Augmented reality is no longer a real estate gadget

Technology has completely infiltrated the built environment. Between IoT connectivity in buildings, interior orientationand virtual tours, real estate is no longer the tech-savvy sector it once was. In the context of digitization, new uses for augmented reality (AR). Technology has evolved from a marketing gimmick to a solid strategy for asset managers to enhance their built environments.

The premise of AR technology is the real-time integration of digital information to “augment” the user’s physical experience. It is often confused with virtual reality (VR), where the user fully immerses themselves in a fabricated digital world. But AR takes advantage of the existing environment while overlaying computer-generated screens that beautify the real-world experience. Essentially, AR creates an enhanced representation of the real physical environment by combining many aspects such as digital, visual, audio, and other impulses. Leveraging AR technology is something that tech-savvy property owners and managers are just starting to take action on, thanks to a major product flop that derailed consumer interest in AR technology a few years ago. barely years.

Victim of the hype machine

Augmented reality sparked consumer interest nearly a decade ago with the much-hyped launch of Google Glass, a laptop meant to look like a pair of glasses but more like the first prototype of LeVar’s iconic Burton. . star trek visor. The hype for Google Glass was intense, with Time magazine calling it “Best Invention of the Year” in 2012.

The idea behind Google Glass was that a $1,500 pair of glasses infused with AR technology could improve everyday life beyond comprehension. Not only could Google Glass act like a smartphone with the ability to make and receive phone calls as well as take and send photos and text messages, but the device was the first big push to get useful apps for augmented reality to a wider audience. Through the lens, users could receive live directions to their destination as they stroll through the city streets. Reminders and calendar alerts would sync with the lens. Translations of foreign texts into the user’s native language could be broadcast in real time. Users could see their flight information and gate number appear on screen while navigating through an airport.

So why did it fail so spectacularly? Well, that’s because Google Glass’ marketing failed to highlight these experiential features and instead focused on novelty. Google Glass was a toy rather than a tool. “Google ruined the dream of AR” wrote William Worrel of NCC. “Augmented reality was one of the hottest trends in the tech industry, until Google Glass crushed that dream.” While emerging technologies must provide demonstrable value to their consumers by solving real problems in an increasingly digital market, and since the aforementioned characteristics have never been clearly defined for the consumer (that and the fact that glasses were flimsy and cumbersome), Google Glass marketing failed the potential of AR.

Despite its demise, Google showed where AR technology was going with the launch of Google Glass: that the physical environment could be a canvas for digital innovation. But, when the product failed, it badly damaged augmented reality’s reputation as the next “big” tech. Thanks to Google Glass, AR embedded in the physical world has gone from a life-changing technology to a marginal novelty, at least for now.

Digital infrastructure for the built world

Google Glass had failed so badly that not only the product fell into obscurity, but also the AR hype for a few years. “There’s always a stigma associated with AR that it’s a bit of a gimmick,” Mike Roberts, managing director of digital engineering and technology at major construction John Holland Group, told me. “But there’s a push to embrace technology in this industry, so I think AR will be the new normal in the next five to ten years.”

Since augmented reality allows users to perceive data overlaid on their natural surroundings, it becomes a huge tool for real estate brokers as it encourages potential buyers to imagine the potential of a building, meaning transactions can be concluded even earlier. “From a property owner’s perspective,” Roberts added, “you can bring potential buyers and tenants to the site and use augmented reality to provide an augmented site tour so they can better understand the space potential. In the age of AR, staging a property could be a breeze, as sleek furniture would no longer need to be carried back and forth in order to see layout options. potential.

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On the developer side, even before construction begins, developers can use augmented reality to better visualize what the property will look like, reducing the margin for error if construction adjustments need to be made. According to Roberts, developers can scan a blueprint of the building and AR technology will render 3D holograms of the building that developers can manipulate to better understand how the building will function. AR is also particularly useful during the construction process and site security. Roberts thinks the typical pair of safety glasses that construction workers wear will be intertwined with AR technology in the next few years. “Theoretically, you could have visibility into your health stats like your heart rate, see building design, and get notifications about work orders,” Roberts said. “There is a whole range of opportunities with AR solutions.”

Of course, the potential of AR is not limited to ownership indices and stages of development. Augmented reality is changing what buildings can do for us and what we can do for them. One company creating a symbiotic relationship between the physical and digital ecosystems is Resonai, a location-based augmented reality platform that enables owners, retailers and others who run physical locations to integrate AR technology in their spaces. But if you ask Jeremy Bergstein, VP and Global Head of Experience, Resonai is “where the digital twin ends and AR begins.” Their technology creates a digital twin of a given building and integrates it with real-time AI and data, creating environments where people and devices operate seamlessly. “We create these ecosystems, which are spatially accurate and positioned correctly, inside these built environments that asset owners can control,” Bergstein said.

There are tons of other potential uses for AR. We could start to see buildings using it to give building managers easy access to building information and smart devices or even provide suppliers and contractors with an easy way to be updated on a job site. . Buildings may also one day have a digital concierge, a concierge that occupants and visitors can help make their on-property experience more efficient and enjoyable. Imagine being able to be shown where your next meeting is or have a digital assistant explain a coffee machine to you.

Artificial reality has tons of practical applications in our buildings, but its biggest challenge is shedding its reputation as a tech gimmick through products like Google Glass. “Consumers are always thinking about digital augmentation, so educating the customer about AR technology, and how it applies to commercial real estate, is the most important thing we can do in this time,” concluded Bersgtein. By reframing the collective understanding of what AR is and the value it can add to the real estate industry, we hope to start seeing more new tech companies that will leverage this powerful technology.

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