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Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality: The Future of Real Estate

By Sean Spear

Virtual and augmented reality, once pipe-dreams of sci-fi enthusiasts, are now officially part of our generation’s reality. Every year computing power increases exponentially, allowing technological developments like the ability to visualize data in ways never before imagined. Most industries have always been limited by 2D digital representations, but will soon be irrevocably affected by the new horizon of interactive, 3D virtual renderings. These advances have opened the door to new technologies that will fundamentally change the way we interact with the physical world.

Virtual reality (VR) is a technology that utilizes ultra-powerful video headsets to immerse users in a completely interactive, real-time rendering of a formulated digital reality. Augmented reality (AR) is a technology that overlays digital renderings on top of objects that exist in our real world.

I recently spoke on a panel about LA’s burgeoning tech scene and came out of the experience incredibly excited by the possibilities and implications for these new technologies. Here are some of the practical applications we are already beginning to see in the world we know today, and what can we expect in the future.

Augmented Reality

Pokémon Go is a game that has been getting a lot of publicity lately, and is the most recent and prominent example of the potential adaptation of AR. This game has built a user base of tens of millions of people in less than a month, leading people around cities with the goal of catching Pokémon. Here’s the catch: these Pokémon are digitally rendered on top of a live image of the real world as seen through your cell phone’s camera. It is one of the first games to merge the digital and physical world, and it’s getting a lot of app developers thinking of new, practical ways to use AR to positively affect our everyday lives.

Another cool example of AR is Google Glass. These “smart” glasses incorporate technology to seamlessly ‘layer in’ computer generated objects and data known as ‘holograms,’ and overlay them on your view of the physical world.

The potential for AR applications in real estate is huge. I foresee building owners getting creative and using popular AR apps like Pokémon to increase foot traffic to their buildings – rewarding people in the digital realm for coming to their property. We could very soon see an application that allows you to look at a building through Google Glass or via a smartphone app and instantly pull up interactive building information – vacancy rate, rent, square footage available, etc. With AR the access to data would be endless, giving brokers, owners, and tenants a snapshot of relevant information on the marketplace.

Virtual Reality

VR provides an immersive, 360-degree experience via headset that allows you to walk through and interact with a computer-simulated environment filled with artificial sensory stimuli that can feel incredibly real. These headsets are becoming increasingly popular, with tech industry leaders mass-producing coveted models including the Vive (HTC), Oculus Rift (Facebook), Gear VR (Samsung), and PlayStation VR (Sony). Market Tracker IDC projects sales of 9.6 million VR units and $2.3 billion in hardware revenue in 2016, with sales ballooning to 64.8 million units and ~$15 billion by 2020.

The technology is mostly focused on video/gaming experiences right now, but developers and architects are already seeing the benefits of embracing these new advances and applying them to their industries. I’ve worked with architects who have designed elaborate build-outs and, instead of showing tenants 2D pictures of their soon-to-be spaces, they present their clients with immersive, 3D visual renderings using VR headsets.

I predict these technologies are going to become so advanced that tenants will be able to make adjustments to the space in real time when working with an architect or interior designer. For example, if a tenant doesn’t like the kitchen layout or wants to move a wall, the architect will have the ability to make changes to the rendering while the tenant virtually “walks” the building. Super cool! And don’t forget, this could all be done in an office. Because VR headsets are very portable, they can be brought just about anywhere, saving the tenant time and money. It should be noted, however, that it currently takes a powerful computer to run a lot of VR programs, so these advances aren’t reality – yet.

Virtual reality and augmented reality are here to stay. These technologies should certainly be on every professional’s radar, as they are going to start shaping the possibilities of a better world around us. I’m super excited to see how VR and AR continue to evolve. With all the creative minds in the tech and real estate industries, the possibilities are truly endless.

Sean Spear is a senior vice president with Hughes Marino, a global corporate real estate advisory firm that exclusively represents tenants and buyers. Contact Sean at 1-844-662-6635 or sean@hughesmarino.com to learn more.

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