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What agents need to know about VR, AR, and MR

Real estate is a magnet for three new emerging technologies: Virtual Augmented Reality (VR) Augmented Reality (AR), and most recently, a hybrid being called Mixed Reality (MR). All of these technologies are either impacting – or have the potential to dramatically impact – the real estate industry. Let’s take a look at what agents need to know about these exciting technologies. Please keep in mind that because it is new technology, it is possible that not all these are available through out North America yet.


First, let’s define each technology and how they are different.


Virtual Reality

According to the UK-based Virtual Reality Society, “Virtual Reality (VR) is the term used to describe a three-dimensional, computer-generated environment which can be explored and interacted with by a person. That person becomes part of this virtual world or is immersed within this environment and while there, is able to manipulate objects or perform a series of actions. There are many different types of virtual reality systems, but they all share the same characteristics, such as the ability to allow the person to view three-dimensional images. These images appear life-sized to the person. Plus, they change as the person moves around their environment, which corresponds with the change in their field of vision. The aim is for a seamless join between the person’s head and eye movements and the appropriate response, e.g., change in perception. This ensures that the virtual environment is both realistic and enjoyable.”

Augmented Reality

Technopedia defines Augmented Reality (AR) “as a type of interactive, reality-based display environment that takes the capabilities of computer generated display, sound, text, and effects to enhance the user’s real-world experience. Augmented reality combines real and computer-based scenes and images to deliver a unified but enhanced view of the world. Augmented reality has many different implementation models and applications, but its primary objective is to provide a rich audiovisual experience. AR works by employing computerized simulation and techniques such as image and speech recognition, animation, head-mounted and hand-held devices and powered display environments to add a virtual display on top of real images and surroundings.” Think Pokeman Go.


The most recent breakthrough was last fall when Apple released its Augmented Reality Kit (ARkit) – an augmented reality (AR) development platform for iOS mobile devices. (It’s about to release ARkit 2). It made it easier for developers to make augmented reality apps for the iPhone and iPad, easily accessible in the App Store.


In Real Estate, Inman News reported that several real estate apps released augmented reality features for iPads and iPhones users, including
• Homesnap (from the Broker Public Portal): allows users to see the property lines of a home as they are walking
• PLNAR: generates floor plans without the need to manually measure and document room dimensions
• Gicplan: allows users to create floor plans while walking. It then automatically computes the required amount of materials for DIY projects, including paint or flooring, based on the plan’s dimensions


What’s the difference between VR and AR?

The reason people confuse VR and AR is because they are in many ways similar:
• They both enhance environments with great virtual detail
• They both use computer-generated graphics displays
• They both are designed to help immerse users into an experience


The big difference:

• VR uses a headset to visualize a real-life setting in 3D
• AR does not need a headset and instead layers virtual elements into real-world images through apps on phones, tablets, and laptops


Enter Mixed Reality

Mixed reality (MR) is a form of augmented reality that is a hybrid of VR and AR. Mixed reality attempts to seamlessly integrate your augmented reality and anchor it into your real world. Companies like Magic Leap and the Meta 2 are working towards this style of augmented reality, according to Quora.


An example is what Microsoft has done with its HoloLens and Skype. This mixed reality approach starts with the real world and objects are just laid on top of it, but are designed, so users to interact with it. Think of it as a blend of AR and VR. Here is a video that shows how it works.


Microsoft has even introduced its version of mixed reality, called Windows Mixed Reality. In this approach, they start with a virtual world. You are fully immersed into a virtual environment while the real world is blocked out. What makes it different from VR is that the digital objects overlap the real ones. In VR, the virtual environment does not connect to the real world around the user. Here’s a video to illustrate.


Examples in Real Estate

Virtual tours: Matterport is perhaps the most well-known and pervasive real estate VR experience provider. The makers of online 3D tours that don’t require glasses, Matterport offers users the ability to turn their 3D tours into full VR tours. Their tours are compatible with Gear VR, Google Cardboard, or Google Daydream VR headsets and viewers.


Virtual staging: Startup is taking photos of empty rooms and in 48 hours, returning pictures of perfectly staged rooms with real furniture, finishes, and all the final touches. They can even provide 360-degree images, fully staged. A similar product, but with images that feel more like renderings, as opposed to real furniture, is Roomy.


Virtual visualization: New construction always has a challenge of pre-sales before the first model is built – until VR and AR. Enter the ability to give someone a home tour before pouring the concrete foundation of the model home. Imagine allowing a client to select their favorite color schemes for each room before the tour begins, and dominant style of furniture. Virtual visualization also has excellent applications for house flippers who benefit from faster sales turnarounds. Imagine how one might use this technology to pre-sell a home while the improvements are going on if they could show a cash buyer what the house will look like once the work is completed.



Purchase a VR tour? Why not! If a client sees a feature they want included in the offer, and the seller is willing to part with it, this could be indicated during the tour. The same approach would be valid for new construction: upgrades could be part of the tour process. This could turn out to be a strong commerce platform because of how these technologies can draw you in emotionally into the sale.


World’s best home instruction manuals

As the ability to create AR and VR content becomes more accessible, the applications for real estate will grow exponentially. Airbnb renters could provide content that walks a renter through how to use all the home’s appliances and systems, from setting the thermostat to disarming the alarm, in a highly immersive and memorable way.

How to keep VR, AR and MR straight


Think of them this way:
• Virtual reality creates a virtual world or virtual experience.
• Augmented reality layers digital objects of any kind on top (or into) your real world.
• Mixed reality seamlessly integrates digital objects into your real world, making them seem very real: as if they are there.


Remember, while these technologies are in their infancy, by 2025, Goldman Sachs estimates that the VR industry alone will be $80 billion strong and that the real estate portion will be $2.6 billion. We are just getting started.