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It’s Really Accessible (And Six More Things You Don’t Know About AR in Real Estate)

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It’s Really Accessible (And Six More Things You Don’t Know About AR in Real Estate)

New digital design technologies change everything about the property sector. Architects and engineers must adopt them to stay ahead of the curve. Property developers can use them for marketing and universities must teach them to students. This article examines seven things you may not know about augmented reality.

You may have heard a lot about virtual reality (VR). Some property developers believe that it’s the next big thing in the industry. As a result, many universities have incorporated VR into their curricula. After all, such advances in technology usually have huge ramifications for the industry.

But all of the interest in VR may lead to you overlooking another important technology. Augmented reality (AR) has the potential to change the industry too. Often confused with VR, AR is actually a slightly different technology. Understanding how to use it could give property developers a jump on their competition.

Of course, you need some convincing to start covering augmented reality in your lessons. This article examines seven things that you didn’t know about AR in real estate.

How Does Augmented Reality Work?

The clue is in the name with augmented reality. The word “augmented” means to make something better. As a result, you could consider augmented reality to be reality…made better.

AR often gets confused with the complex virtual reality setups. These require headsets and other dedicated hardware. That’s understandable because AR is a form of VR. However, it works differently to the huge virtual models that you may envision. Instead, AR works by taking something from the real world and expanding upon it with the implementation of virtual elements. The key difference is that VR simulates an entire experience. AR adds some virtual elements into a real-life scenario.

The technology essentially creates an illusion. Typically, it works by overlaying virtual objects on top of real, physical objects and structures.

So, how does it work? You’ll usually have an AR device to allow for the virtual aspect of the technology. Such a device usually has a screen, sensors, and a method of input. A smartphone is a good example. The phone’s camera serves as the input device that displays the real-world object on the phone’s screen. You can then use software installed on the phone to display virtual objects on top of what the camera captures. More advanced augmented reality systems also make use of touch and sound.

There are three types of augmented reality systems that you may use. These are as follows:

  • Layered AR. This is the form of AR that most people have some familiarity with. This involves a device using its method of input to recognize a physical object or space. You then “layer” virtual objects on top of that physical input. For real estate, this may mean layering virtual furniture on top of a real room.
  • Projection AR: In many ways, this is similar to layered AR. However, there’s a key difference. A projection augmented reality system uses light to project an image onto a physical space. Think of the holograms from the Star Wars films and you have a good idea of how it works. A simple use of this technology is the projection of a keyboard onto a desk surface. The user can then interact with this keyboard to type. As the technology develops, it’s likely that projection AR will be able to fill entire rooms with virtual objects.
  • Marker AR. These augmented reality systems receive the same sort of real-life input as the other systems. However, they use them differently. These systems don’t provide any virtual elements until they locate a specific marker. An augmented reality system in a museum provides a good example of this. You could use your device to track a piece. The system may then overlay information and other virtual objects on top of the piece. That’s because the piece is a marker that triggers the system.

That provides you with more of an idea of how the technology works. You may already see some of the benefits that AR in real estate presents. Here are seven things that you didn’t know about AR.

Item #1 – Google Got There First for Mobile

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When it comes to mobile devices, it was Google that led the charge for augmented reality. In June 2014, the company launched Project Tango. An AR development kit, Tango uses the camera, GPS, and various sensors in your phone to track real-world environments. Using the kit, developers could create AR software.

The problem with the early years of Tango is that the technology didn’t yet match the idea. The sensors and other equipment that it required were too bulky. Phones that used them were massive, which meant that consumers weren’t too keen on adopting the technology at first.

Over time, hardware engineers managed to reduce the size of the components needed for AR in phones. Eventually, Apple launched its own ARKit to compete with Project Tango and the smartphone wars took another turn.

Google may have gotten there first, but Apple took things a step further. Now, the phones released today can handle fairly advanced AR. That brings us to the next point.

Item #2 – It’s Accessible

Project Tango and ARKit made AR more accessible for the average user. They show that you don’t need a lot of specialised hardware to make use of an augmented reality system. The average smartphone can do the job just as well. Granted, it may not be able to handle things like projection AR. But most new phones can handle layered and marker systems with few problems.

This gives AR a distinct advantage over VR systems. With VR, you need a huge amount of hardware to immerse somebody into a model. There are special headsets, large computing requirements, and various sensors to consider. All of this creates a less convenient experience for the end user.

AR simplifies things, making it a much more accessible technology. Almost everybody has a smartphone, which means almost everybody can access a basic augmented reality system of some kind.

How does this benefit the property development and real estate industries? Imagine this simple scenario. You have a buyer looking at a property. They like the building, but they’re struggling to visualise what they’d do with the space. With AR, you can pull out your phone and show them some ideas. A simple layered system could allow you to plant virtual items and furniture onto the real space. You could even change the colours on the wall.

The client can then visualise the various ways they could use the space. This may help you to clinch a sale that was slipping through your fingers.

Item #3 – It’s a Low Cost Technology

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This accessibility extends beyond the use of AR. It’s also a much less expensive technology than VR. You only need a software package and mobile device to make use of basic AR. But even the most rudimentary VR model requires the use of expensive hardware to make it work.

This cost-effectiveness is what’s likely to lead to the use of AR increasing in property development. Developers can use the technology as a sales tool without taking huge bites out of their advertising budget. Creating an app that includes a virtual library of furniture and objects isn’t a huge investment. But it’s something that a developer could use repeatedly to add new life to their properties.

Even architects and engineers can get in on the act. A similar virtual library could help you to demonstrate a few ideas you may have for changes to an existing structure. Compare that to the costs of building and rendering a 3D model and you can see why AR is so accessible.

Item #4 – It’s Not Just a Marketing Gimmick

We’re still in the early days of augmented reality systems. As a result, we’re only just starting to see what capabilities the technology has beyond the simple stuff.

For example, did you know that construction crews can use AR to improve safety and working conditions?

It’s true. A software company called Daqri has already made large strides in this area. The company’s “Smart Helmet” is essentially an advanced AR sensor that monitors the wearer. It can track things like skin temperature and heart rate. Moreover, it can measure the wearer’s stress and fatigue levels. All of this data gets tracked in real time.

The benefits to the construction crews a property developer employs are obvious. A site foreperson could use the data such a helmet provides to keep track of their crew. They could spot safety concerns even before the person involved knows that they’re arising. Future advancements in such technology could make construction a much safer profession. It can also help in the avoidance of unsafe activities that have negative effects on a developer’s budget.

Item #5 – The Industry Isn’t Yet Ready for Complex AR

The simpler AR systems may not present many costs. But more advanced applications do carry a higher price tag.

Here’s an example of a more complex AR system in the construction industry. A crew may use AR to detect the location of pipes underground. The system could show them the exact location of the pipe, which ensures they don’t hit it while drilling. It could layer a virtual representation on top of the physical ground to help with this.

Of course, such a system requires much more data to be perfectly accurate. This data input comes at a cost that many smaller firms can’t absorb.

The good news is that AR is a developing technology. As a result, those costs will keep coming down, which makes the complex systems more accessible. Still, for the time being at least, AR isn’t as widely used in the industry as it could be.

Item #6 – It Can’t Handle Dynamic Environments…Yet

Think about all that goes on in the average construction site. There are all sorts of structures getting built and crews move objects around all of the time. This creates a dynamic environment that AR isn’t yet suited for.

AR works best when it can track a static real-world object. Add dynamism into the equation and the current technology struggles to keep up.

But that doesn’t mean that it won’t get there. The technology still has a lot of unexplored potential. Eventually, it’s likely that AR systems will become capable of adapting to the dynamic nature of construction sites. This will help with AR system adoption rates throughout the sector.

Item #7 – You Need to Start Teaching It

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There’s no denying that AR is a developing technology. But we’re already seeing it used in a variety of ways in property development. As noted above, real estate agents can use AR as a marketing tool for selling a developer’s property. Construction crews can use it to improve safety and aid in their work.

There are some issues, many of which will likely resolve themselves as the technology advances. Universities cannot allow the issues that exist today to influence their ideas of what the future holds. AR is already proving itself to be a useful technology for the industry. Its use will only increase over time. If you’re not teaching students how to use and develop for the technology, you’re doing them a disservice.


Augmented reality is one of the most exciting technologies to emerge in recent times. More accessible and versatile than VR, it has the potential to completely change the industry. Architects, engineers, and property developers can all use AR to improve their services. The technology offers potential for marketing, but it’s also likely to make waves in the construction sector in the coming years.

All of this means that your university needs to jump on the AR bandwagon. If you don’t, you risk leaving students unprepared for what the industry has in store for them.

But implementing AR courses into your curriculum presents a problem. You have to train your tutors before they can train your students. That’s where the Archistar Academy can help. A digital design academy, Archistar takes much of the teaching burden away from your tutors. With Archistar Academy, you have access to courses that take the latest technologies into account. This helps you to better prepare students for the industry.

Do you want to learn more? Contact Archistar Academy today to find out how we can prepare you for the augmented reality revolution.

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Posted on 20 Jan 2020

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