Have a look at the image at the bottom of the article. The sunny sky, the high windows, the luxurious furniture; it's clear that you're seeing a luxury apartment somewhere tropical. Specifically, this one is in Dubai. So, why on Earth would you be seeing this image on a tech website? The answer is pretty simple, and essentially encapsulates the entire point of the article you're about to read; the apartment you're seeing is not the real deal. Instead, it's a virtual reality simulation, built to order by an advanced 3D model specialist known as an architect, who specializes in just this sort of thing. An Architect's services can be employed for a wide array of purposes, but the model you're seeing was commissioned specifically to be used for real estate showings.
"Well, why not just go to the actual apartment?" is one of the more obvious questions this raises. Up until now, that's been exactly how it was. A few photos, perhaps a quick 3D tour on a website, maybe a video, and you're left to either make your decision on the spot or drive out to the property to have a look. Going to the property in person, of course, involves some scheduling headaches and can end up taking up a good part of a given day. If the place isn't local, forget it; what if you drive out of town, out of state, even out of country, only to find that you don't like something about the place and don't want to pull the trigger? VR solves this quite handily, and it should surprise absolutely nobody that real estate VR is projected to become a $2.6 billion segment of the market by 2025.
Virtual reality is a technology that can fill an insane variety of content niches. Want to forget you have a controller in your hand and blast aliens out of the sky in a heart-pounding dogfight? EVE: Valkyrie, available on PC and PlayStation VR, has you covered. Want to create a work of art? Tilt Brush, on the HTC Vive, has you covered. Want to sit down and watch a movie alone and drink in every detail on the screen? YouTube and Netflix have VR apps available for a variety of platforms. VR is one of those unique technologies that's capable of defying preconceptions through innovation, and entering into real estate is not only one of the ways it does that, but it should have been obvious to anybody familiar with real estate.
Already, major real estate firms like Sotheby's are flocking to the technology, as are smaller outfits. It won't be long until you can come up to the end of your lease bored with your apartment, decide you want a house with a backyard and a pool, and then with just a few keystrokes and clicks, have the house of your dreams right on the other end of your VR headset. The technology to map out 3D spaces is getting cheaper and more ubiquitous, especially with Google's Project Tango in the picture, and more and more real estate entities are employing architects to bring people far away to their properties. Another area where VR shines is in letting people tour properties that haven't been built yet.
According to architect Gonzalo Navarro, all of the biggest names in real estate have seen the writing on the wall and are involved with this technology on some level or another. VR's ubiquity in the real estate market is, at this point, inevitable; it's just a matter of how long it takes. This use of VR is far from ready for the non-luxury market at this point, of course; creating the average VR model of a luxury apartment takes about a month, and is not exactly a cheap proposal. Still, as the technology gets cheaper and finds its way into more hands, these restrictions will fade over time. Right now, VR designers can craft complex worlds that don't have to play by the rules of reality. Combine this with the rise of technology to map out real-life indoor spaces and their contents in detail, and the possibilities are endless. MMORPGs set in real life locations? Check. VR tourism? Check. Even VR workspaces are slowly becoming a reality, so whatever you may have in mind, rest assured, it's probably coming.