Manufacturer Coast Spas is introducing an iPad app that will help potential customers see how the product will look in its setting in real time, as opposed to a static picture.

To use the app, the consumer places a piece of paper with the Coast Spas logo where they expect the spa would go. If, for instance, they want a spa on their patio, they would place a piece of paper on the actual patio, where the spa would go. With the app activated, the potential customer points the iPad toward the sheet of paper. The app converts the Coast Spas logo into a 3-dimensional rendering of its Cascade model spa. The customer can walk around the piece of paper, continuing to train the iPad on the logo, to view the “spa” from different angles. So the effect seems as if the user is looking at the actual spa through a camera viewfinder. The user can choose which color and shapes to test.

“We think it’s even better than a showroom environment,” said Oran Wakelam, marketing manager for the producer, based in Langley, British Columbia, Canada. “You get an idea of the size, shape and how it’s going to look in this backyard … and how the colors would work with the colors of your house or the bricks of your foundation.”

The effect is made possible with a technology called augmented reality. Coast Spas developed the app using the same software kit that Audi and Ikea use for their augmented-reality apps, Wakelam said.

Currently, the app only displays the Cascade model and works on iPads. In the future, Wakelam said, the company plans to evolve the technology to register other Coast Spas models, and to be used on iPhones as well.

“This is a forward-thinking tool for shopping in the future, and we’re really excited about where this is going to go and how we can build on this,” Wakelam said. “We think that [the technology will help] not only spa companies but all sorts of businesses that sell items that aren’t so easy to take home and try out.”