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Realtors Rely on Virtual Reality
Virtual reality allows you to experience places, to some degree, without the inconvenience of travel. Although a trip to a virtual location is not as rich of an experience as actually being there, virtual reality sometimes provides valuable information all the same. For example, consider the information provided by virtual earth software from Microsoft and Google.
In its initial release, virtual earth software stitched together high-resolution satellite imagery available from commercial providers to let users scroll and pan around the Earth from a satellite view. The effect was breathtaking, though flat. Virtual earth developers began building photorealistic, geospecific, 3-D landscapes that allowed users to zoom in on satellite images and fly horizontally through virtual landscapes that replicated the landscape of the Earth and its cities. The effort to virtualize the world is ongoing, with thousands of people providing assistance in adding cities and buildings to the virtual landscape.
It didn’t take long for virtual earth applications to move from novelty to serious business tool. Professionals in the real-estate industry were quick to acknowledge the value of visiting neighborhoods virtually. Seain Conover points out that while a real-estate agent’s photo may show a quaint house in the country, virtual earth would let you see that it’s actually in the shadow of a five-story apartment building.
Conover works for Terasoft Corporation, a Canadian company based in British Columbia, that specializes in Multiple Listing System (MLS) systems. The MLS allows realtors to list houses for other Realtors and house-hunters to find. Through the MLS, realtors can communicate their needs and recommend properties to others in the business. Until now, the MLS has provided home photos and specifications, but virtual earth is changing all of that.
Terasoft and other software companies around the world are working with virtual earth providers such as Microsoft and Google to build commercial applications using virtual earth as a foundation. Using an application developed by Terasoft on Microsoft Virtual Earth, a realtor can take a client to a prospective property virtually, zoom down to the rooftop, and then turn up 45 degrees to view the building, property, and neighborhood from all sides. What used to take days of driving around is now condensed into an hour. Clients and realtors can quickly narrow the market to a few houses that match the client’s interests.
Terasoft has built an overlay for Microsoft Virtual Earth that specifies items of interest such as school districts, demographics, and crime rate. Using color-coding, home shoppers can find neighborhoods they desire. Marking a geographic area on the map with the mouse quickly displays the available houses in that area in the shopper’s price range. Rather than scrolling through thousands of listings in the MLS, realtors can search the virtual landscape for specific needs, see them as pinpoints on a map, zoom in, and view the house in 3-D while analyzing information about the house and its neighborhood.
Terasoft chose Microsoft for this project over Google due to Microsoft’s long history of developing software for the real-estate industry. Another contributing factor is that Microsoft’s mapping and virtual earth software has clearly been defined as an enterprise platform.
The use of virtual reality in real estate doesn’t end at a house’s front door. Now through 360-degree photography, customers can inspect a home’s interior as well. A virtual walkthrough combined with a floor plan reveals the layout and condition of the interior. As virtual reality technologies mature, finding the home of your dreams from your computer screen or even a VR headset is quickly becoming possible. You only need to visit your dream house to make sure that the virtual-reality experience is a true one.
Real-estate professionals all over the world are turning to virtual earth software to revolutionize their business. Professionals in the public sector, hospitality and travel, retail, financial services, manufacturing, utilities, oil and gas, and media and entertainment are also applying virtual earth technology to their industries. The ability to view remote locations through virtual reality is proving to help boost productivity and build customer satisfaction.
1. What conveniences does a virtual reality system such as the one developed by Terasoft provide for realtors and home shoppers?
2. Describe the work required to develop and maintain a virtual model of the Earth and its towns and cities.
1. If home shoppers can access tools such as the one provided by Terasoft, why are realtors necessary? How might realtors change their job description to maintain their value to customers?
2. Many industries use Virtual Earth. Provide a few examples of how you think they might apply its technology. How might they customize Virtual Earth to their needs?