Please read this before you tell me “We’ve already done VR”

by Josh Locke

Within property marketing, VR is an essential sales tool; not all VR experiences are created equal however - read on to find out what separates the good from the great.

Virtual Reality as a technology is commonly misunderstood both in its applications and its potential. Most people’s ideas of it are based in entertainment — gaming, cinema, art — because this is where it attracts the most publicity. But it’s becoming integrated into many of the most fundamental, practical areas of our lives. While it may seem a little daunting, VR is already in the process of revolutionising healthcare, education, and engineering.

The property sector is no exception, with projections valuing the industry at £2.5 billion by 2025. However, type property VR into Google and you’re directed to virtual tour platforms, such as Matterport — a series of panoramic photos that form a 360 degree tour. These do a great job of capturing pre-existing housing stock and with CGI techniques it’s even possible to showcase new-builds. Whilst these methods were revolutionary ten years ago, they are ultimately a passive experience, a step beyond looking at photographs, but not quite as good as physically being there. They are not VR.

When we talk about VR, we mean interaction, immersion and full simulation. We use Oculus Rift headsets and Unreal Engine software to generate fully interactive environments from architectural plans. When an end user — an apartment buyer, for instance — takes one of our tours, they can walk around a building before construction has even commenced. They can explore everything from the lobby to the roof terrace, and with drone-captured city-scapes, they’ll recognise the view when they look out. Every facet of design is customisable. They can swipe through furniture, countertops, wallpapers, and set the aesthetic exactly to their taste. And when they’re done, they can even open the fridge and pour themselves a glass of orange juice. We’re talking here about creating emotive connections that give a sense of involvement and ownership in what should ultimately be a personal experience — choosing a home to live in.

Features like these are going to place VR at the centre of this industry. What that future looks like is up to us.