Auckland firm Soft Tech has developed software that lets customers open computer-generated doors and windows on the Internet. Soft Tech develops software for the aluminium extrusion and window- and door-fabrication industries. The new software uses virtual reality modelling language (VRML) to display doors and windows as a "photographic" image, and allows customers to interact with them inside a virtual room. "When you have CAD [computer-aided design] you have a whole lot of lines," says director John Ball. "Rendering makes it look just like a photograph. The doors and windows that customers see on their screen can be revolved, moved around, and people can open the doors, go inside and look around, resize, put in the colours they want - see how it looks," he says. Ball says these sorts of graphics have been around for a while but to date they have been difficult and expensive to set up. He says the new system is easy to use and, more importantly, contains all the information and calculations to actually manufacture the unit. "This is what really differentiates our product. In fact we have all the back-end functionality such as materials ordering, optimised material cutting lists, scheduling and tracking so we offer a full commercial solution for a fabricator," he says. The creation of the program, which involved taking a manufacturing product and turning it into a retail marketing device for customers, Ball says, was spurred by the growth of the Internet and its potential for increased and innovative ways to do business. Technology New Zealand helped fund the project, which also involved Auckland University. Ball says the funding allowed Soft Tech to develop visual rendering of images and the product's Web-enablement.
Soft Tech employs 70 and sells mainly overseas. It operates offices in New Zealand, Asia, the Americas and the UK.