3D Product Configurator Design

Exploring the design, value and landscape of 3D Product Configurators.

The future of shoe shopping? – 3D shoe configurator by H-umus


Unless you are one of the bushmen of the Kalahari Desert, chances are you are someone that can’t easily live without shoes.  Choosing from the enormous variety of options available can be quite an undertaking.  It’s a challenge to know what you really want whilst leaving no stone unturned in the hunt for the perfect shoe.  It can be a very tiring process traipsing around from one shop to another, and the Internet doesn’t really help you feel the fabrics, or try a shoe on for size.

Here is an idea that could change the way we find our ideal shoe in the future.  I really think this concept has legs…well, maybe some actual legs here would be of benefit.

This was designed a few years ago, but the idea is way ahead of it’s time.  It’s incredibly innovative and well thought through, taking in to consideration the primary needs of a buyer.  You start by choosing an actual “physical” shoe that you like, which enables you to study the real thing and inspect the quality.  From there, you can place it on the system’s sensor pad, and the matching 3D model will appear on the touch screen.  With the aid of a set of touch sensitive material swatches, not only can you see and feel the fabric choices, but you can use the touch screen to select a part of the shoe, and with a quick nip of the fabric sample, you can assign it to the shoe on screen.  It’s genius and fun!

It was created by an Italian company called H-umus.  The company’s current focus is a product call Nuxie, which fashion companies can use to create visual, interactive catalogues for their products, based around a merchandising platform that ties in with a company’s inventory and ordering systems.

Shoe2This therefore begs the question, is there a market for 3D product configurators considering this company hasn’t persued this design?  The shoe concept they’ve demonstrated is a wonderful idea, but the true power would be in back-end system integration.  It’s easy to make a great demo, but it’s difficult to make a great solution.  Is the 3D approach overkill?

Perhaps then, 3D configurators aren’t really a solution in themselves, but instead, they are a more advanced “presentation layer” in a traditional multi-layered application.  There are a plethora of captivating interactive 3D configurators where you can spin a product around, and change the colours in a variety of nifty ways, but is that of any real use?

From the research I’ve been doing, which I will share over a number of posts, there is a strong trend that shows it is of tremendous value, but only if used in the right way.  I’ll also write about some of the hurdles to overcome, and reasons why we are not there yet.  One of the main reasons we are still waiting to use this type of technology, is because the IT system integration with the 3D visualisation technologies, in the past haven’t been mature enough for the average company to connect all the parts together in a cost-effect, intuitive way.


It goes to show that product configurators aren’t just about the ability to bring the product to you at home, but it’s a way to simplify a shop or showroom, therefore cutting costs on valuable floor space, and also allowing customers to visualise the full product range.  To take it one step further, a company could replace their larger stores, with many “mini-shops” or “pop-up stores” using these types of concepts.

In terms of design, one interesting point this concept helps to demonstrate is that the level of photorealism in this instance isn’t necessarily important.  Because you have the real shoe and materials to hand, the purpose of the configurator is to give the mind’s eye a helping hand with picturing colour and material combinations.


All in all, it’s an innovative concept that opens your mind and get’s the creative juices flowing.  It’s refreshing to have an idea that isn’t all digital.  I personally feel it captures the main ingredients a customer needs, however, the practicalities to produce this on a larger scale may not be cost-effective or flexible enough.  If you combine this idea with the execution of Audi City, you can easily see the value and possibilities, albeit on a smaller scale.  Nonetheless, it’s an inspiring design and I hope we come across more blends of the physical and digital worlds.




2 thoughts on “The future of shoe shopping? – 3D shoe configurator by H-umus

  1. You got my attention when you said that a 3D configurator could simplify a shop or showroom and cut costs on valuable floor space. This is something that business owners must consider if they want to save money on spaces and take advantage of online selling. I could imagine how a 3D configurator could drive more sales as it allows the customers to visualize the full product range.

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