Tomorrow’s world today

May/June 2016 edition

Once viewed as a futuristic concept, augmented reality is finally coming of age.

By Douglas Driscoll

Back in 2012, I predicted that augmented reality would soon become an integral part of marketing a home (see December 2012 edition of the Journal). At the time, my views were widely greeted with a sense of scepticism, as augmented reality was seen more as a toy rather than a tool. Fast forward four years and it’s now starting to become an everyday presence in our digital lives.
The rapid evolution and widespread adoption of new digital platforms is changing the way in which property is marketed. Our obsession with smartphones and tablets has necessitated a more holistic approach to marketing property, with a heightened emphasis on engaging with the consumer through the right channel at the right time.

Traditional real estate marketing campaigns have predominantly centred on print collateral, but the advent of digital marketing has seen these methods become increasingly redundant, as digital marketing has more longevity and ubiquity. Ironically though, rather than being a death knell, augmented reality is set to transform traditional static content and bring it to life.

Offline + online = inline
As smartphones continue to proliferate in our daily lives, I believe that delivering convenient, relevant and real-time experiences has become increasingly important and is something that consumers are starting to expect, rather than simply wish for.

Consumers no longer have offline or online needs, they want an integrated experience. The great thing about augmented reality is that it joins the dots, fusing the physical world with the digital world. Augmented reality is a digital layer over the real world that you can’t see with the naked eye, but you can see through the viewfinder of your smartphone or tablet.

We have been using augmented reality at Starr Partners for more than three years. We initially built our own software that offered a very rudimentary user experience, but soon realised that we needed help if we were going to do this properly. The team at Snaploader had already developed a turn-key solution at an extremely competitive price. Given what we were trying to achieve, using their services was an absolute no-brainer; they offered a 3D augmented reality-enabled floorplan for the same price as a standard 2D floorplan. 

It’s far more difficult to lead than it is to follow and, having pioneered the use of this technology, we’re now being rewarded for our patience. Consumer engagement levels have increased by more than 200% since its inception, proving that there is now a demonstrable appetite for this technology. We continue to adapt our strategy to reflect changes in consumer behaviour, as we recognise that the path to success is anything but linear.

New kid on the block
Augmented reality has come a long way since we first started using it. The new kid on the block that is due to have a big impact in this space is building information modelling. Traditional building design is largely reliant upon 2D technical drawings, such as plans, elevations, sections etc. Building information modelling extends this beyond 3D, augmenting the three primary spatial dimensions of width, height and depth with time as the fourth dimension (4D) and cost as the fifth (5D). So building information modelling covers more than just geometry. It also covers spatial relationships, light analysis, geographic information, and quantities and properties of building components. In layman’s terms, we’re now able to add virtual furniture into digital floorplans and even change the colour of walls.

How many buyers go through the process of trying to visualise what furniture will fit where? How many request post-sale inspections so they can re-measure to determine whether their king size bed will fit in the master bedroom? Being able to add generic furniture into a 3D floorplan is set to be a genuine game changer.

Bigger, better, faster
Augmented reality is definitely starting to come of age and the growing dependency on technology calls for bigger, better, faster, more efficient and visually exciting ways for consumers to access information about property. In recent times there’s been a lot written about digital disruption, but I believe technology should complement what we do, not replace what we do. I, for one, am very excited about what the future holds for our industry.