And you can add labels and notes to call attention to details such as bearing walls or vent stacks that may affect the design. 

Take a Walk

But wait, there’s more. Once a completed design is loaded on a mobile device, a patented feature called “Sojourn” uses the device’s built-in gyroscope, inclinometer, and camera to create three visualization “Experience Modes.” Two are familiar: Dolly Mode allows you to “look around” in the 3-D model, and Fly Mode introduces motion, either using the app’s “thumbstick” controls or by tilting and rotating the device to change the direction.

The third mode is called Walk Through, but “Enhanced Reality” may be a more appropriate name. It uses the device’s camera to display the existing space but superimposes the new design. A client holding the device at eye level can not only see the new design but can also “experience” it while literally walking around in the existing space (below).

“I still use a laptop to project the 3-D walkthrough up on the wall,” Doski says. “But Sojourn is a fun feature that really increases client engagement.” 


Read about other high-tech tools for home improvement pros

About the Author

About the Author

Sal Alfano is executive editor for Professional, 202.365.9070

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