Nanopixel are the team behind “Bostoen – Creating your dream house before it’s even built.” At the second annual VR Awards, Nanopixel won the category of “VR Architecture and Real Estate of the Year” with the Bostoen project. In this case study, the development team from Nanopixel provide in-depth insight into the behind the scenes work that went into the award-winning project from the conception of the initial idea, through the challenges of development and to the eventual completion and release of Bostoen – Creating your dream house before it’s even built.
Bostoen – Creating your dream house before it’s even built is a virtual reality application that allows its users to choose and compare the interior finish of their new home in a virtual environment. Users can use the virtual environment to organise and design their new home. The VR application contains a wide range of customisable options when it comes to creating your virtual home; including floor and wall tiles, interior joinery, sanitary fittings and lighting.
As well as lending their name to the project, Bostoen is also a construction company in it’s own right. Bostoen and Nanopixel are both based in Belgium, and Bostoen contracted Nanopixel to create the VR application.
Behind the Conception of Bostoen – Creating your dream house before it’s even built
The original thought-process behind creating the project revolved around a huge issue many consumers face in the housing industry. It is extremely difficult and costly to purchase, renovate and design a house; very few people are expert interior designers or planning specialists, and so we were tasked with making use of virtual reality to make this process easier.
Everyone wants to buy their own house. However, it is expensive and the choices you have to make, for what is probably the biggest investment in your life, are not easy. This is particularly true if you want to buy and build your own new house rather than renovate an older one. As a potential buyer, you are expected to put together all the different pieces of the puzzle in your own mind e.g. the 2D plans, samples of tiles, the colour of the walls, the kitchen design, the specific combination of the bathroom furniture, etc. That’s feasible if you have a creative job, but most people don’t have a job like that and therefore have many doubts and lack confidence about the incredibly important choices they have to make. It’s key to remember that buying a house is a once in a lifetime event for most of us.
From Nanopixel’s point of view, the core goal of the project related to making a difference for Bostoen’s clients. We sought to do the following:
- Create a real client experience
- Create an interactive tool which puts together all the separate pieces of the puzzle for the client
- Provide direct real-time feedback
- Generate trust in the client’s choices.
The Challenges involved in the Project
In terms of some of our biggest challenges, the scale and amount of materials which needed to be made available throughout the VR experience was enormous. Getting the balance right and not overwhelming the user with too much information was key. We needed to ensure that, when releasing such huge amounts of information and possibilities upon the user, the information was delivered in a logical way and the experience remained user friendly.
All of the customisable design options within the virtual house environment needed to be delivered on the exact moments where the user expects and wants to make use of them, the feedback had to be instantaneous and the app needed to be simple enough to use. We didn’t want the user to have to painstakingly search for these options. Making a VR experience beautiful is easy, but making it really user-friendly from the very first moment they use it, is a whole different story. The experience needs to be a perfect fit in the overall user story. This can only be achieved by guiding your client to a very good strategy.
Another challenge we encountered related to Bostoen wanting to make every single housing unit they sell made available inside the experience. However, the cost of realising such a huge operation would be unaffordable to anyone involved. So we followed the same approach as in the real-life housing industry. Bostoen has viewing houses set up across the country, which means the VR experience could have 1 uniform sample house which has all the possible rooms and features embedded into it.
The core goal of the user within this moment in the customer journey, where they get the VR experience presented to them, is not necessarily the housing unit itself anymore but the available customisable options like colours, materials, and furniture to decorate it. This meant that a uniform housing unit which had all the similar rooms, was more than enough at that point of the customer journey.
Releasing the project
Upon release, the project had a nationwide rollout in Belgium. Bostoen has a yearly turnover of 500,000 housing units. The project had a fairly quick turnaround time, being completed in 4 to 5 months.
We coped well with the deadlines we were set throughout development. Deadlines are divisive, you either love them or you hate them. We at Nanopixel love them. It boosts creativity and team spirit and you discover skills along the way you didn’t know you had before because you’re pushed to the absolute limit.
Best moments in the creation of the project
We were massively motivated by the very positive reactions of the Bostoen team when interim releases were being delivered and demonstrated to them. We were really proud of the photorealistic quality which was achieved in visualising materials, colour and furniture. The best moment of the development process was seeing Bostoen’s clients evolve into gaining more insights on the designing process and what has been made possible in front of their eyes.
Advice to other developers from the Nanopixel team
In terms of advice we would give to other developers who plan on creating a similar project to Bostoen – Creating your dream house before it’s even built, you should start by being critical of the client’s initial request. In the early stages of our partnership with Bosteon, we needed to help them broaden their perspective and rethink: “does this really fit my customer’s needs or expectations?” For the most part, they focused too hard on their own initial single idea, they forgot that there were better options available to achieve the same result. This comes down to their lack of technical knowhow. Without experience with the technology, the customer sticks to what they know or have heard of in the past. We at Nanopixel have enough business understanding and technical knowhow to bring the best of two worlds together.