Previously, we covered how the real estate industry is employing virtual reality to explore the unbuilt environment and digitally improve customer experience. Now, we’re diving into how augmented reality is pushing the bounds of traditional real estate.

As these buzzwords progress into the real estate conversation, let’s quickly define the difference between virtual and augmented reality.

Virtual reality (VR), as we recently covered, is an immersive 3D software that allows users to explore a digitally simulated world. On the other hand, augmented reality (AR) is taking the real-world environment and adding computer-generated objects and textures. So, think of it this way: In a virtual reality, you’re looking at an artificial, 360-degree digital space. Meanwhile, in augmented reality, you’re looking at the physical environment with added digital components.

Imagine if an empty office space, street corner, or building blueprint was a digital, blank canvas. Without physically arranging a layout, constructing a building, or designing a model, AR virtually makes it possible. Augmented reality enables users to pan their iPad around a space, resize objects, arrange furniture, explore the 3D interior of a blueprint, or visualize a building.

Best yet? There are already apps free to download that offer the AR experience. Let’s take a look:

Augment

Among the new class of mobile apps that enable AR, Augment aims to educate the public on the ease and simplicity of using AR on various platforms to explore a building or visualize a product.

“We want to change the narrative around AR technology,” said Lindsay Boyajian, marketing manager at Augment. “It’s not this futuristic, far-off technology. It’s for now, and it’s adding great business value for architects.”

From architecture to interior design, Augment changes the way buildings are planned, designed, and purchased.

Visidraft

As another innovator in the AR world, Visidraft strives to create the bridge between design and experience — in only four steps. First, optimize app performance and minimize texture size. Then export models from Sketchup, Revit or 3D Studio, and upload the FBX file to your Visidraft account. Finally, sync and visualize to see your model through your iPad.

“We build a 3D model of the world around you so that, once you place virtual objects inside them, we understand the distances [between the object and its surroundings] and how they relate to that environment,” said Visidraft founder and CEO Andrew Kemendo. Visidraft enables smart devices to help users manipulate and visualize the world right before their eyes.

SmartReality

With this app, the AR world is helping owners, contractors, and architects communicate their design and vision easier than ever before. By taking a plan file and overlaying a BIM model, the technology brings construction and design to life. In short: SmartReality enhances building blueprints by enabling a virtual tour throughout the unbuilt space.

Simply scan a building’s interior, zoom in and out, interact with the layout, view the project’s process over time, and record the experience. According to James Benham, CEO at AEC software developer JBKnowledge: “It helps the owners and contractors and architects communicate their vision for the building, in a way that was never really possible before.”

Face it, this technology is the building blocks for the future of conceptual planning, especially in commercial real estate.

Tapping Into Augmented Reality

The concept of augmented reality seems futuristic, but the reality is tangible. From architects to consumers, AR brings buildings and real estate to life simply with a smart device. The beginning stages of augmented reality technology open the door for a commercial outlet to manipulate, evaluate, and reimagine our environment.


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