Understanding VR in Real Estate and Development

All sorts of sci-fi images are conjured up in one’s mind at the mention of “Virtual Reality”. It’s a trendy word to drop these days, and is, unfortunately, often dropped out of proper context in the Real Estate and Development industry. If you are trying to wrap your head around the world of VR, and are struggling to put the pieces together, forgive yourself, it’s a pretty complex set of technologies and terminology.  Historically, the visualization industry has used the term “VR” in a very haphazard way- you’ve likely stumbled across the terms “virtual tours” or “VR tour” or “virtual reality video”. In a way, everything we do as a visualization company is “virtual” since we are exploring unbuilt spaces. It’s easy to see how new trends in VR have lead to confusion.

Put simply, VR is an immersive, user-controlled experience that matches a type of content with a type of device to create a simulated, three-dimensional world

Let us break down the main components of virtual reality in real estate and development visualization.

VR Content Types

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Image

This is a 360 view of a space from a static location, made using either photography (for existing spaces) or 3D rendering (for non-existing spaces). The user can rotate to see the extents of the image, but cannot move through the space. Visual quality is the same as that of a photograph or rendering, and image content can be viewed on practically any device without issue.

Video

This is a 360 view of a space from a moving camera, made using either videography (for existing spaces) or 3D rendering (for non-existing spaces). The user can rotate to see the extents of the image and can move through the space, but only in a pre-determined path. Imagine watching a video and being able to rotate in any direction while the video plays. Visual quality is the same as that of a normal video or animation. Video content can be viewed on practically any device, but quality will be dependent on how the video content is delivered (i.e., Internet connection speed). Facebook and YouTube allow for Image- and Video-based VR content.

Real-time 3D

This is essentially a video game, and is built using the same tools that video game developers use. The user can theoretically move, pause and rotate through the space at will. Visual quality is less than that of an image or video in general. Real-time content can only be optimally viewed on a dedicated device.

Real-time 3D content can be used via a website, but the experience is fraught with variables that affect the experience (need for plug-ins, quality, playback hardware).

 

VR Devices

 

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Monitor/Screen

Ranging from a simple computer monitor or phone screen to a video wall or projection system. To use VR content on a monitor/screen, one needs a method of control such as a mouse, a direct touch-screen, or a controller. Monitors/screens can support all types of content, provided they are connected to a suitable device (computer).

VR Headset

This is a device that displays VR content and relies on user movement to control viewing. VR headsets that are un-tethered (such as Google Cardboard) can only display VR content that their host device (i.e. phone) can support. VR headsets that are tethered (Occulus, Vive) can support all types of VR content. These headsets are connected to high-power computers that are able to run real-time 3D. Each type of headset has particular advantages and disadvantages.

 

While there are many types of VR content, the industry is experimenting more and more with VR headsets and what this could do to enhance the experience of a buyer visiting a sales centre. Opinions vary on the efficacy of VR, but many do believe it is the wave of the future. What do you think? A new era, or an overhyped trend?

Check back for more industry trend articles on the use of VR/AR/MR as we explore the subject in depth through a series of blog posts (or alternatively, sign-up for our newsletter!)

 


Interested in experiencing VR for yourself? Come in for a demo!