Virtual reality could revolutionize the real estate industry

Asia Pacific / Innovation

According to Palmer Luckey, who built Oculus Rift—the first virtual reality (VR) headset of the modern world, then sold it to Facebook (for $2 billion!)—“VR is the first technology that tries to make digital communication not just more efficient or more useful, but also more compelling and more human,” and technology is advancing to the point that we may be “capturing full depth, full light fields, full sound fields—basically getting very close to capturing an actual event.”

The use of VR is becoming increasingly prevalent in real estate—particularly in residential sales—but other sectors are catching up. How is our industry using virtual reality, and what can we expect to see in the future?

Creating transparency

JLL recently launched VR360 services, a VR tool that provides 360-degree spherical photos of building interiors. The technology allows viewers to look around in all directions, as well as view the stage-by-stage progress of a fit-out or build from wherever they are in the world.

“It brings the client into the space, via their smartphone, tablet or computer. And provides our clients with an ‘as-built’ photographic record of their new office or base building, something that is great to share with the project team, boards, clients and their staff to help with stakeholder engagement,” says Ian Chadsey, Solutions Development Director of Project and Development Services at JLL.

“The value to the client is immense—VR360 technology enables transparency, due diligence, record keeping and accountability,” explains Martin Hinge, CEO of Project and Development Services for JLL Asia Pacific. “And there are equal gains for the clients’ facility managers because they end up with a full record of the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, thereby helping them conceptualize future renovation decisions.”

And measuring angles, wall, door and window-frame dimensions is all possible now via VR tools. “This is beneficial for contractors, designers and project managers when working with clients to deliver projects,” says Chadsey. “It also helps builders, engineers and architects with planning, prototyping and construction phases through to project realization.”

A new view in urban planning

But how are VR applications being applied more broadly in the real estate sector?

There’s been a fair amount of chatter about new innovations involving VR in the real estate space. For example, real estate technology innovator Vroom has showcased how VR could be used to deliver aerial views for urban planning purposes.

Also, the Singapore government is developing Virtual Singapore, a dynamic three-dimensional city model and collaborative data platform. Initiated at a cost of US$52 million and due for completion this year, the platform will enable users to develop sophisticated tools and applications for testing concepts and services, planning and decision making, and research on technologies to solve emerging challenges for Singapore.

The future of  VR in construction and real estate

As technology advances and the cost of engineering reduces, the prevalence of virtual experiences will increase. Real estate is already looking to other industries, such as retail and gaming, for smart adaptation of VR.

In construction, we can expect to see the increased application of augmented reality: new ways to help clients conceptualize their build, further reduce delivery time, and increase the use of wall x-ray to assist in future facility management.

Technology will allow groups, such as investors or builders, to enter and explore property at any stage of its construction—virtually and simultaneously—from wherever they are. And we may soon be constructing or redesigning our offices or factories through tools utilizing VR goggles and a smart device, and this technology may very well be only a few years away.

Innovation and smart adaption is key. “We have a team in Australia developing a new technology for design delivery that includes design, live costing and programming, and a new collaborative workflow system—a live design in a virtual environment—another way we are leading the industry in the application of technology to assist our clients”, says Hinge.

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How can you use VR for your real estate projects? Find out.