So, what do you do when you get tired of creating zombies for your virtual reality game? You turn your skills to real estate.
Virtual reality is a winner for anyone developing a new building or complex, because cheaper rendering and headsets allow us to show a vision of a yet-to-be-built property remotely for less cost.
Image source: Studio 216
Plus, it’s far easier to get investors to sign on the dotted line once they’ve used the so-called “empathy machine”. And city and local planners can use VR to get a better idea of a building’s bulk, light and overshadowing, enabling them to make more informed decisions.
VR transcends the mundane for new property developments
Virtual Reality (VR) has been around since the 1950s and at first it seemed as if it would remain in the shadows of gaming and other entertainment. However, the smartphone changed all that.
Now it’s easy to attach your smartphone to a low-cost headset and view your VR project from anywhere in the world. The VR ecosystem means that VR coders are working on applications for real estate, health, retail, education and engineering, to name some of the top areas.
“Smartphones have revolutionised VR for property developers.”
As VR costs come down, property developers can more easily invest in high-quality building rendering. The use of VR is set to transform the property building industry, allowing property developers to manage external environmental risk factors more effectively, through their ability to visualise sunlight paths, protected views, and the overall impact of a development project.
Get investor buy-in from anywhere in the world
Cheaper ‘untethered’ VR headsets (with a Google Cardboard headset priced at anywhere from just under A$6) mean you can send investors a headset and they can stream the property development experience through a smartphone from anywhere.
Let them experience the space, depth and flow of your building. Use a drone to capture views from any height and patch them to your rendering. Compared with fitting out a display suite and flying in potential buyers, VR is now the most cost-effective method of allowing investors to visualise your development.
“Let investors experience space, depth, flow and views of your development before you even build your project.”
How real estate agents and developers use VR now
In what may be the most ambitious use of VR in property development to date, Wagstaffs, a UK digital communications agency, created virtual cities for both London and Manchester. The London version of VUCITY allows developers and city planners to see how the development affects the surrounding area so all can manage risk and adjust designs.
VUCITY, combined with the Wagstaffs VUIT application, takes visitors on a virtual tour of a building development. This remarkable technology allows a user to toggle between existing buildings and proposed developments, view transport links in real time, and understand light as well as upper-level and street views.
In Australia, Laing+Simmons is using Start VR software to sell their apartment developments. One of their first was in St Leonards on Sydney’s north side. For potential buyers, understanding how the completed development will look is as convenient as donning a headset and viewing the app through a smartphone. They get a real life’ feel for the space, even down to the ambient noises and lighting.
Users won’t, however, be able to move physically around a virtual room except within a limited, defined space. Kane Tietzel, a Start VR founder, has highlighted that this is a deliberate design intention for VR coders. Making sure users are comfortable and safe while still able to enjoy their immersive experience is a top consideration.
Vantage Interactive is another company that offers immersive VR project tour software. They’ve developed a 4D construction simulation app that supports both worker safety and investor peace of mind.
Back to the zombies and real-estate VR
Zero Latency, an Australian start-up whose funding was crowd-sourced before REA Group and Carthona Capital realised its potential, had its genesis creating a VR game about killing zombies. After zombies, it wasn’t a huge step to adapt their coding skills to real estate developments. From their 400 sqm warehouse in Melbourne, users can now free roam the empty space, walk from virtual room to virtual balcony, and experience their surroundings in a more realistic scenario.
Tethered or untethered for development property VR?
This is a tough question as both have their pros and cons. So-called ‘tethered’ virtual reality technology (such as Oculus Rift or HTC Vive) ‘tether’ a user to a powerful PC and allow that user to walk around within a defined space. (Note: Microsoft HoloLens is a higher-quality tethered device but is more strictly for ‘Augmented Reality’ use.)
At present, the quality for tethered devices is higher but so is the price of the headset (anywhere from A$800 each). On the plus side, if you’re inviting visitors to your space, you need only buy a few headsets.
‘Untethered’ versions (such as Samsung Gear VR or Google Cardboard) offer a slightly lower-quality immersive experience but, at around A$6-15 for a Google Cardboard headset, so you can afford to give them away. Once potential buyers receive the headset, they can simply download an app to their mobile phone and stream the experience in the comfort of their own home.
VR is here to stay in the real estate development market
We’ve seen how Laing+Simmons and Wagstaffs are using VR to help developers, planners and buyers. VR is a powerful tool for real estate developers and the market is growing. Goldman Sachs estimate the market for VR in real estate is likely to be around US$2.6 billion by 2025, trebling from its current base.
“Goldman Sachs estimate the real estate VR market will be US$2.6 billion by 2025.”
To put this in perspective; who’d have believed in 1990, when mobile phones were the size of a house brick, that your phone would not only fit in your pocket but become your primary communications and information tool?
VR has the potential to be all your smartphone offers and more. Get the edge. Consumers will demand it.