If the technology world loves anything more than acronyms, it's concepts that squeeze multiple advancements into one grab bag of innovation. Think of the so-called Internet of Things and its combination of consumer wireless and communication technologies as one example. Or consider extended reality (XR) as another. Encompassing AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality), XR is a catch-all term for all reality-bending technologies and the next major marriage of concepts. With the growing popularity of such tech, it's likely that everyone will soon watch cross-reality advertising on their XR platform of choice.
For real estate agents, who often have to convince their clients to imagine the potential of a property, cross-reality advertising, XR sales presentations, and XR layout scenarios provide strong business opportunities and experience enhancements. XR's core functions are already available to enterprise real estate companies and personnel via hands-free devices such as VR headsets — and since all the technologies under its umbrella are still in their infancy, the next steps will only improve the experience.
Acronym Soup: AR, VR, MR — and XR
Consider the core differences between technologies like AR and VR. Both have come into stride recently. Both spent their first years as concepts, waiting on technology to match predictions of what they'd look like.
That's where the major similarities end. In short, AR adds to the world around the user, while VR takes the user to a different place. This is why AR tools (think real-time translation aides that capture text from street signs and menus) work on any smartphone with a camera, while VR programs get the full-helmet treatment.
Mixed reality (MR), a technology in which digital assets gain a greater degree of interaction within the world — a character could walk "behind" a couch, for example — also plays into the XR discussion. For real estate, this could mean the difference between a guided tour where pop-up boxes list info about each room (AR) and one where a fully-realized digital agent walks around the room as if they were a regular human (MR). These advancements and others have an important place in cross-reality advertising and real estate sales initiatives.
It becomes apparent that the same tools making first-person home tours easy today will also have a vested interest in meshing with the hot new communication tools of the future.
Bringing it to RE: Real Estate
More than most fields, real estate sales situations must rely on a visual approach, allowing customers to envision themselves in a space that is not theirs yet. A car buyer can likely go to the lot or the brand's website and see the car she's eyeing in a number of different shades, but most real estate room designer tools lack sufficient visual draw to make an impact and often require a huge time investment per customer.
This is just one area where augmented reality technology trends and an XR-enabled industry can turn the page. Consider the following scenarios:
- A prospective homebuyer, using the same VR headset they use for gaming and media, browses cross-reality advertising for home listings. If they like a house, they take a tour direct from their living room couch. Rendered in the latest gaming engine, this digital tour home is nearly indistinguishable from an in-person visit.
- Expectant parents want to see the nursery in the home they just closed on in a more soothing color. With a few gestures, they are able to select from a list of agent-curated palettes rendered into the blank wall; they select an option, and the virtual walls fade to a new color in response.
- A couple wants to see how a property would look in a number of different furniture styles and combinations. In a real-life sale, they would likely not be worth the commission, but under extended reality technology, swapping room sets is as easy as changing colors.
To be clear, this is not some take on a far-off future — it's where the industry will be soon and one reason why so many agencies have invested in early experiences such as first-person walkthroughs shot in VR-friendly resolutions. It's also the reason many third-party companies have begun springing up around the idea of customizable, digitized tours.
Futureproofing? More Like Nowproofing
At first it may not appear that a modernized, integratable communication system has much to do with XR's arrival. With a longer view, though, it becomes apparent that the same tools making first-person home tours easy today will also have an interest in meshing with the hot new communication tools of the future.
This point is especially pertinent for agencies struggling beneath the weight of comm tools that have become outdated as standalone advancements. If an organization forces agents to drive all the way to the office to make a call from the business number, for instance, they're multiple generations behind the advent of XR. Tomorrow, a connected system might mean sending and receiving SMS messages through VR. Today, it means getting the same correspondence via tablet, laptop, phone, and any other device you need. It also means having faster digital document management and the best tools to reach clients and sell property.
So yes, XR is coming, and yes, the framework is coming together. However the average agency ends up connecting its comms systems to XR, everyone knows the shift toward augmented reality advertising is coming — and nobody wants to be the last seller on the block with a nice VR system but phones that spit dust when they ring. Location, location, location — and communications — matter in the digital real estate space, too.