Mobile AR has failed to take off in a meaningful way since the introduction of ARKit in 2017. Despite AR’s potential, user adoption has been underwhelming — due to the fact that mobile AR has, thus far, been a single-device experience. However, the recent emergence of AR Cloud capabilities means that AR-enabled devices can now communicate with each other about where digital content persists in the real world: creating an “internet of places.”
The real estate industry is a global marketplace of physical places that has already seen a tangible ROI from virtual reality. However, real estate also stands to benefit from the AR-enabled “internet of places.” I’ve interviewed four industry experts who explain how the real estate industry can immediately benefit from the AR Cloud.
AR narratives for property tours
A challenge that realtors face in selling a property is effectively telling a story about what the property could be, instead of what it currently is. This often leads to a loss of time and resources for realtors. However, AR can help realtors tell a more compelling visual narrative about what a property can become, which can save time in closing deals.
Kevin Gueco is a real estate technology futurist, founder of Gueco Real Estate Group, and a founding partner agent/investor in Reside. He explains that “buyers are often unable to envision their dream home when the story is being told verbally. By adding a visual narrative with AR, realtors can effectively tell a story about how the buyer could create a new life in the property. As such, it’s easier for home buyers to see how they could live in a space, without having the realtors invest the time and energy in physically staging the house. Instead of laying out a full spread for a dinner party, home gym, or Jacuzzi, it’s possible to pin digital representations of these items strategically around a property and then show this to a buyer.”
Gueco continues, “AR cloud technologies enable us to digitally stage a property for many different types of buyers. For example, the visual narrative told to a young couple with a newborn could have 3D assets of a crib and toys spread around in the baby’s room. The pantry could be stocked with digital assets of baby formula and the yard could have a swing set and playground. However, the narrative told to a young bachelor could focus more on entertainment: the den can be digitally staged with a big screen TV and gaming systems, and the yard staged with a top end grill and cases of beer. Due to new AR persistence capabilities, these digital assets can be placed once and then remain in spot for realtors to easily load when giving tours to different types of buyers.”
Self-guided tours for open houses
AR could also enable self-guided tours for open houses. Instead of being limited to one or two days per week to host the property, which requires prep time and may not be convenient for potential buyers, listing agents could use AR cloud capabilities to create a point cloud for a home. Sundar Siva, the director of engineering at Trulia, explains that, “this would allow agents to drop images and videos, or interactive content like self-guided tours onto key areas of the house. Potential buyers could independently change the aesthetic of the home to reflect their preferences and gain a better feel for their future residence.”
Siva continues, “Let’s say a potential buyer arrives at a home for sale, but the listing agent isn’t available to give a tour. The buyer can open an AR app and see a tour route overlaid in the space that guides her into the living room, which contains an interactive feature to customize the walls with different types of virtual paint. The tour could lead into the kitchen, where she can find a video about the granite countertops, and then continue the house tour at her own pace. In the end, the buyer was able to tour the home at a convenient time, customize it to her liking, and feel like she received enough information. The listing agent did not have to travel to the property or repeat the same talk multiple times for all potential buyers.”
The digital twin
AR presents an opportunity to see digital content in the context of the real world. Until very recently, digital creations in AR would only last for the duration of a viewing session. However, in recent months AR providers have developed a new capability: digital object persistence. This new persistence makes it possible to save digital content in the real world and return to it later. This also makes it possible to share content for others to find — the foundation of exciting new use cases not previously seen. When paired with the emerging concept of a “digital twin,” real magic is possible.
Emily Olman, the CEO and cofounder of SpatialFirst, a startup building spatial applications for commercial real estate, and co-president of the VR/AR Association SF Chapter explains that, “a cloud-based ‘digital twin’ of a physical space is a crucial piece of AR infrastructure that can transform how we communicate about and within properties. We can explore a space and access in-situ information about a building, which provides value in decision support for tenants and tenant representatives in the leasing process. For example, if you create content in the digital twin, it will appear in the real world. Drop a photo in the space, and see it in context within the building model itself.”
Olman continues, “The digital twin allows us to access the data we need, at the precise time and place when we need it, both on-site and off-site. In the context of a commercial property, this can include information pinned in-situ about when renovations have been made, which parts of the building are up to code or need maintenance, and provide visualizations about what a space will look like after it’s been remodeled. These capabilities will be transformative to the real estate industry and improve the decision-making process for all stakeholders involved. That value grows exponentially as you leverage the power of the building’s ‘interface for place’ throughout its property lifecycle.”
Home buying as a shared social experience
These new AR capabilities will enable stakeholders to not only access information left behind by others, but also share this content socially. As social media and AR become ubiquitous among Gen Z homebuyers, the art of selling and purchasing a home is poised to become more social.
“Snapchat’s new partnership with Amazon allows users to shop through their smartphone cameras. This will eventually disrupt the real estate market,” says Cathy Hackl, lead futurist at You Are Here Labs and partner at Mixed Reality Ventures. “While home purchases are unlikely to happen through Snapchat, the ability to shop for products through its AR portals can eventually result in more qualified leads for real estate agents.”
Hackl continues, “Gen Z homebuyers can point smartphone cameras at a ‘for sale’ sign and instantly see the price, build date, and whether the house is iOT enabled. They’ll also be able to see if anyone has left any interesting comments about the property, as well as leave comments of their own for others to find later. Ultimately, home-buying will become a shared social experience.”
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