How Virtual Reality will impact the Property Industry?

Pokémon Go has hit the headlines around the world this year as it scooped up millions of loyal fans with its augmented reality experience. Such is the popularity of the smartphone app, based on a video game from the 90s, that it has even generated its own clusters of gamers, who congregate in hotspots such as outside Big Ben in London or the Colosseum in Rome. The game offers an augmented reality experience, using the smartphone’s camera to provide a live view of the world and the smartphone’s GPS to track players.

Living in a digital age where augmented reality can be so accessible is an incredible development. And although hunting for Pokémon looks like fun and it’s fantastic to see the results of teaming up smartphone technology with gaming, there is a very serious side to this.

Take a moment to consider how augmented reality, virtual reality and gaming technology could transform the property industry. Well, as long as they’re not out catching Pokémon.

The property industry is preparing to go through a seismic change as virtual reality looks set to take the industry by storm. The first virtual reality experiences made most users feel a little dizzy and nauseous because of the frame rates. But the next generation of headsets has moved on in leaps and bounds.

Today the increasing availability and affordability of virtual reality headsets mean that before a development is even built, people could walk down a street for the first time and understand how big the building is. They could go inside a proposed building, see it from a variety of angles and gain a true sense of its impact on the street scene.

We see buildings from street level most of the time in our everyday lives, so if virtual reality can allow you to view a proposed building from eye level, it gives you an honest impression of how it will fit in once it is built. It will help people assess if height, overshadowing or design will be an issue. And it will allow residents to visualize sunlight throughout the course of the day and see the impact a new development could have on their home or office. It will help to secure by-in by presenting the facts in the most honest way possible.

Virtual and augmented reality are already being deployed in the property industry and it’s only going to continue. Sotheby’s is including an option to view its listings via 3D and virtual reality, which will be viewable on smartphones, VR headsets and desktop sites. And there are already digital planning tools which borrow from the gaming industry like VUCITY, an interactive and accurate 3D digital model, currently covering 200sqkm of London. VUCITY allows viewers to see a macro view of the city and zoom into the micro detail of individual buildings. It gives anyone involved in the built environment of London a new view of the city and a revolutionary tool that can transform the planning and communication process around proposed and new developments and infrastructure projects.

Using the city model, it is possible to overlay GIS data, sightlines, LVMFs, transport links and sunlight paths to help planners understand developers’ proposals in context. Features include the ability to add existing, proposed and consented developments.

Just as today millions are spending their spare time hunting for Pokémon, in the future VR and AR are going to touch people’s lives in many ways. VR and AR will play a pivotal role in entertainment, housing and infrastructure. It is possible that one day having a virtual reality headset at home will be as normal as having a television or a smartphone is today.

Immersive virtual reality will have a huge impact on the property industry. It will be a valuable tool in securing buy-in from planners, councillors and local residents, in visualising a development and in marketing and selling it before it is even built. Virtual reality will have long term and real world applications for property – this won’t be a flash in the pan fashion. So as Pokémon Go continues to prove popular, the use of ‘real world gaming’ in the property industry is accelerating. But it’s true to say we will be playing for much higher stakes.


Top photo: © Gettyimages/ Franck Boston

About Author

Jason Hawthorne

Jason Hawthorne is the MD of Wagstaffs, a leading integrated communications agency which uses design and communication combined with pioneering real time tools to create effective marketing and communication campaigns. Wagstaffs supports clients across a wide range of national and international infrastructure projects, property marketing campaigns and public consultations. Jason is currently leading the launch of the first ever interactive model of London, VUCITY, a revolutionary tool which promises to transform the planning and communications process around proposed and new developments in the capital.

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