The app-based startup VuPad is designed to ease the trouble of buying furniture by utilizing the latest in augmented reality technology.
Currently in its alpha version, VuPad lets you visualize pieces of furniture in real scale in the environment around you. Holding your iPad in front of them and viewing their room through its camera, the users can choose what object they want to visualize, compare the size with a marker such as a dollar bill, then drop and re-position the object anywhere in the room and see what it would realistically look like.
A room with virtually added furniture (Photo courtesy Masaki Nakada)
VuPad was founded by computer science PhD students Konstantinos Sideris and Masaki Nakada. Sideris is from Greece and has always been in the field of computer science, while Nakada is from Japan and has a background in physics. They met each other while both working at the UCLA Computer Graphics and Vision Laboratory. In April, they participated in one of the 48-hour hackathons organized by UCLA and came up with a prototype with a group of fellow coders. While the others in the group were too busy to get more involved in the project, Sideris and Nakada decided to give it a try and turn the idea into a marketable product.
According to Sideris, there have been similar apps but their usability needs to be improved. "They're not intuitive enough" said Sideris. Though he said that "with a single camera, you can't realistically expect to just point at something and see an object in accurate proportions", VuPad aims to let users view an augmented version of a room through as few steps as possible. "I want to build a product that my mother can use" said Sideris. "If she can use it, then I'll know that anyone can".
Given the co-founders' background, Sideris believes that the challenge for them is not in the technology itself, it's getting people to use it. "We can build it the product, but the hard part is marketing" he said. The team is hoping to form partnerships with furniture retailers and offer the product to their customers through them.
The VuPad team Masaki Nakada and Kostantinos Sideris (Photo Courtesy Masaki Nakada)
Though Sideris is enjoying his PhD. program, he is also quite enthusiastic about the creative freedom of the startup world. "In the research world, it takes years before an idea is peer reviewed and accepted by the community" he said. When you make a product, you can simply apply your idea and judge its worth by whether people adopt it or not. "I'm not showing you what the future will be like in 10 years" said Sideris. "This is the future and it's here now".
VuPad is currently in pre-release and will soon debut an early access beta.
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