Brilliant game, interior decorating app, learn-to-code primer, or something in between, the interactive, 3D spaces builder known as Rooms THERE went to the App Store. The startup, which earlier raised $10 million in seed funding led by a16z, offers a way to design 3D spaces — its “rooms” — filled with furniture, decor, pets, and small avatars. You can turn the rooms into mini-games, if you like.
The purpose of Rooms is simply to create and explore design, which is something that many people take a break from. However, this “digital equivalent of LEGO,” as the company describes it, also has an educational aspect to it.
First launched on the web earlier this year, the project was inspired by co-founder Jason Toff’s work in Google’s AR/VR division, including the now-shuttered VR and AR app-building service Poly and the 3D modeling tool for VR, Blocks. His co-founder Bruno Oliveira also worked with him at Google, while co-founder by Nick Kruge The background includes time on Smule, Umber, and Google’s YouTube.
The idea with Rooms is to offer an open-ended game where people use their designs as a form of self-expression. But you don’t just have to interact with objects in a visual format – you can also click to reveal code to further customize the hours using Lua, the coding language also used in Roblox. That helps introduce coding concepts to younger users. In fact, Toff told TechCrunch, many schools are choosing Rooms as a way to introduce kids to coding, as an alternative to something like code.org.
Some users just enjoy decorating their 3D spaces for fun.
“(Users of the rooms) want to decorate a room for the calming effects of just placing things and editing them. There is this whole movement that I learned about..cozy games,” explained Toff. Casual games are those that people play without an end goal, they are just for relaxation and rest. “People make rooms for the sake of making rooms.”
For that, there are some rooms Taylor Swift tributes or those built by K-pop fans, for example. Some people connect their rooms and others make them small, interactive games. Some people spend a lot of time in their rooms, designing almost professional-looking spaces that can serve as templates for real-world interior designs.
With the iOS app, which launched today, Rooms offers a TikTok-style vertically scrolling feed where you can explore different rooms created by the community. There are several feeds to choose from including a “For You” feed — which may later be algorithmic but is now more curated — as well as an Editor’s Pick feed and a New feed. As you scroll through the feed, you can like and share favorite rooms, or you can enter camera mode to take a snapshot of the room – which then notifies the creator. That picture can be added to your own room, as a decoration.
You can also design your rooms from scratch using over 6,000 items in the Rooms catalog, up from 1,000 when it launched on the web. The company first seeded its community with 1,000 Voxel 3D objects it commissioned from creators, which can be customized to your space.
Other people’s rooms can also be remixed – that is, used as a template for your own designs. (Original creator credit automatically follows when you remix, Toff notes.)
While you decorate your space, you can enter the editing mode where you can customize anything — such as the size, shape, color, brightness, opacity, pattern and behavior of objects. You can even add media to something, like putting a photo of your cat on the TV screen or a painting, for example. Or you can use a tool powered by OpenAI to generate an image that displays the object.
The new iOS app works on both iPhone and iPad, but Toff says the iPhone is better for browsing than creating.
“It’s better than the iPad. You can code, but I don’t recommend coding on the iPhone because it’s such a small screen. There is not enough room,” he said.
Since the Beta launch of Rooms on the web, the company has registered more than 40,000 users who have since created more than 50,000 rooms. Its daily active users number in the thousands as well.
In the future, Rooms may look to AI to help with room design, but the company is being very careful here. After adding the generative AI feature to the product, some community members were not happy.
“It’s amazing … there’s an interesting push,” Toff said. “I don’t know if it’s the audience or the age or what, but more than I expected, the availability of AI … AI to help you create rooms,” he added. A timeframe for adding AI, however, is still unknown. Currently, the company is focused on launching its mobile app and growing its user base.
Toff said the app is still in beta and will continue to iterate the experience over time, based on user feedback.
“We want to learn from and with the users. We put it a little earlier than it is perfect,” he admitted.
The iOS app for Rooms is available now on the App Store.