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AR and VR in CRE: A New Reality

November 23, 2021

Our world is changing, even with the way we interact with physical space. Virtual and augmented reality are two primary reasons for this. Given commercial real estate involves the buying and selling of physical space itself, it is important for us to understand how they work and their ability to enhance our operations.

What’s the Difference?

While many of us have probably heard of the terms augmented and virtual reality, the difference between the two can become easily blurred. To clarify, augmented reality, or AR, is an enhancement of the physical world. Think of it as adding images or information to real-world scenes in real-time. An example would be using Snapchat to add a cartoon, like a fish, to the space immediately in front of you, like your living room. Another example is your navigation app adding wayfinding markers to the pictured road in front of you.

Virtual reality, or VR, on the other hand, creates an entire scene or even world for you to explore with the use of exterior technology like headsets or haptic gloves.

While the terms are often used interchangeably, it is important to note that they are not synonymous with one another. However, they have similar features when it comes to their ability to enhancing real estate transactions.

A Walk in the Park

One of the biggest advantages to AR and VR is their ability to show spaces, virtually, before they are even built. This means being able to begin marketing efforts earlier in the development process; it also provides clients an exclusive look into what a property might look like before there is even a floor to walk on. According to Matterport, the world’s leading spatial data platform, residential properties that had a virtual tour translated to a 31 percent faster closing, with 9 percent more transactions.

Aside from the financial benefits, virtual tours also mean less time spent having to travel from site to site. This time cost optimization is a huge plus for brokers and clients alike. Brokers can guide prospects towards more options which allows them to narrow down what they would like to see in-person, thus increasing the likelihood of making a deal!

From the Ground Up

Construction and architecture are other areas where VR is making an impact. Utilizing VR in the construction process means companies can model buildings to identify any potential problem areas before they even break ground. It also provides flexibility in plans which translates to saved time, money, and materials.

This technology also has benefits post-construction. If equipped with proper sensors, a “digital twin” can also be generated; this is a virtual copy of the building and can include data like air quality, power usage, and temperature which can help streamline operations to meet efficiency goals and, of course, reduce cost.

Welcome to the Real World

AR can also have significant applications in the industry. Large furniture retailers use technology to guide buyers in their selection process by virtually modeling items in their home. This functionality translates to commercial real estate in the form of staging or changing a space for clients.

As previously mentioned, AR can also be used for wayfinding. For commercial real estate in particular, a busy mall or office space can be equipped with digital sensors that visitors can follow to their desired location.

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