The power of VR in property investment

The development of realtime technology and the arrival of Oculus Rift has been explored in gaming, but could it have a significant impact on the property sector?

06.03.15 | Opinion

By Nick Bentley


It was this question that led us to begin exploring how Oculus could be used by architects and developers to differentiate in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

Currently it’s the luxury market that is driving the continuing property boom in London, and foreign investors are queuing up to purchase property right across the capital. This means property developers are investing even more in quality to differentiate their schemes, using the world’s best architects and interior designers, the finest materials and finishes, it seems that everything is possible.

But what does that mean when it comes to marketing these super luxury properties? How do you stand out against your competitors when every CGI and brochure looks so similar? This is where we believe the opportunity is for immersive technologies like Oculus. Allowing the architect, developer or investor to present the space in an immersive environment could transform the industry. For example, how can we ensure that a prospective buyer, faced with a variety of luxury apartments, chooses, or at least remembers one from another?

Many immersive technologies like Oculus have been used predominately for gaming. The few examples we've seen within the property sector have mainly used gaming style graphics to navigate users around a space in a fairly basic way. We wanted to push the boundaries here and felt the next natural step for Oculus was more compelling imagery. Could Oculus be used to provide the user with a realtime experience using photo-real imagery? We felt it could, so we worked with a number of clients to see if we could achieve this. Below are some of our findings so far:

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The Oculus Revolution - four reasons to get on board

1. Experience = excitement. When we started to research Oculus we took it on tour to get opinion, demonstrating it to leading architects in Denmark and major developers in London. By the time we left one firm, practically every single one of the 50+ team in the studio had tried it out, sharing the experience with each other. It’s memorable.

2. It’s part of the marketing mix. Although it won’t replace CG imagery and film, it could play a crucial role in marketing suites and at sales events both in the UK and internationally.  Feedback suggested that Far Eastern markets would have a particularly strong appetite for use of technology in this way. It could play a critical role at investor and media launches, when positioning new property brands.

3. It’s new to the sector. Oculus is still only really in the hands of tech developers like us, so although there has been a great deal of specialist press on it, even many of those with an appetite for innovation haven’t experienced it.

4. It will only be novel for a short time before it becomes mainstream. The property sector hasn’t been quick to include immersive technologies in the marketing mix. But, we believe this technology will now gain momentum and traction within the marketplace, and those looking to be at the forefront of its adoption, have to move quickly. 


The Oculus Revolution - four things to accept for now

1. Composition and creative direction. When we create a CG image, every detail is considered. In exactly the same way that a photographer approaches a commission, we are focused on capturing a moment in time. We are directing our audiences through compelling composition and mood, with control over everything the viewer sees, and sometimes more importantly, doesn’t see. Inevitably you lose some of that control and artistry with Oculus, as the viewer can move through the space as they wish!

2. The quality isn’t the same as high end CGI’s. There’s no getting away from it. The incredible quality achieved in CG imagery today, cannot currently be replicated in Oculus. When you’re talking about stills for collateral, and marketing for brochures and press, quality is everything. The big issue is getting the balance right between the quality and detail of Oculus and the speed of movement – one will suffer at the hand of the other, but progress is fast and this will only get better.

3. You’ve looked better! It has to be said, the current Oculus headset doesn’t do many of us any favours in the fashion stakes. It’s a bit clunky and some people feel self-conscious wearing it. It might be age related, but it’s almost certainly partly due to it being relatively unknown. This tech will become mainstream in the short to medium term and the clunky design will be more aesthetically acceptable too.

4. Motion sickness. Some people feel slightly nauseous wearing the headset. We have identified two logical reasons. First of all we have a tip; take it easy. People have a tendency to use the controller to speed around the space at an alarming pace, dashing downstairs, flying over to the window and looking down from 40 floors. To be honest, that would make anyone feel sick. We’re looking to address this, and limit the speed of movement so that users can’t speed through. Secondly, the feeling is new, it’s unusual, and it’s not second nature. It’s provoking so many senses at the same time that your brain is struggling to keep up. Our analogy is that it’s similar to a fisherman or a crewmember on a ship. Although many will start off finding the experience unusual, the sea sickness will pass over time.

Overall, whether it’s Oculus or a screen based realtime solution, we firmly believe that these technologies have a real value and a place in the plans of any architect, or developer, looking to differentiate in what is now a highly competitive marketplace.

The next stage of development looks at the effect this new technology could have on the property sector. Where is it viable? Where can it be used to stand out, disrupt, or challenge the conventional approach?  How can it help build brands? What effect will it have in helping secure investment?

If you want to find out more and experience a live demo for yourself visit us at the London Club in MIPIM, Cannes or get in touch for a one to one demo. 

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