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​​​​Virtual reality: Adding a new dimension to real estate

A walk from the high-speed glass elevator towards the airy meeting room takes you past spacious break out areas on one side with sweeping views on the other. The catch: none of it is real—yet.

​In cities around the world, real estate developers are taking the technology that brought us video games like Grand Theft Auto or City of Heroes, and using it to create virtual office environments—before shovels ever hit the ground.

This investment in technology has tangible value in the real world; it allows investors, potential tenants and future office workers to ‘see’ their space months or even years before it exists. And that can mean big money in the high risk world of high rise development.

“Who said the CRE sector was behind in the technology game? Five years ago, that might have been true—but not anymore,” comments JLL’s CEO of Markets, John Gates in a recent National Real Estate Investor article.

Augmented reality and gamification help tenants by changing the remote property tour experience. Using virtual reality, drone video and other tools create more user-driven, realistic experiences. New apps for tenants also add to the tenant experience offering building news, competitions and retail discounts.”

He points out that these new digital experiences can lead to stronger sales and leasing traction from global investors and potential tenants, helping to wrap up deals more quickly and drive revenue for building owners.

​A new way of viewing a building

New virtual reality technologies from Oculus, Artefacto and other commercial real estate technology startups make buildings come alive for investors by walking them through offices that don’t yet exist. Developers using the technology have successfully landed big-name tenants to anchor buildings not yet built, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Take for example the recent groundbreaking of Park Tower at Transbay in San Francisco, slated to open its doors in 2018. Attendees of the groundbreaking saw a glimpse of its future through Oculus goggles; headgear that when paired with interactive 3-D modeling software, lets the visitor tour the building at their own pace, within the virtual environment.

“By slipping on the goggles, users can see what the building has to offer: the floor-to-ceiling window lines that allow natural light within workspaces, open air outlooks from the private skydecks, and the neighborhood and its transportation options,” explains JLL broker Steve Anderson.

“Potential tenants can get the feeling of what it will be like to work in Park Tower and control the virtual experience themselves, spending as much or as little time in each part of the building as they choose.”

​Beyond virtual reality

In that same vein, augmented reality technology has emerged as a real estate sales and a leasing tool globally. Artefacto, a French company founded by two architects, specializes in 3-D visualization software, and has had projects spanning from Saudi Arabia to France that allow potential investors and tenants to project themselves into the building.

But it’s not just virtual reality goggles that can bring buildings to life before they exist. Once the environments are created, there are many ways to deliver a more vibrant experience of a real estate development. iPad video brochures can be sent via courier to an interested investor on the other side of the world, and with a click of the “play” button on an easy-to-use tablet, investors in Hong Kong can glimpse into an office tower, a condo, or even an industrial park, and experience what it will be like once their capital commitment makes it real.​

When committing hundreds of millions of dollars, it’s understandable that an investor wants to ‘see’ where their capital is going. And so when reality doesn’t yet exist, virtual reality can be the next best thing.​

This article originally appeared on Real Views, JLL's news site that features stories exploring the world of real estate and its impact on the wider business world. Visit the Real Views site to subscribe for our weekly email of top stories, delivered direct to your inbox.​​​​​​​​