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At the same time millions of people began using their phones to hunt virtual creatures in Pokémon GO, the same augmented reality (AR) technology behind the hit game began to be employed in the property industry.
AR is a mixed reality, blending computer graphics with real world applications and vision. Pokémon allowed gamers to find virtual creatures in real world surroundings using the camera on their phone, for example.
In property, this means greater scope for planning and architecture to be presented in a 3D environment which can be toured by prospective customers.
Today, we are changing the way tenants lease property through our use of augmented reality technology and, through our PropTech accelerator program, we have attracted two of the most promising local start-ups in Australia, InSpaceXR and Snaploader, to deliver virtual (VR) and augmented reality (AR) solutions to the commercial real estate industry.
These two companies have exponentially accelerated our ability to use VR and AR to improve the customer experience, including virtual tours of properties from remote locations and instant 3D modelling to give customers access to buildings that haven’t yet been constructed.
Snaploader and the AR experience
Snaploader is a startup that provides custom-built technology solutions to deliver leading-edge 3D visualisation to any device.
Our chief technology officer Aidan Coleman says they are now able to rapidly provide models of retail, industrial and office spaces and deliver them to clients through multiple channels including email and SMS.
"They can be embedded into our digital websites, they can be made available simply through a text message and a link that people can click on and our leasing executives and asset managers can sit in front of our customers and take them through experiences and models of the space," Coleman says.
"Then they can finetune, tweak and design them as they go through the 3D model and understand more about the requirements.
"We further the concept of building information management (BIM), ultimately all of that is driven by CAD models which can be brought to life either through 3D or through the BIM software."
This is a process we started two years ago, but back then it was done on a case-by-case basis and was a slower process.
"I think we're on a different scale now, trying to take it to the next level.”
How InSpaceXR can provide virtual tours to anyone on the planet
This is where the virtual process gets really exciting. At our Sydney office, there is a full-blown VR lab put together by InSpaceXR that allows users to take virtual tours of any commercial space – even ones that are not complete.
Coleman says a challenge in the industry is that many tenants are already in pre-existing properties and leases which are often in a different geographical location to the next property they were looking to occupy.
"So we have to provide an attractive proposition, [we] have to create an engaging experience for them," he says.
We already have two live examples in the VR space, 130 Lonsdale Street in Melbourne and the GPO development in Adelaide. Recently, a group was taken through the lab and given the virtual tour of these complexes.
"We had an investment partner from Korea come through recently ... they experienced some of our showcase office assets through our immersive virtual reality lab and they were just blown away by the usage of that technology to bring assets to life.”
Justin Liang is the co-founder and chief executive of InSpaceXR. He says the scope of the software is practically limitless.
"Designers, property managers, architects can step inside the physical space of their designs and run lightning analysis, add and remove materials, furniture and measure other features as well," Justin says.
"One of the applications Charter Hall can use is to show how to power an office to tenants. If the building doesn't have an underground yet, VR can tell that story.
"We can add animations, birds flying around, people sipping coffee – we can bring it all to life."
What’s next for us and our VR and AR experiences?
Coleman explains that despite the rapid rise of the VR and AR applications within Charter Hall, there is so much more scope to deliver even more involved services.
"We're looking at opportunities to potentially invest in at least one of those businesses and we're working on putting in some funding structures in place to help us do that," he says.
"We're also looking ahead to the next phase of the program. We think it's going to be really important technology to bring our product to life and make it available for a whole range of local and global customers."