ZipRealty has added augmented reality capabilities to its iPhone application, allowing users to determine whether a home is for sale — or has recently sold — simply by pointing their phone’s camera at it.

As users point their phone’s camera in different directions, the "HomeScan" feature of ZipRealty’s iPhone app displays the address and distance to any properties that are for sale or have recently sold as they come into view.

A "radar" embedded in the app suggests which direction to point the phone to see more homes for sale or recently sold properties — including those that are behind the user.

Clicking on a listing shows all details, including prices, interior photos, square footage and value estimates from Cyberhomes and eppraisal.

The ZipRealty iPhone app shows homes for sale in more than 4,000 cities and neighborhoods where the brokerage operates, and recently sold homes nationwide.

Although the HomeScan augmented reality capabilities are available only on 3GS iPhones, users can search for and access all MLS-listed homes for sale from any iPhone or iPod touch. ZipRealty clients can connect with their agents directly though the application.

Augmented reality is software for mobile devices that uses the device’s location-sensing capabilities to overlay Web data on images of the physical world where the device is located, Joseph Ferrara explained in a recent Inman News column.

"The physical world, in effect, becomes the user interface to digital information. It’s a sort of middle ground for reality and virtual reality," Ferrara said.

The technology has "big implications for all kinds of local search tools, but particularly in real estate," said real estate technology consultant Joel Burslem in a guest perspective about Layar, a European company that helps software developers build and customize data overlays.

Trulia announced in December that it had integrated the Layar Mobile Augmented Reality Browser into the company’s iPhone app, allowing listings data to be overlaid in the mobile phone’s camera view.


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