Are there real differences between VR Headsets when viewing real estate?
In 1935 the American science fiction writer Stanley G Weinbaum first described virtual reality in a short story called Pygmalion's Spectacles. Through experimentation in the 60's, 70's and 80's, the current age of VR began in 2010 when Palmer Luckey created the first prototype headset that would evolve into the Oculus Rift. Two years later, in 2012 after launching a Kickstarter campaign which raised $2.4 million to commercialize it, an interest in VR was reborn. In 2014, VR entered the consumer mainstream when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg bought Oculus for 2 billion dollars!
Today, the technology needed to power VR is readily available at any Best Buy, and the technology has begun to enter the mainstream in a big way. Moving beyond it's intended market of gamers, the VR headset has become a tool used by educators, designers, and commercial real estate developers (to name just a few industries) as an educational, sales and creative tool.
In the luxury real estate market, VR has begun to make a real impact. From developers creating virtual tours of properties that are not yet built, to interior designers creating virtual designs for clients complete with photo-realistic renderings of furniture, countertops, and flooring, VR is changing the way real estate gets built, designed, and sold. In fact, according to the National Association of Realtors, in the coming decades, showing a home in person may be a thing of the past as more brokerages begin to understand the ramifications of VR.
What started with the Oculus Rift, has today grown to the point where new a VR headset is becoming available almost every month. Ranging in price from less than ten dollars, up to hundreds of dollars (or in the case of the Microsoft VR System – thousands!) if you are interested in entering the world of virtual reality, today you have a variety of choices.
Let's take a look at some VR headset options for selling luxury real estate.
First, VR Headset Basics
The VR headset is the most important piece of the VR toolkit. The more expensive options, like the Oculus, need to be connected to a high-performing computer to create a proper immersive experience. Headsets run the gamut from all-inclusive devices with built-in headphones and apps, to cheaper versions like the Google Cardboard or Daydream where the user's headset is clipped to the front of the VR headset.
For a truly immersive experience, headsets need to be paired with a set of high-quality headphones, and there are new accessories, like hand controllers to treadmills coming on the market al the time. For the purposes of selling luxury real estate, we'll stick to the basics which means a high-end VR headset as the most realistic experiences can't be powered by a mobile phone.
Choosing The Right VR Headset
While there are many VR headsets on the market today, for the purposes of selling high-end luxury real estate, we're going to focus on three – the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and the Sony PlayStation VR. All three run off of external computers, or in the case of the Sony, a game console. They all offer sophisticated graphics, motion tracking, high-resolution displays and incredible graphics. These high-end headsets are also better a blocking outside light, more comfortable, and reduce motion sickness in users.
High-end headsets are not cheap. The Oculus Rift is $599, the Vive is $799, and the Sony headset is $399. The PlayStation also includes a box to help the PlayStation 4 process video. There is also the additional cost of a VR ready computer to factor into the price. In general, to get a good experience you'll need to factor in approximately $1000 for a computer with sufficient processing power to run an immersive VR simulation.
Another factor is physical space. The high-end headsets give you the ability to walk and move through space which is critical when touring a property. Oculus and Sony accomplish this using various sensors on the headset and then track them using an external camera. This positional tracking is effective, but how far you can move depends on how much space the camera can capture. These types of systems are more than sufficient for a home tour. The Vive, however, uses a laser tracking system that allows the user to walk around a 15 x 15-foot space, the largest area of any headset.
The Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR are still in their infancy. As the use of VR headset technology expands and evolves, the cost of entry will drop, and the use of VR as an educational, marketing and sales tool will expand. For early adopters in the real estate development community, VR can be a crucial differentiation tool that can make your property and brand stand out from the competition.
While the cost of entry is not cheap, once you have purchased the tools, your only expense is creating the content. With the advantages of a faster sales cycle and an expanded market, VR technology is a worthwhile investment that can help you grow your business far into the future!