Technology

Matterport raises $16M to accelerate 3-D virtual tour technology

Floored and Surefield also offer consumers in-depth views of homes

Matterport, fresh off its win at Realogy’s FWD pitch competition in June for its immersive, 3-D virtual tour technology, has raised $16 million in a Series B funding round.

The round, led by new investor DCM with participation from AME Cloud Ventures, brings the Mountain View, California-based firm’s total outside investment to $26 million since launching in 2011.

The funding provides more evidence that three-dimensional virtual home tours that allow homebuyers to explore photo-realistic spaces from multiple vantage points are on the verge of exploding in real estate.

The new tech allows brokerages, agents and property managers to give homebuyers a virtual window into a home that strides beyond photographs and video without them having to drop their iPad, let alone stand up.

Matterport and Floored, providers of 3-D virtual tour technology, have won Realogy’s FWD pitch competition the last two years.

In April, Seattle-based brokerage Surefield launched with a model based solely on providing 3-D virtual tours to home sellers.

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3-D virtual tour technology is blossoming in real estate thanks to increased computing power; better, cheaper cameras; and rising consumer demand.

“The rise of 3-D is happening faster than we expected,” Matterport CEO Bill Brown told Inman News.

Brown says Matterport’s new funding will allow the firm to do three things:

  1. Continue pioneering 3-D, which Brown calls “a new form of media.”
  2. Build out its new real estate product, 3-D Showcase, that allows 3-D tours to be viewable within Web pages.
  3. Continue working with partners like Google to pioneer the hardware and software to bring 3-D technology to consumer devices.

Matterport says it’s close to transforming the cost of recreating a space in 3-D from tens of thousands of dollars to tens of dollars.

Matterport camera.

Matterport camera.

Matterport built its own digital camera that captures depth information along with the color and brightness information associated with a typical two-dimensional photo.

Each pixel Matterport captures has four dimensions, Brown said. “It gives you picture-perfect views from multiple vantage points.” Pixels in a typical 2-D photo have three dimensions, he said. The additional one in Matterport’s 3-D models covers depth.

“We compare each of the frames we shoot and figure out where they are in relation to each other,” Brown said. By doing that, the firm creates an immersive model that allows users to navigate through, giving them the feeling that they’re actually in the space.

See Matterport’s new 3-D Showcase product in action on the website of Ralph Marasco, an agent with Omaha, Nebraska-based CBS Home. The tour on Marasco’s site was developed by tech vendor Capture Storm using Matterport’s cameras and software.

Matterport sells both its 3-D cameras and its software-as-a-service platform to turn its images into 3-D models. Cameras go for $4,500 apiece, and the platform goes for between $49 per month and $149 per month depending on a client’s needs.

“Long term, we’re not a hardware company,” Brown said.

“We see the most value in building out computer vision software. We made our first camera because there was not one out there that would capture what our software called for,” he added.

Part of Matterport’s new funding will go toward its continuing work to bring 3-D tech to mobile devices. The company is currently working with Google as a formal partner in its Google Tango project. Google Tango is a 7-inch tablet that will have a 3-D sensor built in.

When the device comes out, Matterport will have its own mobile app that will work on the tablet to make 3-D images, Brown said.

“Our goal is to give mobile devices a human-scale understanding of space and motion,” said Johnny Lee, project lead at the advanced technology and projects group at Google.

What is 3-D?

3-D encompasses many definitions. Everyone seems to have their own. Are panoramic photos like those rental marketplace Apartment List launched last week 3-D? Are fly-through videos 3-D?

Brown defines 3-D as an image that provides information in three planes. Two dimensions don’t give the user the ability to navigate above a model or experience the textures and depth like a 3-D model gives, he said.

Floored CEO and founder Dave Eisenberg has a slightly different take.

Eisenberg defines 3-D as a digital model that can be explored and modified.

Floored specializes in creating virtual spaces, either from images or based on floor plans, that allow architects to modify spaces using a realistic, 3-D model.

Eisenberg first got excited about 3-D with the rise of 3-D printing. The original idea for Floored was the possibility of creating software that allowed architects to print their real estate models on a 3-D printer instead of building them by hand.

That’s still a long-term goal for Floored, Eisenberg said.

But now the firm is focusing on helping architects do that digitally within 3-D, geometrically precise models that allow them to modify materials and room layouts on a 3-D virtual model.

If you can’t look at a 3-D model from overhead, it’s a set of images and not 3-D, Eisenberg said. Geometric 3-D models like Floored’s can render new lighting effects in real time and make materials like wood and marble look realistic.

Floored used to use an earlier version of Matterport’s cameras, but now uses a Laser scanner, which Eisenberg said produces more precise and finer measurements at longer ranges.

Surefield’s founder, David Eraker, got interested in 3-D as a consultant at Microsoft where he came across the field of computer vision. 3-D modeling is a subdiscipline of computer vision, Eraker said.

SureField
Screen shot of demo Surefield virtual tour. The lightly shaded rectangle represents one of the areas that users can navigate to within the tour.

Eraker, who was one of the co-founders of Seattle-based brokerage Redfin, saw that 3-D modeling could be extremely useful if applied to real estate marketing.

Erakers’s definition of 3-D? He considers a model 3-D if it provides a geometric understanding of a real estate environment that allows someone to move around inside it.

To build its 3-D virtual tour models, Surefield renders together 25,000 photos using custom cameras and in-house software.

Since launching the brokerage in May, the firm has taken four listings and has one sale pending, Eraker said.