Smarthome Extravaganza – Part 2 : “Visualization is the key”
If one thing the hollywood has taught us, is the fact, that everything doing with the security and smart building technologies should be done cool 3D kind of interface with effects. While this may not be the best way to observe and interface smart systems around the smart home setting, it’s the one I like and prefer.
For our earlier apartment, a stinky and small concrete apartment block I called home, I made a 3D model with 3DSMax which was then observed either from over the top with the orthographic view or from the bird’s-eye view. I made application for my desktop which showed movement around the apartment in the 3D-blueprint as well as past movements. System also showed open/closed-door statuses of the balcony and apartment door. Everything was done with Delphi – programming language.
although this was cool and all, it was not really what I wanted and I planned that if I ever will have my own house in the countryside, I would make a good 3D-animated Hollywood styled smart home control interface. And now that we are in the mentioned situation, I might just do it.
Doing the three D
For my luck, I now have about year of background experience with the Unity3D game development environment doing few games and games-in-development solutions with it. This added to the fact that I’ve been programming since age of 8 and have good experience with 3D and several programming languages, I would say I have this thing going on a good base.
My original plan for creating a 3D-interface for my smart home system was to create our house using Autodesk’s 3Ds Max and started doing this by recreating our house with a tape measure and my wife as a help. After few hours creating base for the house and exact room measures, I ended up pondering that there must be a quicker and easier way to do this. And there was: An free software called Sweet Home 3D which is used to create 3D models of the houses and buildings.
In addition to this great finding, I also managed to locate exact [low-resolution] blueprints of our house’s downstairs and upstairs in digital scanned version. although these blueprints are few decades old and the quality of the ink and paper has degraded over the time, I managed to use them as a background image in the Sweet Home 3D and started creating my sweet home’s digital copy.
Considering the sad fact that I used few hours with the 3DSMax for trying to create base for the house’s 3D model, I managed to easily recreate our whole house in under an hour. Sweet Home 3D allows you to simply draw walls of certain height and width simply by dragging them from point A to point B. It also has very excellent measurement scaling system which allows you to specify correct scaling when compared to your blueprint background image without really needing specify exact sizes of the walls.
All you need to know is a width/length of certain position on the blueprint and after that, you simply need to draw walls in to their places on the top of the blueprint which is laying nicely on the background layer. After dragging all the walls and little bit correcting heights and thicknesses of the walls, I easily added ready-made doors and windows to the digital blueprint creating very easily the downstairs of our house.
I repeated the same procedure to the blueprints of the upstairs, although it had few problems with the positioning since people who originally scanned the blueprints did not position their digital prints exact straight. This caused the problem that I had to position, and reposition, and reposition the floors to match each other so it would simply not look ridiculous.
Because our house is old-ish, built-in 1950s, and re-built with some parts in the 1980s (second floor added, reconstructed walls, room changed), I did not manage to create functioning roof with the Sweet Home 3D although it provides that function. This was mainly because earlier mentioned re-building and sloped walls near the sides of the building. This problem I decided to solve with the 3ds Max before exporting model to the Unity3D.
The created digital blueprints of both floors of the house are displayed on the right.
Our house also includes small underground cellar under the house (yeis! the no-so-sheltering bomb-shelter?) with low concrete ceiling which is included in the digital blueprint, but I decided not to include it here nor in the 3D modelling because only real access to the cellar is from the house or by the mice and voles through their devious paths under the ground.
Interesting fact to know is that Sweet Home 3D basically can provide all the needed tools for fully recreating your house from the core structures to the specially selected and placed furnitures which you can all download freely from huge libraries the developers and fan of the software providing. You can even find virtual furnitures with their actual names or manufacturers.
This is the feature I did not use because I am making a 3D model for my Unity3D smart home controlling project, not a virtual representation of our house.
After finishing both floors, I ended up with the Sweet Home 3D’s 3D renderation of our house displayed on the left. As you can see from the 3D view, it is missing the roof of the house and of the veranda (porch) which is on the double-entrance.
For most designers, as I often state, this would be sufficient but not for me because of my damn perfectionism. Sweet Home 3D allowed me [quite] easily to export this model as a .OBJ file to my 3ds Max which I used to do post-editing of the scene. Biggest annoyance with this phase was the fact, that I wanted my smart home app to be able to show when each door or window is open or closed (oh the amount of the magnetic sensors) so I was not able to export doors and windows from Sweet Home 3D because I wanted functionality with them.
With functionality, I mean the fact that doors are shown open with the 3D Smart home app when the actual door is open. As this feature needs coding to work, I added doors later with the Unity3D as their own working object as well as same with the windows.
The first actual rendering of our house’s virtual model is displayed on the right. I added the main roof and veranda’s roof with the 3ds Max, textured it and made both the windows and doors with 3ds Max which I later re-utilized with the Unity3D on the actual use.
As finishing this phase, I now have a “working model” of our house which I will use when I start making actual smart home app to our family. There is still a lot of work to be done: Outdoor buildings such as workshop, storage house etc. and 3D modelling the actual terrain around our house with exact position of the trees and bushes.
My smart home will most likely include motion sensors, temperature and humidity sensors, automated cameras and so much more with the smart home app which will, with the certain Hollywood flavor, show cool animations when things do this and that in our property. A cool thing I am little building up when I have the time to do it.