Disrupting Real Estate with Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality

Introduction

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) have implications far beyond the gaming industry and its entertainment capacity. One of the more prominent and emerging use cases lie in real estate, where VR and AR tech is transforming the property market by creating an entirely new ecosystem. The use of this tech in the real estate sector is designed to provide a more immersive and interactive experience for prospective buyers, which revolutionizes the existing practices of property marketing. Property gamification using VR and AR offers a new reality where customers can tour a property remotely and from multiple viewing angles. All of this can lead to an impressive range of applications in the real estate sector; VR and AR provides a user with the added ability to get personalized enhancements during their virtual viewing of a property. We think [virtual and augmented reality have] the potential to transform how we interact with almost every industry today, and we think it will be equally transformative both from a consumer and an enterprise perspective. - Goldman Sachs With the inroads that VR and AR tech is making in the real estate sector, in-person tours have the potential of becoming a thing of the past.

The surging adoption of AR/VR tech is building a new reality for real estate, but what are the possibilities that they are offering?

Virtual and augmented reality have the potential to change the property market, especially with the recent strides made in terms of developing consumer-level technology. VR and AR tech has made a commercial breakthrough in 2016, with Oculus Ri, HTC’s Vive, PlayStation’s Morpheus projects and Google’s Cardboard. Microso’s HoloLens is leading the charge in credible consumer augmented reality devices. As such, currently, the scope for Virtual and Augmented reality-based expansion into the real estate sector is immense. This new range of accessible and affordable soware and hardware means that the property marketplace can offer an enhanced consumer experience for every touch point in the real estate experience, from planners, architects, builders, and clients; as well as for the real estate agents who are invested in the process.

The real estate applications of VR

Virtual Reality is a powerful tool for creating compelling experiences for the buyer, allowing real estate professionals to showcase homes and properties digitally from anywhere in the world. With VR, a prospective buyer or developer can access a lifelike simulation of any property with only the assistance of a VR headset. Virtual Reality offers a holistic and immersive experience that can be leveraged to provide an emotional connection with a remote property, with virtual walk-throughs that allow clients to inspect a property in convincing three-dimensions. The VR potential for architecture and real estate is frankly immense, with artificially conjured 3D environments taking out the hassle of visiting properties or eliminating the limitations of inspecting an online listing. From general options such as Facebook’s Oculus Rift to HTC’s Vive, VR in real estate is also supplemented by industry specific products such as Matterport. Matterport is a 3D imaging provider that develops photo-realistic renderings of properties that can be viewed through a virtual reality headset, which creates an experience that is immersive as it is interactive. This product creates a 3D showcase, which is an online, immersive 3D model that buyers can explore. Matthew Hood Real Estate Group at Sotheby’s International Realty has been allowing clients to tour luxury homes in LA with Samsung VR Gear, which allows a remotely positioned customer to walk through the house while navigating using a hand controller. Hood says, ‘I can lead a VR tour remotely and even see where the client is looking, which allows me to address things like kitchen counter style while they're looking at it—just as I would in a real world tour.’ Beacon technology provides a similar means of automating and revamping the real estate purchasing process, especially when there are large homes to be toured. Beacons can push information to the mobile device of a potential home buyer while they walk through the property in real time; the customer will receive important information about the special features of the home that can make for a richer and more personalized experience. The strategic use of beacon tech will transform the traditional tour with a gamified and interactive aspect that can be hugely beneficial when it comes to creating and retaining the interest of potential buyers. VR also has significant implications for infrastructure design, where VR enhanced CAD models can provide architects, planners, as well as clients to with the ability to walk around a space that currently does not exist. This facilitates and expedites the process of reviewing, revising and finalizing plans for a potential building without involving tweaks mid-construction.

Real estate applications of AR

Augmented reality overlays a 3D digital image atop the physical world, using mobile phones, smartglasses, helmets and visors to create a mixed reality enhanced with 3D animated visuals. This allows for a visualization of property in 3D, while also allowing for the creation of an intricate and fully realized vision of said property. With AR technology, real estate professionals can turn flat images into interactive holograms for their clients; AR can create 3D models out of ordinary blueprints and photos, and clients can customize these digital home replicas to test out potential new features and additions to a property. With Pokemon Go and Snapchat bringing augmented reality into the mainstream, products such as Microsoft’s HoloLens provide a means of overlaying digital data and realities onto the real world, giving rise to a ‘mixed reality’ with which people can interact. A realtor can customize a home to suit a particular buyer’s taste, or rearrange a space with different furniture combinations and materials finishes to let clients see how it can be laid out differently. For instance, Homestyler promises ‘Your own 3D design playground’ with a functionality that places ‘high-quality 3D models of real furniture products in your rooms.’ AR can project an as yet uncompleted project as a fully-formed development, with various buildings laid out in estimated locations.

The future

While VR and AR tech is in the process of transforming the real estate experience, the actual tech continues to evolve as well. With potential and existing applications for every sector of the real estate industry, these two technologies can transform a potential building project into its final version without ever having to break ground. Bringing innovation into real estate with interactive 3D visualizations is simply the start; there are untold applications in terms of VR and AR’s time saving potential as well as of possibilities for overcoming the logistic difficulties of the industry. With consumer-level technology becoming even more affordable, VR and AR digital products and services can help real estate professionals establish a strong ROI, while expediting the process of closing deals due to increased productivity levels.

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