How Augmented Reality (AR) Will Change the Housing Industry

Photo by Robert Couse-Baker
It’s easy to poke fun at all the gamers wandering around with their phones playing the hit new augmented reality (AR) app that has users wandering around trying to “catch ‘em all.” But look a little deeper and you’ll see that these games are the first sign of a big change in the way young people see the world around them.

Virtual Reality (VR) steals all the headlines, as different manufacturers try to create the ultimate immersive experience—the ability to be someplace else just by strapping on a (bulky, inefficient) VR viewer like the Oculus Rift. Fewer people have heard of AR, but this is the tech that is sure to make the biggest splash in the housing industry.

With AR, a user typically sees a live image of the real world around them (as through a cameraphone), but that landscape is augmented by the presence of other things. Like how Snapchat created a filter that let users make themselves look like Kanye. Google Glass may have been a famous flop in the AR space, but the business applications of AR are many, and it is already changing the way a lot of people work.

AR at Work

Companies like ScopeAR are already helping companies like Boeing and Toyota augment the vision of their employees, to instruct them on how to assemble machinery and repair equipment.

ScopeAR rendering

In the real estate space specifically, companies like Matterport and Rescan360 are helping scan and map 3D spaces of properties. Then interior designers are able to modify these virtually mapped spaces, and walk through a space and show their clients what it could look like by holding up an iPhone or iPad, creating a virtual before and after before the client’s eyes.

And this is only scratching the surface of what is happening now. Property developers use AR to help investors visualize new projects before they’re built, or highlight key amenities in the neighborhood of a new building. Shopping Malls offer virtual pop-up stores to alleviate long lines. AR is replacing those boring audio tours in museums all over the world. IKEA uses AR in their catalogue, so shoppers can view their new bed in context before they make their pilgrimage to the warehouse to buy it.

New yorker cartoon by Paul Noth
New Yorker cartoon by Paul Noth

The Future of AR and the Housing Market

Property developers are already creating AR versions of large properties for marketing and sales- but the software that makes this possible, and the hardware that renders it, are both coming down in cost and increasing in performance. Naturally, the size of projects that employ AR as a tool will reduce as well. Who will be the first on the block to have an AR rendering of their new home before the lot is even razed for its completion? And how long will it be before this kind of technology becomes a standard part of the permitting process? Will the city’s engineers demand to see AR fly-bys of new construction in the not-so-distant future? It doesn’t take much imagination to envision a future where 3D renderings in AR are part of the mortgage process on new construction or renovations as well.

Picture it: A developer creates an AR presentation of the new home construction slated for a newly subdivided cul de sac- which takes the place of the blueprints of today. The permit department can do a virtual walk through without leaving their own office.

They can see the homes’ proximity to trees, streams, parks, sidewalks— and all in context.

Perhaps it won’t be long before we are living in a world where we’ve bypassed the phone and tablet viewers entirely, like in that one scene in Back to the Future II where Marty gets attacked by the Jaws hologram.