House Beautiful Is About To Get Mouse Simple

SHOPPING FOR FURNITURE, wallpaper, rugs, window treatments--or all of the above? Soon, if you visit one of seven Atlanta Warehouse stores, run by Wal-Mart Stores Inc., you'll be able to see on a computer screen just how these and other items will look together in a home setting with your choice of color scheme, fabric, or other patterned material. What's making this visualization possible is a computer system from ModaCAD Inc. of Los Angeles, which has traditionally supplied its technology to fashion and fabric designers.

It works like this: First, a photograph of a couch or any other piece of furniture is digitally scanned into the computer. Next, using a computer mouse, technicians supply the program with information about the 3-D contours of the object. Later, when customers see an item they like, they can pick from a visual palette displaying hundreds of fabrics or other materials. They just push a button and within seconds the program can redraw the scene with near-photographic veracity, including the tricky part of showing shadows and the drape of fabrics.

Wal-Mart says that it expects to include hundreds of furniture styles from a number of different manufacturers in the ModaCAD system. If the pilot program works out, the system could spread to as many as 438 Wal-Mart-owned stores, say company officials.

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