Washington real estate has greatly benefitted from one offshoot of “virtual” technology. Just click on a listing’s “virtual tour” button and a progression of two-dimensional views of the listed property parade across your laptop or smartphone screen.
Those Washington listing virtual tours are real estate’s first step toward “VR”—Virtual Reality. VR is the more immersive version that allows viewers to move around within three-dimensional renderings of computer-generated environments. A current example is the TV commercials depicting delighted VR goggle-wearers experiencing animated fictional worlds. They demonstrate two things: 1) the people who don the goggles look as if they truly do feel as if they are surrounded by a mind-bendingly realistic version of reality; and 2) they also look as if they are disconnected from the actual world around them (as when they duck to get out of the way of something that doesn’t really exist).
As it relates to Washington real estate, there is a slightly different emerging technology. You might say that it’s half-way between today’s virtual tours and full virtual reality. This is “AR”—Augmented Reality—which combines the real and virtual worlds. It allows consumers to superimpose computer-generated images into real life scenes. Some applications are already popping up, with more on the way thanks to support from the latest operating system releases which allow software developers to dream up applications that take advantage of the possibilities.
IKEA is one company that has developed an application to project how any given furniture model would look in a customer’s own home environment. Customers need a copy of the company catalog and access to IKEA’s website. Simply click on the sample item shown on the site, then position the catalog on the floor where the furniture would be placed. Just point your smartphone at the scene and take the picture—the app recreates the scene with the IKEA piece in place, properly scaled with lighting and shadows correctly rendered!
My guess is that it certain that Washington homeowners will soon have a lot of AR remodeling aids to help them visualize design choices. One countertop manufacturer has already developed an application that shows exactly what different surface finishes would look like atop an existing counter.
House hunters will benefit, too. The Realtor.com web developers are working on “augmenting reality” in the same way that Hollywood adds subtitles to movies. Their “Street Peek” application will allow house hunters to walk down a street, point their smartphone (Android, at first) at a house, and watch a cartoon bubble pop up over its roof with text showing whether it is for sale, the listing price or most recent sale price, and other information drawn from the NAR database. For Washington new home buyers choosing model home variations as well as for builders eager to show the potential of an unfinished space, the only current drawback is the difference between the look of the real thing and the computer-generated image. Count on that difference rapidly disappearing.
Whether you are buying or selling, I work to keep my clients informed about the coming advances in the tools affecting their Washington real estate options. Call me!