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MagicPlan is one of those rare apps that makes you realise how incredible technology is. In short, you take pictures of your room, and it gives you a floorplan. It’s remarkably easy to throw something together, and for someone like me who obsessively rearranges furniture, it’s fantastic. The app is available for any iOS device with a camera [iTunes link].
Capturing a Room
The process of capturing the dimensions of a room reminds me a little of doing panaramas. Stand in the center of the room and aim your device’s camera at one corner. When the arrows line up, hit the right of the screen to assign your first corner. Slowly rotate around the room, clicking to create corners, or start and end of door sections. It sounds difficult but it’s actually really intuitive.
If you have furniture though, you may need a keen sense of 3D space to approximate where the corner would be if your furniture wasnt in the way.
You’re also given an augmented reality gridline to help you with invisible corners – just make sure you start with a clearly visible one, and the line should match up with the floor and walls.
The app is quite forgiving, so it’ll run all your wonky data points through an algorithm to figure the actual layout and is usually quite accurate. One important point to remember is that you need to rotate fully back to your first corner point to complete the plan. There’s an undo button if you go wrong, but it only takes about 30 seconds to do an entire room anyway.
Once you’ve captured a room you enter the edit stage. Here you can add furniture and windows if you like, and change which way doors are facing. I found the furniture to be a bit oversized, but that could have been because I didn’t bother calibrating actual lengths. Appliances and furniture will actually auto-resize to a certain degree if you push them against a wall, for instance.
Calibration is needed after you’ve done a few rooms in order to figure out exact sizes and lengths of walls etc. Basically, you provide a few exact measurements, and it’ll use that information to work out accurate measurements for everything else. This isn’t a required step, but if you want the dimensions to be accurate rather than just the layout, then you will need a tape measure.
After you’ve added a second room to the plan, you’ll want to marry them up somehow to the previous room. Just drag and rotate to magically snap them together on doors or walls.
Not every room has to be captured – if you’ve already assembled the main room and the hallway just fills the rest, you can create a ‘filler’ room and drag into place to have it automatically fill in the gaps.
One thing I really appreciated about this app was the inclusion of interactive tutorials which use a virtual 3D environment in which you need to physically rotate and move around to emulate the steps required. It’s an innovative feature, and I applaud the developers for building it.
There’s also a number of pre-recorded video tutorials, so there’s no excuse for not knowing how to work the app.
The magic behind this app really is quite amazing, and considering how many times in our life we actually need to create a floorplan, I think the pricing is fair. Agencies can get massive discount pricing for subscriptions, while personal users can simply maintain one plan and make changes as often as they like – or just use the watermarked plans for sketching out ideas. The app isn’t perfect – I found the orientation wasn’t respected on my third-gen iPad, and the menu system is a little amateur – but it’s certainly functional.
Even if you don’t plan on selling your house, it’s free to download and start creating your plans, which I’d encourage you to do just to see the magic at work! Anyway, I’m off to plan my new study – feel free to let us know what you thought of the app in the comments, or if you had problems getting it to work right.