Virtual reality is breaking new frontiers as the stuff of science fiction is coming to life! As computers have become faster and more powerful, exciting new technologies are becoming available that will change the way we do business, shop, experience entertainment and completely transform our lives.
Virtual reality and augmented reality are beginning to enter the mainstream as the price of entry comes down, and 3D artists begin to create practical uses. Today, VR is being employed in the high-end luxury home market to allow potential buyers to take a “ tour” of properties for sale that may be thousands of miles away, or even not yet built.
By donning a VR headset, buyers are immersed in a world where they can see floor coverings, counter tops, bathroom fixtures, even the actual view from the windows of the home from a particular location. It’s an immersive experience that is so real that it can form real connections and emotions in the brain.
Augmented reality combines the real and virtual worlds in a way that allows users to experience their actual surroundings but blends the real world with computer generated graphics and audio overlays. Let’s take a closer look at both virtual and augmented reality and the ways they are already being used to transform our lives.
What is Virtual Reality?
The term was first coined in the 60’s but until recently, technology was not able to provide a truly immersive experience. Virtual reality is always a closed, computer-generated stereoscopic virtual environment including a 3D aural soundscape with no input from or interaction with the real world. You experience virtual reality by donning a “mask” with ear buds or headphones providing audio. The price of entry has come down considerably in recent months, and new headsets by Oculus have recently begun shipping. Sanyo also makes a $99 headset that pairs with their $500 smartphone.
High-end luxury real estate developers and agents are using the technology to sell homes and give tours to buyers of properties that are not yet built! Travel and education are other early adopters with users able to take an immersive virtual tour of Buckingham Palace; students can visit the rainforest and other locations as a part of the learning experience.
What Is Augmented Reality?
Recent technological developments in VR have created the much newer fields of augmented realty, transparent reality, and mixed reality. At their core, all altered realities create 3D models on a computer that are displayed in various ways and viewers can navigate these realities.
Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality are so new that there is not currently a clear, concise definition. Augmented reality is an umbrella category. It is defined as a blend of virtual worlds with the real world created by generating graphics and audio “over a viewer’s vision and hearing. For transparent reality, think Google Glass, images are projected onto a screen or glass in the viewers field of vision. This technology is still very much in its infancy
Mixed reality is based on Transparent Reality but is much more interactive. It uses the position of the viewer’s head and video feeds to overlay graphics precisely onto real life objects. This is truly the best of all worlds as it combined the depth and immersion of virtual reality with the “practicality” of augmented reality.
As more developers and faster computers enter the field, VR, AR, and MR will become more prevalent in real life. Imagine walking thru a luxury home 2000 miles away, or looking at a grocery shelf and seeing the nutritional information and a coupon for your favorite frozen dinner. The future has arrived, and it’s amazing!
If you haven't already, I strongly encourage you to go through our FREE Real Estate Virtual Reality Crash Course. It's packed full of useful information and it's applicable to anyone involved with the design, development, and marketing of the built environment.