Disclosure: Bryn Erickson the Founder and CTO of Architech 3D Imaging
It seems like you can’t read about the real estate industry without hearing about companies Surefield and Redfin getting involved in 3D and virtual tours in a major way. Surefield and Redfin were both founded by David Eraker but have slightly similar strategies. Redfin has commited to 3D scanning all listings that that they acquire where Surefield was founded around their own proprietary virtual tour capture and software technology. Two different approaches but the trend is clear. The way people experience real estate is about to change dramatically.
Why you say? OK lets look at the order of events and some facts. First conventional “virtual tours” are almost universally terrible. They are not actually virtual or tours but usually a slideshow with some stock music and sometimes a video or two. Nothing about this is virtual nor does it simulate the experience of actually touring a home. Surefield was founded for this very reason. They wanted to create a better way for buyers to experience and buy a home. But why would they do this now when Redfin is getting into the same game with their commitment to 3D scan all listings.
The answer is virtual reality. What!? Yeah VR. in March of 2014 Zuck & Company at Facebook put up 2 BILLION DOLLARS for a start up VR company called Oculus VR. Since then its been off to the races with virtually every major company making moves in the VR world. Samsung with Oculus on the Gear VR, Sony, Apple and Google with their cardboard project and their $450 Million dollar investment in Magic Leap. Magic Leap by the way has no official product nor does anyone really know anything about what its plans are. They did file some patents though and wow. Prepare to have your brain melted. Google’s cardboard was created as a novelty for their I/O event and now there are very likely over one million cardboard units in existence in both purchased and home made forms. You can get one for your mobile phone here and I highly recommend doing so. It’s so fun its just silly. Both Redfin and Surefield are centered around sellers and creating a better way for buyers to experience their listings. VR will do this for them and advances in VR and computer vision probably led to the formation of Surefield.
Real estate may very well be the second largest market for VR after entertainment in the next few years. In fact VR to sell houses is almost certainly the major strategy behind both Surefield and Redfin’s investment in this technology. I’m sure you are thinking “Oh this is like social media all over again” and I assure you it is not. This is like the internet all over again. Magic Leap founder Rony Abovitz said “When you see this, you will see that this is computing for the next 30 or 40 years.” You might think he is a crackpot and he is. But he is a crackpot that sold his last company, Mako Surgical for $1.65 billion, so he certainly seems to be a good kind of crackpot if ever there was one.
To experience VR is to understand the possibilities. In all the VR demos that I have done it never ceases to amaze me at all the ideas that start pouring out of those that experience real estate in VR. Its really amazing and powerful technology in that sense. It is instantly immersive and inspiring. So what is your 3D or VR strategy? Wait until you have to do it to stay relevant or get in early and transform your market position? Either way decisions will have to be made in the very near future if you want to be prepared for the real estate marketplace of tomorrow.