Technology

Facebook could bring ‘telepresence’ to real estate

Virtual reality headset maker acquires startup that's developing 'real-time 3-D scene reconstruction'

Facebook-owned Oculus VR, a maker of virtual reality headgear that will let prospective buyers explore 3-D models of homes, has purchased Surreal Vision, a startup that focuses on “real-time 3-D scene reconstruction,” according to a post on Oculus VR’s blog.

The acquisition highlights the fact that Oculus VR isn’t only out to produce virtual reality gear that could synchronize with 3-D representations rendered by providers such as Matterport or Floored.

The company plans to create those representations itself, opening the door for Oculus VR to add a unique “telepresence”-focused offering to a growing menu of 3-D model options available to real estate agents, developers and listing portals. 

Featuring a real-time 3-D mapping system developed by Surreal Vision’s co-founders more than two years ago, the video below offers a glimpse of one type of virtual-reality experience that Surreal Vision may be able to produce.

Oculus didn’t immediately respond when asked if Surreal Vision technology might have a real estate application, but the potential for it to impact the industry is obvious.

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Surreal Vision’s technology, which Oculus VR’s blog post said generates “an accurate representation of the real world in the virtual world,” enables two different types of virtual reality interactions.

The first lets users wearing virtual reality gear project holograms onto real spaces.

Conjuring such an experience, which Microsoft’s HoloLens headset is also designed to do, could allow real estate agents to customize showings based on a buyer’s preferences and background, and immediately resolve many questions regarding a home’s furnishings, decor and layout.

The second type of virtual reality interaction under development at Surreal Vision virtually transports people into lifelike representations of spaces.

Real estate agents, marketers and listing portals are increasingly serving up immersive 3-D experiences to buyers that are generated by providers including Matterport, Archilogic, InsideMaps and Floored.

Any real estate application that could grow out of Oculus’ use of Surreal Vision might enjoy a technological advantage over 3-D products offered by those providers.

Whereas current 3-D providers create virtual models that remain constant, Surreal Vision is developing technology that renders physical spaces into dynamic virtual representations in real time.

The goal of Surreal Vision is to “open the door to true telepresence, where people can visit anyone, anywhere,” Oculus VR’s blog post reads.

Surreal Vision says on its website that it’s bringing “super-human visual perception” not just to “mixed reality” but also to “autonomous robotics.”

Perhaps enabling telepresence may involve robots that can move cameras around spaces to allow viewers to see and interact with them.

Envision virtual reality-compatible drones letting buyers pilot their way over properties in real time, and changing their landscaping and exterior.

Or picture a rover that enables buyers to tour an interior, interact with a real estate agent standing inside the space, and switch around furniture and wall colors.

These types of home-touring experiences may not be just around the corner, but they’re certainly on the horizon.

Email Teke Wiggin.