Real estate is the “Captain Obvious” of Enterprise VR and it is very easy to understand why virtual walkthroughs are so relevant and valuable to the property market, especially when it comes to new projects.
Here’s a simple example to prove our point. Imagine that you have plans to move in a new three-bedroom flat with your future wife or husband. Some friends and colleagues told you about an incredible new environmentally-friendly housing project in a trendy and fast-gentrifying neighbourhood. Some kind of clever investment opportunity you would like not to miss while prices are still competitive and also a safe bet for your couple soon to become a family.
The real estate developer aims to sell 60 to 70% of the housing units before starting the construction site – which is a common practice in the sector. Hence, you can’t visit any apartment yet. A property agent can provide floor plans of the three-bedroom apartments still available but they won’t help you make the right investment decision. Pre-calculated 3D perspectives? Even if there are photorealistic, they often focus on the outdoor environments only and don’t necessarily give more information about volumes and perspectives than floor plans. What about if you could walk through the plan in 3D? This is exactly the purpose of VR property walkthroughs.
French real estate developer Nacarat launches a new project in Lille
It’s summer 2016 and VR studio V-Cult is having talks with French medium-scale and high-end real estate developer Nacarat (Rabot Dutilleul Construction) about their upcoming project Treize B. The property site will be located in business & tech district Euratechnologies in Lille and will be delivered in Q3 2018. The project consists in two 4-floor office facilities and two 4-floor high-tech housing buildings.
Nacarat considers using VR to promote a batch of 23 apartments – from studios to 4-bedroom apartments. The real estate developer also wants to provide something different from “the big players” from the likes of Bouygues Immobilier, Nexity or BNP Paribas Real Estate who have been using immersive visualisation tools for several years now: something more immersive than now common 360° virtual tours, providing more realistic rendering than most real-time 3D VR experiences – customers must feel at home in VR and not in a video game, and also real-time multi-user interactions – most of the general public still perceive the use of a VR headset as some kind of awkward solitary behaviour and the best way to onboard novices is to do it through a group experiment.
From virtually nothing to a unique HTC Vive & multi-touch screen combo
Unlike in anglo-saxon countries, the adoption of new 3D standards such as BIM (Building Information Modeling) by most French construction and property businesses is pretty slow and Nacarat is typically one of them. The challenge for V-Cult was to start from the architects floor plans only and make the magic happen.
And it happened. On September, 15th, Nacarat held a press conference in a dedicated popup store near the construction site to announce its new project to the public, make its sales kick-off and unveil its unique photorealistic real-time 3D VR experience powered by HTC Vive and synchronized in real-time with a multi-touch table interface.
Personalize your home decoration from the multi-touch table
The experience starts from the multi-touch table to enhance collaboration. Why a table instead of another type of screen? Simply because a table is a piece of social furniture through which you share meals, play board games… or hold meetings to agree on sales contracts.
The real estate agent puts his business card on the screen to start the application. It begins with a cartography of the city with all available property programs. Each program has its own library of rich media and floor plans that customers can review together. When selecting the Treize B program on the map, the application switches to a 3D visualization of a show flat enabling customers to personalize their ideal interior decoration. They are able to change flooring materials or wall cladding of the apartment. The table also provides material recognition – ie: users place a ceramic tile on the table to change the texture of the floor visible from the multi-touch table.
Walk through your personalized flat in VR
This is the magic trick. All edits made from the table are instantly visible through the HTC Vive as both systems are synchronized in real-time. The HTC Vive experience powered by Unreal Engine provides a mind-blowing photorealistic 3D rendering and enables the virtual visitor to walk through the three-bedroom flat using the common HTC Vive features – the room-scale technology so users can physically move around and the teleportation system using the HTC Vive controllers.
A WebVR experience to share with friends and relatives
The virtual reality experience is also available online. Users can visit Treize B in 360° and navigate throughs hotspots, all natively from their web browsers – no plug-in, app or software installation is required – while a cardboard mode is also available on mobile browsers. To access the virtual reality experience, you just need a cardboard-type viewer (ie: Homido).
Custom branded Google Cardboards were distributed to journalists and influencers at the press conference when the project was unveiled on September, 15th and are also available to buyers directly at Nacarat sales office in Lille where a dedicated showroom was designed using the same HTC Vive & multi-touch table combo.
VR is the ultimate sales tool
What matters the most to Nacarat is the added value brought by what is not only considered as a great customer experience but also and foremost a true tool for sales aid. The higher conversion rates brought by the VR setup is pretty easy to evaluate: 80% of the available apartments were sold on the weekend after the sales kickoff which is about two to three times more than usually for the property developer.