Image via Matterport
For decades now, sci-fi visions of virtual reality, from The Matrix to Ready Player One, have been packed full of action and adventure—virtual car chases and virtual kung fu. In the popular imagination, VR is a place to live out fantasies, and while increasing sophistication surely creates no small number of opportunities for wish fulfillment, the practical applications are just as important for driving innovation forward and solving problems in everyday life. From VR art galleries to movie theaters, campsites, karaoke bars, and comedy clubs, the tech bridges distances between people and places. Nowhere is this more useful, perhaps, than in real estate, where buyers often have to travel hundreds or thousands of miles to view a property before they buy—or buy sight-unseen and prepare for unpleasant surprises.
For the past couple years, both start-ups and well-established giants have offered VR technology as a means of touring properties in far-off places, or still in development, or currently rented to tenants and not quite in the shape an agent would like. Using Facebook’s Oculus Rift, Amazon’s Sumerian—a new VR and augmented reality tool—or real estate-specific VR services like Matterport and Transported, potential buyers can not only get a sense of different layouts in properties still under construction, but they can also get a sense of “space and depth” that is impossible to convey with 2-D video and photography, notes Stephanie Davis of Virtual Xperience, a company that creates VR experiences of properties still in development or under construction, with both 2-D images and 3-D walkthroughs and flythroughs.
Image via Matterport
While VR is obviously a boon to developers, sales agents, and purchasers, if also offers incredibly useful applications for existing tenants, who may soon be able to browse VR libraries for (virtually) hands-on tutorials answering such questions, notes Venture Beat, as “How do you work the laundry? The security system won’t work for me! Where is the switch board and how do I use it?” With VR technology, potential renters and buyers can also populate empty properties with their own choices of furnishings and décor to personalize before they commit.
As Forbes notes, the “virtual staging technology” company roOomy draws “from a catalog of more than 100,000 furniture and household items…. This is the future of open houses and online property marketing.” Available on Google Play, the roOomy app mixes real-time live views of properties with customers’ own selections of interiors design ideas. These kinds of applications can sell apartments in New York, and they can sell office space in any major city, allowing companies to see first-hand, in a way, how various spaces can accommodate their needs.
While it grows more sophisticated every year, VR still has a way to go. Moving too quickly through some virtual environments can sometimes cause glitches, and while some VR renderings are photorealistic simulations, some still resemble computer game environments. Nonetheless, as Andreas Johansson, of Berkovitz Development Group says, the technology is “a game-changer…. You no longer have to rely on basic renderings to showcase your project, clients can now see through VR what they’re buying, and developers can get deals done quicker.”