Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) have seen a dramatic infusion of investment in the last decade. The depth of investment in gaming is evident, but across the economy, more organisations are experimenting with VR/AR.
Real estate is one of the industries that is forging ahead at pace. A recent survey by Perkins Coie LLP positioned Real Estate fourth in a list of sectors expected to attract the most VR/AR-related investment over the next 12 months.
This industry is using VR/AR to improve the customer experience and transform the design and development of new buildings and spaces. Here’s how…
If you’ve bought a property, then you know how time-consuming and stressful the process can be. You view property pictures and descriptions online and then visit your preferred properties. This takes time, effort and money, especially if you have to travel long distances. And on the other side, property vendors are spending time, effort and money organising and conducting site visits.
This is where VR is adding tremendous value. By putting on a headset, buyers are transported inside selected properties from the comfort of their own home or the estate agent’s office. This virtual visit gives a stronger sense of the dimensions, space and potential of the property than a traditional brochure. This enhanced tangibility (compared with photos and videos) helps narrow down the properties buyers need to visit, and saves them valuable time and effort.
And for properties that are under construction, virtual visits can be interactive, offering an effective way to customise the property on the fly. You can change the lighting with a flick of a switch, experiment with different coloured paint and place furnishings down to bring the property to life - better than photos or videos ever could.
Bringing ideas to life through visualisation is a core component of real estate. Augmented reality is already being used to bring 2D plans to life. Through an app on your mobile device, you could transform paper-based plans into 3D models. This gives you a richer and deeper view of the plans and can facilitate quicker and more effective design. And AR glasses are adding tangible value to the build phase - construction workers can access plans on site through AR glasses, helping them get ahead of potential planning problems and reduce building waste.
Architects and designers are already leveraging VR to test and visualise their plans and collaborate with multiple stakeholders in virtual environments. They can remove walls, relocate stairs and tailor design features as the project develops. This helps them reduce costs by making decisions earlier in the project life, testing factors and features without having to build first and eliminating errors and identifying problems early in the design process. It also helps bring the vision to life, making it easier to communicate complex concepts and help meet client expectations. For example, a London-based transport company has built a virtual reality environment of one of its stations so it can test changes before trying in the real world. The environment uses data based on real crowd behaviour and train timetables. Users can understand more about the flow of people through a station and explore how layout changes will affect this flow. In addition, immersing the user in the environment can help generate interest in the project, and encourage fundraising for future work.
So, if VR/AR can add so much value to real estate, why aren’t we seeing it being more widely adopted? Like every new technology, mass adoption takes time, effort and money. The Perkins Coie survey mentioned earlier highlighted user experience as the biggest obstacle to mass adoption of VR/AR. For me, this reflects the growing need to make headsets and eyewear lighter, cheaper and more accessible, helping the use of VR/AR become more the norm.