Virtual Realty could be the future of condo buying
There’s a fair amount of skepticism regarding virtual reality technologies. Between giant metal spheres that let you walk through full 3D environments, to cumbersome goggles that play monochromatic video games, VR is one of those technology spheres that hasn’t always transitioned well from interesting idea to realistic application.

Toronto-based 3D Condo Explorer Inc. think they’ve transcended those expectations. The company’s product, 3D Condo Explorer, takes a simple problem–potential condo buyers having a limited idea of what they’re buying before ground has broken–and provides them with a fairly elegant solution.

David Pascos, marketing manager for 3D Condo Explorer, calls it “a virtual reality technology that helps answer all the questions that slow down a buying decision.”

It’s not simply a video walkthrough, or a fish-eye, 360-degree photograph that shows you what different layouts and designs will probably look like. 3D Condo Explorer allows potential buyers to navigate uniquely laid-out units in a Google Earth-style environment.

Why is it Google Earth-like? Alexander Neshmonin, CEO of 3D Condo Explorer says that’s because the software was built from the ground up using the Google Earth API, allowing him to integrate some of its more useful elements into the project. For instance, not only can you get a preview of the view outside from any window, and anything blocking it, but you can check to see how far the nearest bus stop is and where nearby restaurants, churches and shopping are located.

The interface also allows potential buyers to customize their unit with real-time updates to the cost. “As you make these changes we’re showing you how (they) will affect the cost of your unit, instantly,” Pascos says.

Don’t like the countertops? You can change that. Don’t like the cabinets? Check out a new set. Pascos says the options are only limited to what the condo developers provide.

He also says that, in the near future, seasonal views will be added to 3D Condo Explorer so you can see what your tile or hardwood will look like in the winter or fall.

The company, founded in March 2010 by Neshmonin, hopes to sell multiple configurations of the software to developers starting now. It takes six to eight weeks to create the virtual spaces using existing blueprints and plans provided by developers.

For developers to implement the single-screen configuration of 3D Condo Explorer, prices starts at $6,000. The multi-screen configurations will top out at $70,000. On top of the dedicated units, the software can be accessed in a conference-style implementation by a seller and customer at the same time using any Web browser, albeit without the touch interface. That means developers could locate permanent sales offices away from construction sites. It also means they can help a customer tour a building from miles away and before it’s even built.

3D Condo Explorer has only one buyer so far, as they just left the testing stage. Toronto-based Times Group Corp. used 3D Condo Explorer to help sell its recent development, the Eden Park Towers Phase II. Elmar Busch, marketing director at Times Group Corp., says using 3D Condo Explorer has “increased sales by about 10 per cent, minimum.” However, he also added that this was after the marketing push and he thinks in future it could be closer to 30 or even 40 per cent more.
The one caveat for all of these features is load times. While Google Earth integration gives a lot of depth to the information 3D Condo Explorer provides, it also makes loading new units or new buildings an exercise in patience. It’s not that it’s horrific, but it will never be as fast as spreading out layout plans on a desk or walking through a demo unit in person.

But, for customers moving to new cities or with schedules that don’t allow them to tour demo units, the software could truly change their shopping experience.

Neshmonin also says an iPad app may be on the horizon for 3D Condo Explorer. “I want it everywhere,” he says, because “this is (the) future.”

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