WebGL – A New Experiment and Direction

WebGL is a technology I have a particular interest in. I’ve been dabbling with it since January 2012 when I proposed to learn it by recreating a version of an old 3D project in WebGL.

3D Lego Train Game
3D Lego Train Game

Since then the project has been developing nicely and has undergone many changes in direction. However, recently it has gotten a little too large and the scope is too great for a part-time project. I still dabble with it occasionally, but in terms of creating a final output to put to the Lego Group, I haven’t reached that critical mass of presentation and implementation I desired.

I was hoping the final output would be a killer application for WebGL to help its cause of been taken seriously as a valid commercial and entertainment platform for web content.

There was a spike of revised interest in the project when Apple announced that Safari running on iOS8 will support WebGL and Microsoft stepped up with Internet Explorer 11 also supporting WebGL.

However, whilst this is all very encouraging, along with ever increasing browser support for WebGL, I needed a new direction or project to gather focus into something small enough to maintain my interest and actually provide a achievable goal for a part time project.

Ta Dah! Inspiration Strikes

Today, inspiration struck! The reason I am sharing this with the blog is for two reason. Primarily, it’s a web technology and relates very much to the industry and my ongoing research and learning. But also because it supports the notion I suggest to my students that inspiration for digital projects (and creative projects in general), can come from surprising places when we least expect it!

I have just returned from looking at houses. I was looking with my partner for houses on a David Wilson Homes estate here in Lincoln. The houses in question were Show Homes and, as you would expect, they were all nicely presented and beautifully appointed throughout. When I returned home, I was discussing with my partner the houses and it frustrated us that we couldn’t see a house style that we wanted because they didn’t have have a Show Home in that particular style, and there isn’t a completed house on the site for us to view.

This problem is common on all new housing estate building sites. Each developer will propose a number of different house styles but only build Show Homes in around half of them. This is fine if you’re interested in one of those but not so great if, like us, you want to the see a wider-range. You have to wait until a house in the style you’re interested in has been completed and that could be at an inconvenient time. Even worse, seeing a plain magnolia interior can make a massive difference for your affinity to a house!

Now, developers have websites, and David Wilson Homes and their sister company: Barratt Homes, both have pretty decent web provisions. The example links take you to their respective developments in the area my partner and I were looking. Both have photos for all available house styles taken from various Show Homes (some on and not on-site). And both have floor plans for all available homes. However, there are two main shortfalls in my opinion.



Firstly, as we can testify, there is a huge difference between looking at photos/floor plans of a home and visiting the physical Show Homes. So big in fact that a house style we saw on the web (and in a printed brochure) which we rejected… when we saw it, we actually really liked its use of space and layout. And there was also a case where the opposite was true.

These decisions were made by a combination of seeing the spaces inside the houses and the decoration and presentation provided by the Show Home. It wasn’t so much the actually standing there in the spaces (although that is essential when you are ready to commit to a purchase), it was the difficulty in imagining the spaces in the houses before we had taken the time to visit the site. You simply can not do it from the floor plans and photos provided alone.

Secondly, there is nothing on the website to enable and continue the sense of excitement when you have selected the house style you want. Often there will be a long wait while you sell your existing house, or save a large enough deposit or wait for your home to be built or a combination of all 3.

I believe developers such as Barratt and David Wilson are missing an opportunity to engage interested potential buyers and then maintain their interest once a house style and plot have been selected.

Wouldn’t it be great if, as well as the photos and floorplans, you were able to see the house, inside and out from the comfort of your web browser? How about a fully realised, interactive real-time 3D experience? Maybe WebGL could have a use here….

Not convinced? How about this… imagine selecting your plot, seeing the house exterior in 3D and being able to explore it from every angle. Already you are getting a picture of what the house will look like from the outside. Then, you click on the front door and you are taken inside where you can walk around or be taken on a guided tour of the inside of the house, decorated and presented to the same standard as a Show Home.

The beauty of this visualisation is that:

  • you can see ANY house style currently available, inside and out in gloriously detailed real-time 3D
  • browse house styles that will appear on the estate in the future (currently not even shown on the website)
  • get a feel for the space – this alone can drive more people to the physical site compared with just photos and floorplans
  • see the interior in a choice of decoration, furnishings, fixtures and fittings or remove everything to be left with just the space
  • explore the house and its spaces in great detail when you return from your visit to carry on the excitement and help with the decision process

Benefits for the developer:

  • solves the issue of only having a limited number of show homes
  • engages potential buyers by providing interactive content that is meaningful and not just a gimmick (unlike the current 360° tours – which are old, clunky, and require a plug-in)
  • potentially encourages buyers to reserve plots earlier as the excitement of engaging after a decision has been made
  • with customisation options, there’s a chance more potential buyers will upgrade to optional extras as they become more visible and engaging (as opposed to just viewing them in a brochure)

There’s potentially scope to take this even further and connect with companies that supply decoration materials (wallpapers, paints, etc.) and furniture to allows buyers waiting for their home to be completed to start customising and pricing up their first DIY projects or furniture orders. Maybe even with a commercial aspect purchasing products right from the 3D visualisation preview page.

Anyway, I need to start realising this idea before progressing so watch out for development posts soon!