I recently watched a video on Facebook demonstrating what I thought was a ‘virtual tour’ of a property. It turns out it was actually augmented reality rather than virtual reality (same concept as that Pokemon Go game that turned adults in crazed children overnight), but I was so impressed with the potential of the technology that I had to find out more.
The creator of the app is a company called TechnicalDrawings.co.uk, run by Mark and Jagoda Duda, and demonstrates an app they’ve created called VRugo (available on Apple and Android). It uses markers or floor plans to create an amazing model of property projects, showing both internal and external elements in a way I’ve never seen before.
They’ve kindly written the following article to summarise how it works, the differences between AR and VR, and some of the potential uses they see in the property world.
Personally I think this type of technology will be extremely useful for architects to bring their schemes to life (both for clients and local planning authorities), developers like us to engage with potential investors and JV partners, and estate agents to help with the sale of units before construction is complete (or even begun!).
In the property world, many decisions are made based on our ability to read and interpret 2D drawings, plans and sections of existing buildings and our visions for them.
For those of us who don’t have a technical degree, it can be very difficult for us to visualise what that office will actually look like once it’s converted to flats, or how spacious that house will be once it’s converted to an HMO, just by looking at drawings on a piece of paper.
Equally, even if we can picture the finished product, we might struggle to sell that vision to an investor or JV partner, or even our local planning officer just by describing what we see as the potential of a tired, derelict old building.
Usually when someone is describing something to us, our imagination puts its own spin on it and it always ends up looking different – sometimes for the better and we end up disappointed with the end result, but often for the worse and we miss out on a great opportunity.
I was actually sitting on a deal packaging course watching a role play sales scenario when something dawned on me: “I can’t do that. I will never sell anything this way. I don’t have the charm, I’m not a born saleswoman. I have to make myself memorable and convincing some other way”.
Then later in the course one of the hosts started talking about the Assisted Sale, and how to lay down the samples of carpet, floor finish, tiles etc, and sell the house almost off plan when it hit me…
“Why not build 3D models of the proposed layouts, add the finishes, and create some renders?
But then I’d have to carry a heavy laptop with me, set up screens and all of the cables… They will lose interest before I start…
And what if I meet a potential business partner on a plane or whilst travelling?
Showcasing 3D models on screen in a restricted space is not that easy, and it might actually be discouraging. I could print out the renders, but then I will still have to carry a folio with the pictures everywhere I go.
What if I could show the property on my mobile or tablet, popping up from a set of drawings or even a business card?
What if I could show my vision for it in 1:1 scale and better yet… give it to the investor?”
This is exactly where Immersive Technologies are coming in to play.
Augmented Reality (AR)
AR gives you access to 3D content via scanning a specific marker, to launch an app, video or 3D model of a building on product on your mobile device or tablet.
In the video below you can see an example of a 2D house development coming to life in 3D by simply pointing by simply pointing a mobile at the plans. You can then clearly see the whole design from every angle.
No need for 10 pages of Power Point presentations, A1 printouts of floorplans, or calling your folio everywhere! You can even link multiple properties to a single marker.
Could you imagine having your whole portfolio ready to showcase from a single business card?
Virtual Reality (VR)
Virtual Reality completely replaces your world with a virtual one but is extremely challenging for content creators to give a life-like experience. You can create virtual tours through your design in a 1:1 scale, carry out design reviews and present your idea before any real work even starts.
Virtual Reality is mostly associated with Oculus and powerful gaming hardware, lots of cables, hassle and experience required to operate it. It seems to be an expensive toy rather than a business tool offering a any real return on investment.
Can you imagine any serious investor sitting what THAT on his head in a coffee shop or restaurant during a business meeting? But what if you could replace the bulky headset and complicated equipment with your mobile phone and something as portable as Google Cardboard?
It gives you instant access, no cables to untangle, and the only experience you need is touching the screen with your finger to walk/stop, and moving your head to look around.
By using mobile phones and portable glasses you can always have full scale digital models literally in your pocket, and better yet, you can give the portable glasses to your investor as a souvenir so they can review it later and show it to others.
But how do you decide between AR and VR for your property business?
The easy answer would be to have both. All you need, after all, is a mobile phone, business card, and portable glasses, and you have the ability to switch between AR and VR as needed.
We live in a digital era. Everything is available online – shopping, communication, data storage, and processing. So how do you cut through the noise?
How do you stand out from the crowd and reach potential clients, engage them, and keep them engaged with your vision longer than your competitors?
One option is to create your own 3D business portfolio to carry in your mobile, using your business card as a launch marker, so when you give them to potential business partners they can download the app themselves and show off this cool new technology to everyone they know – that’s free marketing!
You can even give them 3D glasses to go with your card (at a cost of £5 – £15 per set) so they can actually walk through the projects in their own time.
And the best part is, with advancements in technology and processing, getting a company like technicaldrawings.co.uk to build 3D models of your concept and turn them into Augmented and/or Virtual Reality is one of the most cost effective marketing tools available today!