Building the Future: Are Home Builders embracing immersive virtual experiences?

Explore the dynamic intersection of architecture, technology, and real estate in this engaging episode of Buildipedia, featuring David Esber, co-founder of EnvisionVR. In this conversation, David delves into the crucial importance of transparency and openness in today’s ever-evolving real estate landscape.

Curious about the staying power of virtual reality in the property industry? David shares insights into the evolution of property imagery and videos, shedding light on why certain VR trends took time to gain traction. Plus, discover how cutting-edge technology is seamlessly integrating with the world of real estate, offering a glimpse into the exciting digital future that awaits.

Key takeaways from this insightful episode:

Uncover the practical utility of the latest technologies, poised for immediate use.

Witness the transformative impact of these evolving technologies on real estate practices, reshaping the way agents operate and setting new standards for property sales.

Explore how ongoing technological advancements are primed to revolutionize the entire real estate industry.

Check out the episode and transcript below.

David Esber on Buildipedia

Intro: You’re listening to Buildipedia, your go-to podcast for everything you need to know about property by covering the entire journey from buying your home through to design, building, selling, and everything in between. We’ll help you fill in the blanks and bring your property vision to life.

Mat: Today on Buildipedia, we’ve got David Esber from. Envision VR and who will tell us what he does. It’s all about virtual reality and selling real estate. As I understand. Well, welcome, David. Thanks so much for joining us. 

David: Hey, nice to meet you. Thanks for having me.

Mat: So maybe if you can start telling us who you are and what you do and tell us a little bit about Envision VR.

David: I’m Dave. I’m one of the co founders of Envision VR and Envision VR is a platform for any 3D designer to create immersive experiences using their traditional modeling workflows. So we’ve got a platform that lets any architects or architectural visualization artists turn the 3D models they create from Revit, SketchUp, 3ds Max, whatever it is, into a one to one VR experience that you can view on any device or on web.

Mat: You’ve got a bit technical there on us. So essentially you let, so because a lot of architects. Design in 3d these days. So, you know, our practice uses ARCHICAD, but a lot of practices probably bigger, more used as Revit, I think, I can’t remember. But you’re essentially taking that model and turning it into something that looks real.

David: Yeah, exactly. So you can load that ArchiCAD model up onto our platform, and then you can be walking through it in a VR headset or on a phone or a tablet using augmented reality tracking.

Mat: And before we delve in too much further, I just wanted to ask you, and we often ask our guests, is there an inspiration you want to share a person or a book or whatever?

What would you like to share?

David: Yeah. You mentioned that. I was just thinking, I’ve been, I’ve got a toddler, so I’ve been reading a lot of Dr. Zeus lately. Last week I was reading scrambled egg super where Peter T Hooper uses a couple of horses and a very long stick to pry a mountain top off. Yeah. So it was a great opportunity to teach the two year old about leverage.

And I found him using a really long stick to lift many heavy things around the garden since then. So that was really nice. 

Mat: Oh, I love Dr. Zeus. All right, so segwaying out of Dr. Seuss into virtual reality, and I just wanted to go back a little step to understand how you got into this space. Where did you come from? Why did you decide to do VR for, I guess, well, real estate and amongst other things? 

David: Yes, I’m a builder and property developer by trade, and I guess a bit of a building designer as well. I’ve worked at studios and the thing I could always say, I could say this technology virtual reality and on many of my projects where I was selling off the plan, I’d kind of looked into the options out there and realized that they were all just really clunky.

I guess one of the things is it’d been a really ad hoc approach to creating VR. There’d been, there were dozens of studios around the world who developed their own in house software. But there was no one platform for creating these the way there is for, you know, renders or, or any other kind of marketing content.

So yeah, that’s kind of how I got into the space. I saw that there was a gap and room for someone to create a really good platform for creating these experiences, but for also turning them into a really useful tool for designing and selling. 

Mat: And do you think, I mean, how many clients do you have, what’s your Market share at the moment. Or maybe I should say, what stage are you at in your business?

David: So there would be around maybe 30 to 40 different studios around the world who use our technology to offer these services to their clients. And I would say we’ve probably worked on well over a billion dollars worth of property. . To design and sell. 

Mat: And do you think you run the risk, and I’m getting off topic slightly, but do you think you run the risk of just, if Archicad want to release something that’s universal, will you be just lost in the, you know, do you run the risk of one of the big players diving into that industry and really getting, you know, cause there’s a lot of people who do VR and a lot of VR renders, like there seems to be.

A lot of players in that market, but maybe the question is, how are you going to endure through the market fluctuations around that? 

David: Yeah, so there’s a couple of things. The first is, as a business EnvisionVR, we’ve always focused on mobile VR. So as opposed, you’ve probably used a few different solutions where you’re tethered to like a quite a powerful computer to run it, and maybe it might be done using different rendering engines or Unreal or something like that, Unreal Engine.

We’ve always focused on mobile devices that you can just pick up and they work, but also so that you can share it with your clients wherever they are in the world on their own device. And to do that, we need to take a really, really complex scene. Sometimes these are, you know, we receive them, they’re 50, 60 gigabytes, they’re huge files.

And we need to reduce it down to something very, very light, but maintaining the fidelity and making sure it still looks real. And we’ve developed that process in house. It’s taken a lot of different techniques, but basically over the last three years, we’ve developed what we refer to as a black box, which can take a really complex file and make it very light, but still look real and make it immersive.

And so that technology we’ve developed is something that a lot of people have been trying to do for a long time and haven’t been able to. But I guess the end result, what it means is that you don’t need really powerful hardware to run this the same way you would if you were just loading a raw model straight out of ARCHICAD onto a viewing system.

You can run this on very lightweight devices and that’s what makes it really usable. 

Mat: Yeah. So how would I use your product? Do I just see it on my phone or do I, can I use my son’s underutilized meta goggles? 

David: So the way you would use it as a designer or creator, you would create the model. You’re probably already doing this to produce images from or floor plans from or elevations.

So once you’ve created that model, you basically just drop it into the portal on our website. If it’s like a, an architectural model, you would drop it into there and you would pay and it would be up on our platform and you can access that through the EnvisionVR app on a phone, tablet meta quest headset, or also in a web browser.

Mat: Okay. 

So you’re. It doesn’t matter what tech you have, you’ve, you’ve kind of got it covered. So it’s on your portal. So your portal is essentially an access point for, for someone to see the model and walk through it, I guess, is that what we’re saying? 

Yeah, so it’s actually in our app that yourself and your client would walk through the model.

David: You can even meet inside the model and see each other and speak to each other inside there. I’m not sure if you’ve seen any content on our website, but what we do is we take that model that you’ve created and we turn it into like essentially a private little metaverse that you can walk through or you can meet people in and you can view it on any device.

You can share it to any device. You can even do it on web. 

Mat: And so the purpose of your product is to help sell real estate. So how does it help sell an apartment or a home? 

David: Yeah, sure. So we’ve got many products some that are used in the design process, but our, our tools that we use for helping agents and developers and home builders sell off the plan.

It basically gives them the ability to take a model that was probably created to produce plans from or renders and let their buyers walk through it in one to one scale, either in a sales suite, in their realestate. com or their domain listing, or on their own devices at home. And they can incorporate these experiences in a QR code on their site hoarding or in a printed brochure, or they can send it just with a text to a client.

And that client in their own device can basically walk through in one to one scale in their own time as though it was already built. 

Matt: Yeah. And when you say walk through, do you mean like fly through or can you literally walk through? 

David: So using, using your phone or a tablet, it uses the cameras. It tracks the room around you so it understands how you’re moving through that space. And you walk in one to one scale through the model. 

Mat: So if you’ve got your phone, you can actually walk, you can walk forward, I guess. Be careful not to crash into the dining table, but yeah, 

David: so you can walk forward, you can click, you can double tap to go through the way you would Google Earth, or you can see it as a dollhouse, like you can zoom right out and look at it as a small reduced model.

Mat: I like it. What is the magic source in your product that really helps sell the apartment? What is, cause you know, like what is it that it can do? Photos can’t do, I guess, or just static renders can’t do. 

David: The thing about images and plans is it really is difficult to understand what a space is going to look and feel like. Just from plans alone. You’re a building designer. I’ll ask you. I mean, you’ve probably built dozens of buildings yourself. Have you ever finished one that you’ve walked through and you haven’t thought, Oh, I do this a little bit differently, or I do that a little bit differently.

Mat: I guess I’m a bit of a, so I’m, I guess my, maybe I’m the wrong person to ask because I am quite. Brutal when it comes to getting the plans right, I will ask for revision after revision after revision to get it feeling right. So maybe I’m like, maybe my selective memory is, is maybe I’m suffering from a bit of delusion, but I kind of, I guess I’m someone who just wants to get things right before we get building.

So I’m quite not, not just. Saying that I actually, I put a lot of, a lot of effort. I do, I do, I guess, do put a lot of effort into making things work just right because that’s where the values are locked and the way I’m thinking about it. Yeah. I think, I wonder if you can replicate the feeling that a person has walking through it, but yes, to answer your question, like the buildings that I’ve. Been involved in from the outset. I feel like, well, maybe I’m just being selective. Maybe I got selective memory. Maybe I got biased. Mate, I’m just human. 

David: You’re, you are going to be the architect I use next time because I can tell you almost everything I’ve built either during construction, things are moved around or once we’re finished you walk through and me personally and the architects that I’ve worked with, we’ve always identified things that next time we’ll do a little bit differently.

And that’s because it’s really difficult for most people, you know, there’s the exception like yourself, but for most people it’s really hard to understand what a space is going to look and feel like from plans. So we can understand how big it’s going to be, but really what it’s going to feel like, the flow, the proportions, the lighting, all that stuff is really difficult to capture when you’re looking in 2D, even when you, when you’ve got images.

And we’re talking about building designers here, people buying off the plan, often they don’t have that spatial awareness as you and most of the listeners would have, and there is a real sense of anxiety. And that’s why, you know, it’s magnitudes easier to sell complete stock than it is to sell off the plan.

You can ask any property developer, they’ll say the same thing unless, you know, we’re in a really crazy booming market. It’s really like, there’s a challenge in selling off the plan and that’s because you’re trying to create this trust with the buyer that what you’re showing them is what they can expect.

And people do a lot of techniques, they build sales suites, they try and fit out one apartment but letting a buyer see their exact apartment or home and the exact view that they’re going to see when they’re looking out the window, when they’re lying in bed, when they’re walking down the hallway. That’s really important and something you don’t see a lot of when people are selling off the plan is like a render of the laundry or the hallway or where they’re going to store their shoes.

And often that is stuff that people really care about. Like we see when people are buying using our technology, we speak to a lot of buyers and they say, you know, the first thing I went to look at was the laundry. I just wasn’t sure if it was going to be big enough or small enough. And these are things that, as a developer anyway, I didn’t really consider before when I was showcasing the space.

I was really just doing the hero shots. But what this means is, your buyers have a complete understanding of the space before they buy it. And often that helps create a lot of trust and get a sale over the line. It gives the buyer certainty, but it also means you have a happy buyer. And now, well, every building that you’ve designed, you’ve walked into, and it was exactly what you expected.

James Hardy have done a lot of studies on this. They interviewed 12, 000 Australians who just built their own home. And 50 percent of them said they didn’t like how it looked after they walked into it at the end. Now, that’s horrifying. You know, it’s it’s something that people will usually only do once in their life. And if half of them are getting it wrong, that’s a really concerning state. 

Mat: Yeah, and I guess I’d be curious to know why, why they think they got it wrong, whether they, you know, it was the decisions that they insisted on and didn’t listen to a professional about or what it, I want to be curious to know what it actually was, what it actually was.

David: The space that you design, it may be perfect, it may be perfect for you, but ultimately like design and feeling subjective. So it may have been perfect for you, but maybe not for the buyer. 

Mat: Yeah, and by no means is everything that I’ve ever built being perfect, but I think that, yeah, I think all the compromises that needed to be made were probably made in the design stage where it was pushed, we pushed the envelope enough to go, well, that’s the way it’s got to be so I don’t, I don’t think like, don’t get me wrong, not everything we’ve ever designed or built It’s perfect in every way.

I’m not claiming that for one moment, but I, but I think I’ve never walked in and been surprised that something was like, you know, but I guess that, yeah, but I take the point you made before is that I’ve been reading plans for 30 years, like I know, and, and even before that I was building Lego, so, so I kind of know my way around, I can, I 

The curse of knowledge that a lot of designers and, and builders and architects suffer from because they show plans, the client just goes, yeah, I think I don’t really have a picture that I don’t have the same ability that an architect has or a builder has to build that product in their head.

They don’t have that. And like, I remember discovering this. Because you think everyone can read a map, everyone can read plans, right? You just presume that everyone can do what you can do, but I remember being lost in Bangkok and pointing to a map to the tuk tuk driver and going, here, can you take me to this spot here?

And of course he’s like, yeah, yeah, I know, I know where to go. And he takes me somewhere else. And I’m like, no, no, I’ll point back to the map. And then he took me somewhere else. It still wasn’t the right place. And I, I realized. He drives people all around Bangkok. He’s got Bangkok in his head, but he cannot read a map because that’s a skill that he’s never taught to him.

So he couldn’t actually, like that guy he was brilliant. He could, he knew if you said the palace or. Whatever part, but if you point it at the map, you know, cause he didn’t understand map, but he had the city in his head. So every person’s got a different way. So he knew the way to different places. He knew the way to every place.

I mean, the guy was a genius, but he couldn’t read. And then I, like at the time, I didn’t think that cause I was really frustrated and it was hot and I wanted it to be somewhere else. But when I thought about it later, I’m like, yeah, he’s got just a different worldview and I think that’s, that’s what happens when you show people plans.

When, and so we’re very wary of when we show plans, we look for signals as to whether Our clients understand, but yeah, you just presume that’s where a lot of architects, I think, go astray because they, they show plans and the client thinks they understand them, but they don’t really understand what’s happening.

And I think 3D and your technology opens that right up and enables people to understand. What it is that they’re getting themselves into or what they’re buying. 

David: For sure. And there’s also, there’s degrees to it as well. Like when someone looks at plans, they may understand a lot of it, but what this technology means, like any kind of immersive technology means is that people don’t have to imagine what the space is going to look like from looking at the plans.

They can experience it as though it’s already built. And there’s also, you know, some of the work we work on, you know, 100 million penthouses in the Middle East or 30 million things that overlook Bondi Beach. It’s almost unimaginable what some of these spaces look like. I often look at these as, and think from a builder’s perspective, like, you know, some of the stuff we’ve worked on, like temples and things like that.

I look at it from a builder’s perspective and think how would I have even priced that? Like, how would I even grow up, like, get an understanding of how I would have built this chandelier made out of a million pieces and things like that. So it can be a really powerful tool just for, for helping even people who are quite spatially aware understand, you know, really kind of unique and obscure designs, which I can imagine.

What do you think, as we kind of look, use more AI design tools and things like that, like I’ve seen some pretty out there designs coming out. From a builder and developer’s perspective, how do you think you’d kind of start to unwrap some of these really like obscure, curved designs and understand how you would build it?

Mat: Well, I think a lot of the time you have to say, excuse me, but what’s your budget? Like, you know, , like, so I guess if you are asking if, if I get something outland is shown to me, I kind of have to know, like I, I have to strip it back to how it’s gonna get built and yeah, sure. If someone can say that, that there’s a guy who can free d, print it in that shape.

Then I’m all for exploring it if the budget and the appetite is there from the owner, but you know, like 99. 9 times out of a hundred, the owner has no idea. Like, and I guess the reality is that actually that might be something incredible or an incredible, whether it’s a shape or whether it’s something really interesting.

Well, You still got to build it, you still got to support it, you can’t defy gravity for a start, so, you know, it’s, even if it’s self supporting and it’s got to cope with wind load, whatever, so there’s a reality to those things, and, you know, the real art in design is understanding technology and technology.

Being creative, it’s not, anyone can imagine, I mean, I can talk into mid journey right now and get it to create the most incredible things that, you know, how do they have to get them to a physical product is a whole different thing. So I think, yeah, some of the renders you see and some of the things and you’re like, well, that defies gravity, like how do you defies?

Well, I mean, or. It defies budget or something outlandish that’s sort of pitched as the solution to the housing problem. You know what I’m talking, you’ve seen this and you go, Oh, how do you, you’re gonna build this economically when it’s, I’ve seen a recurring pattern of that through, even if you watch grand designs, you know, people try and save money by using groundbreaking technology.

And you go, if you want to save money, build. With materials that have been around for a long time. So I guess there’s a reality to build and there’s a reality to customer risk and expectation. So sure. For the right customer who wants to take a chance of an uncertain outcome with a. In a sense, essentially, what is a prototype, then fine, we’ll go on that journey, but as long as they understand what that is, but most of the time they walk back from there when you actually go, well, that’s going to be really expensive and we don’t know how, we’re, we’re going to have to work out how to build it first and then test that and then build it.

So then again, that’s not what we had in mind. We were on a budget. 

David: I think the point I’m, I’m making is There’s the reality, like what something is going to be. And then there’s our understanding. And anytime that there’s a bit of a gap, like whenever there’s a little bit of uncertainty, that uncertainty, you just have to de risk through, you know, like increasing your margin or increasing the timeframe.

And that also happens when people are buying off the plan, like if there’s this gap in understanding of what the end product is and what they’re expecting, they’re not going to, you end up leaving money on the table as a developer if you’re doing exceptional product, but your customers don’t understand that.

Like it’s great if they walk into it at the end and they say, wow, this is the most incredible space. It’s better than I expected. But if they are saying that, then the reality is. They’ve probably, probably left a little bit of money on the table in that sale there because they haven’t truly understood how great this space is going to be while they were buying.

And that’s what we’re trying to help. We’re trying to help bridge that gap between reality and, and people’s understanding of it and help them, you know, have certainty in that. Yeah, and 

Mat: I think like where, and I’ve never sold anything off the plan, I’ve never bought anything off the plan, so I don’t have a lot of experience, but I do have a lot of experience with single residences and renovating and architectural homes, essentially, and the magic happens when people walk in and feel good, right?

So. I guess my, my question is, how do you capture that feeling? What are the tricks? Because yeah, there’s image, you know, imagery is one thing, but what are the secret kind of, I wasn’t going to say dirty tricks, but what are the, what are the tricks? What are the tricks of the trade I should say, to create that feeling like, because it is about, it genuinely is about someone falling in love with the place and seeing themselves living in it and wanting it.

And that’s where I’ve guess I’ve seen the best success in real estate or development is with architectural, with architectural homes where people just love it, see themselves living there and just want to be there badly. And then when you’ve got five of those who have the resources, that’s when the magic happens, right?

So how do you get that, project that feeling of walking into space? Into a virtual world. 

David: Yeah, so the spaces that we’re helping these CGI studios produce, they actually are of render quality. Like, so the renders that you’ve seen when they’re selling off the plan, imagine if you could walk through them in one to one scale.

And the way I think about it is a little bit contrary to the way the industry has for a long time. For a long time, people have tried to think of the most magic moments that someone can experience in a space and capture them in an image and serve them up to a buyer. And sure, that does, you know, get people excited to start, you know, dreaming about that home that is going to be built in two years time that they’ll get to move into.

I actually think the magic happens when you let them take that experience and take it home and continue looking through it. And that’s when I, from my experience, they really start to begin dreaming about what their life’s going to be like in that home. When you’re in a sales setting for half an hour and you’ve got a real estate agent speaking to you or sometimes at you, it’s really hard to kind of go on that journey.

But by giving this experience to a buyer on their phone that they can take home and, you know, from their couch continue walking through this space you know, sitting at the sofa, things like that. I find that they do form a much more emotional connection and that’s even magnified once they start sending it to their friends and family saying, look at this space, what do you think?

Once you’ve got your friends and family saying, I love it. That’s incredible. And you’re, you know, you’ve had enough time to really take it in and understand it. That’s when I think you get people forming that emotional bond that you’re speaking about when you have an existing property. Because when you’ve got an existing property, it’s great.

People can walk through it. They can, you know, they might come to four open homes before they hit purchase. We’re trying to recreate that open home experience, but for a property that doesn’t exist yet. And and I think we do a really good job of it. 

Mat: Okay, but Dave, tell us the tricks of the trade. Tell us the sneaky secrets that, you know, do you make it feel more light than it?

What are those things that people don’t see? That’s what this podcast is all about. 

David: Yeah, so we don’t do any of the design work, so we’re the platform. We work with any CGI studio, and they have their tricks, like, you know, some fallen pollen from the flowers on the side table, or a little flicker from the fire, or a cup of coffee sitting there.

Like, they have these tricks, and I think what they’re trying to do is make it feel lived in. These low angle lighting, these techniques like that, and they make this space feel, you know, the way that you feel in the golden hour as the sun’s setting and you’ve come home from work and you’re ready to relax.

Like, that’s how they make these spaces feel. Our technology, we just take that design that they’ve created, all of their lighting, all of their textures, all of their, you know, reflections and glows and things like that, and we let people walk through it. So. I would say the art is all it’s, it’s actually not us.

It’s all the artist and the creator. We give them the tools to be able to communicate it the way that they would they would want someone to experience it. So 

Mat: I’m glad you raised that because what I had in my mind is the problem with a lot of CGI is it’s doesn’t feel real because it’s too perfect.

And so if you’ve ever seen, well, maybe I’m a bit. Against that curse of knowledge. But when you walk into a traditional pub that’s just been newly renovated with traditional moldings, you can tell that they’re machine like cut moldings. They’re not the real deal. You could because things are too straight, right?

So you can see that this is brand new. They don’t come out of a traditional mill. They’re not hand cut. Yeah. And it’s the same. I mean that we value that like everyone values that whether it’s you value the barista who’s very good, but imperfect. You value the imperfection because perfection is like a machine doing it right.

But you value the, the imperfection, whether it’s beer or coffee or, or anything. It’s the done by hand, done by, you know, I’ve always found hand roasted coffee really like a funny thing. Cause I’m like when you burn your hand, anyway, that’s it. That’s a bad joke. That’s it. You can keep that one for later.

Yeah, I think one of the key things is like a lot of the time it’s too perfect and it doesn’t feel real. So have you seen a trend where people are deliberately putting some imperfections in to make things real? Like how, what’s the trick to making it feel real and, and getting, giving people that real sense of connection to it?

David: Yeah, absolutely. Look, we see a lot of artwork come our way from the different studios and some of these range in, you know, some of them charge seven, 8, 000 per image and some of them charge 150 per image. And I would say a big difference is like, it’s the styling, like a lot of it comes down to the styling.

And so. The lower end renders, I think sometimes they try and show people what they think a dream apartment would look like, but with the higher end artists, they show you a space that feels like, it feels homely, like it feels real. And as you said, it is a lot of the imperfection. Like I’ve seen.

Incredible detail from some of these artists, like underneath the vase of flowers, a little bit of pollen on the table where it’s fallen, or just, you know, like, like dark marks around the carpet around the fireplace, like, it feels like a space that might be five years old, not five minutes old, and it feels lived in, and I think I think that’s a lot of the tricks behind the art.

And there are plenty of artists who do things that are unrealistic, like really impossible camera angles and impossible lighting conditions and stuff. But I, I actually think that these generally feel inauthentic and I think people pick up on it. I 

Mat: wanted to ask you one thing from some notes that you shared with me, you said people want to buy a home, they don’t want to be sold one.

What do you mean by that? 

David: Yeah. So the way people buy has changed very much since, you know, it was really driven by COVID. We talked to a lot of agents and maybe four years ago, they would say, look, I just want to get, get a buyer in front of me and I can close a sale. But now what they’re finding is the tactics of saying, I’m not going to give you pricing.

I’m not going to give you any info until you come to the sales suite. aren’t working. Like we speak to some agents and they say that maybe like 9 percent of their inquiries will ever actually make it to the sales suite. And that’s a real issue. So the really innovative ones that they’re realizing you have to be more forthcoming with information.

You can’t be the gatekeeper of it. You need to give a buyer all the information they need to make a decision on whether this is their home or not. And kind of just help them come to that point of certainty, as opposed to trying to trick them into feeling that this is their perfect home. So I guess what I was saying is the way PeopleShop has changed, you no longer will walk into five car showrooms and test drive five cars.

You’ll look at them all online, figure out which one you want, and then you’ll just go buy. And the same is happening with property. People are too busy to walk into 30 display suites. And so having technology that lets you give someone that sales suite experience, but from their own home, can be really powerful.

At least for those those leads who you can’t get in front of you. And that’s how a lot of our clients will use our technology. Like they’ll, they’ll first say, yep, come down to the sales suite. And for those 90 percent of people who just won’t. As a last resort, they can send them a text and they click that link and they’re walking through this space.

They can capture data on them as they do that and still help themselves. 

Mat: Yeah. And so do you think it’s changing the real estate industry? Do you think that industry is Changing as a result of having these tools and how have you seen that change? 

David: Yeah, look, I think the change is actually being driven by the buyer.

I don’t know if it’s been driven by technology. Traditionally, property in the real estate industry are quite slow to adapt to new technologies. But buyers are demanding more information now. You speak to agents and they say it’s very easy to sell the apartment that they have. That’s the same layout as the sales suite, but then the other apartments, it’s really difficult.

And that kind of demand from the buyer to understand what they’re getting is really driving this change. And obviously with the emergence of VR as, you know, a product and a solution, we are seeing more agents reaching out to us and inquiring organically saying, I want this on my next job. 

Mat: And so what’s the future?

Where is all this heading? Is it just better quality of render? Because I think it’s fair to say, right, that it’s easier right now to do a high quality render than it was even 12 months ago. Is that right? 

David: Yeah, it sure is. And it’ll continue getting easier, I would say. But I would, I would say renders as One of the tools that I think will always be used but if you think about where they’ve kind of come from Marketing material it probably started at like also models and then maybe watercolor paintings and then very Blocky CGI images and then you know All the rendering engines came out and people were able to produce these nice renders that have only gotten better and better and better but then it’s also kind of stepped into the field of immersion so like Fly through videos, hotspot tours, and now real time experiences, which is what we help people create.

And what we’re finding is there’s a progression towards more realism. And realism in terms of quality is only one aspect of how real something feels. If you actually immerse someone inside that and let them experience the space as opposed to just looking at it, the whole thing feels much more real and the space feels more real to you.

So this technology It’s been pretty shit, to be honest, in the past. It’s been clunky. You know, agents have like engaged it on projects and then not used it because it just didn’t work. It’s made people feel sick. But Meta and Apple, some of the biggest companies in the world are working really hard to get these devices like really, really working well.

And they do now. And what it means is like that clunkiness is gone. You have this tool now as a salesperson or a building designer that lets you create this much more real experience and gives you all the benefits of that. And I don’t see that going away. I see a trend towards that, especially as Meta and Apple put these devices in everyone’s homes, which I firmly believe they will over the next five years.

Mat: So I guess what’s the future of that? And I’ll preface that by saying like one of my favorite podcasts is the Verge cast. And I don’t know if that’s something you’re familiar with, but they are technology nerds and they, they just geek out over Meta. And I think I don’t, I’m not hugely into. Tech, but I enjoy listening to those guys just because they take it to the next level.

But I, I, their take on it is that. Everyone’s trying to get to a point where virtual reality and augmented reality is more like a pair of sunglasses than scuba diving gear, right? So do you share that view, I guess? What’s the, what’s in the, what, what is the, where does it go from here? Cause you, you know, you, you don’t see people wandering around wearing Apple got, what are they?

I forgot the name of the product. 

David: Yeah. I know exactly what you’re saying, and there is definitely a trend towards lighter eyewear, but we’ve, we’ve built over 15 different VR devices, like we’re pretty device agnostic. And I’ve used really lightweight devices, but what I find actually makes it feel more real and more immersive isn’t like how small it is on your face, it’s your field of vision.

And they’ve done really well getting the lens quite close and clear and wrapping further around your eyes, because once you have that head goggle on, like someone looking at you will look, you’ll look like you’re wearing goggles, like your scuba goggles, you’ll look silly. But from being inside it, you don’t see that.

You see this world that you’re in. And if you don’t have tunnel vision, if you do, if you are able to like feel exactly as you would in real life and have a fulfilled vision, you almost forget the form factor. So I have seen that there is a trend, like people are talking about a trend towards lighter and lighter and lighter wearables.

But we’ve got developers who wear them eight hours a day and don’t really find any issue with them or discomfort or anything like that. And it’s only going to get better. And I think people will be using them to watch films. They’ll replace a lot of like screens in your homes and computers and things like that.

They’ll be used more in gaming and entertainment. One day we’ll, we’ll look at people watching sport on a TV and laugh because, you know, you’ll put on your headset and you’ll be in the stadium sitting right next to the coach watching this thing live. Whereas though it’s live. So I do think there is going to be a trend towards immersion in almost every kind of entertainment and marketing.

And that’s going to result in a lot of these devices in your homes and as a designer or as a salesperson or as a developer, I think we are going to see people. Utilizing these devices more to connect with people and and get all those tangible benefits from immersion. 

Mat: Yeah. Right. So you think, yeah, you think the future is the big, the proper immersion goggles, but improved, I guess, hopefully not as clunky, but but yeah, that the future is we’re all, we’re all wandering around.

With a version of a VR headset and and using it, using it regularly. I 

David: don’t know about wandering around but I think the way that you interact with technology now, a lot of that will be replaced with interacting with spatial computing. So right now I’m looking at you through a monitor but I very easily could have a headset on if you’re looking at a monitor in this experience.

So yeah, I think that’s where Apple are pushing with this technology to replace a lot of other devices in your home. And I think whenever Apple jump into a new product market, it really does take off. And yeah, I see it being a much more common thing for people to have at home in the future. 

Mat: Except that they did spend a hundred billion dollars developing a car at one point.

Yeah. But that was never, that was shelved. Maybe not a hundred billion, but a lot of money went into their, their car that was never released. But yeah, I mean, yeah, it’s a fair point. They don’t do things by halves, but it’d be interesting, interesting to see what emerges because yeah, Meta has put so much, they bet their future on it almost.

Right. 

David: To be honest, I’m not excited about a future where we have more screen time or we’re taken out of reality, but I am excited in a future where if there’s something that I want to experience, I can experience it in the most. Most immersive and realistic way. So I think there is like any technology, there is going to be a balance.

There’s going to be benefits from it. There’s going to be downsides. But it’s a technology that’s very much here to stay. And I think we’re going to see more and more of it. 

Mat: There’s going to be kids in the future just wear the goggles and don’t just remove, remove. That’s the, cause you know, imagine, imagine if they’re already glued to their device, at least.

We’ve been glued to the device to have peripheral vision, like, whereas yeah, that’s a bit scary. But I guess that it’s controversial because some people are kind of viewing it as a fad. Other people are viewing it as the future. But, like you say, if Apple’s on board, that adds a lot of credence.

David: There’s also Something that we, a lot of our clients use is they use this experience on site. We’ve got a view on site function where you can basically lock the model to the existing site. So you can lock it to, say you get your slab down, you can lock the model to the slab. And so you can walk around where you’ve been working with like builders to try and incorporate that into the build process.

Because I know as a builder myself, I used to have a lot of problems with like site access, setting up scaffold, things like that. And I can’t tell you how many times we did off form concrete and I’d see a still fixer like wiping their wet hands on it because they didn’t realize it was, you know, the finished product.

So something I used to do a lot of is take those rendered images and like stick them up around site. But what this is, it gives you a tool to actually show a subby or a contract of what they’re building. And I think that is really powerful, not just ours, but any kind of augmented reality solution.

Mat: Yeah, because that’s the promise of the future. And I guess I’ve always wondered how difficult it is to lock something into a site. That’s something that I kind of go, is it expensive and is it worth the trouble? Because yeah, you, you kind of, and is it worth thinking about in the, in the whirlwind of trying to get the place built?

The future of Construction apparently is AR and measuring using, having models and having scans and all of that. I’m curious to know how far away you think that is. 

David: Yeah, I think it’s here. I think there are, there are builders out there that are incorporating augmented reality technology, whether it’s You know, brickies wearing headsets to do really intricate bricklaying patterns or whether it’s people using it on site to understand where service runs need to go, clash detection, things like that.

It is currently being used, but it isn’t really that accessible for smaller builders. And that’s something that we’ve really tried to tackle. So we’ve got a product that basically lets you upload your Revit, SketchUp, HockeyCAD model, whatever it is. And then walk around and on site just using your phone.

So when you’re on site, you lock it to the real space and then wherever you are, what you see through your phone is what’s going to look like when it’s complete. And that is really handy for for a builder is trying to help construction team understand what’s going on there. 

Mat: And how do you lock it?

Because that’s something that I’ve never really, I’ve, I can, I mean, I’ve got some idea around, but how, how in a practical sense, how do you tell your phone where it is in space? Like, how do you do that? 

David: Yeah. So when you’re in one of these experiences on the phone, you can move it. You can press the unlock button and move it around so that you are standing at the same location as you are in the model.

And then you just hit the lock button. And then as you walk or move or rotate, you move through the model in one to one scale as well. And it tracks really well. 

Mat: Yeah, right, right. So you just basically, it’s not, it’s not like you have to measure it to the millimeter. You’re just kind of going here. I’m in about this space and here’s where I start from.

Yeah, exactly. But I wonder where, at what point technology becomes practical enough where it recognizes where you are and then helps you measure things because that’s what I’ve like, you know, I’ve looked at scanning, but scanning It’s evolved, but it hasn’t in some ways you’re still like, believe it or not. I looked at scanning a building and setting up a base station more than 12 years ago, and it’s kind of the precision was plus or minus, I don’t know, 150 mil. And when I looked at it three years ago, the precision was still plus or minus. 80 mil or like, it wasn’t that much, it wasn’t that much data. It was good, perfect for like, amazing for benching, you know, and like civil works, fantastic, but when it comes to. scanning to the, even to the 10 millimeters, which is good enough for building off. It just, it just wasn’t there. So I’m wondering if it, if that technology is coming. 

David: It’s actually, it’s, you know, obviously come a long way since he used it last. I know there’s a lot of there’s technologies such as they’re called nerfs or Gaussian splats.

And it basically uses artificial intelligence to assist the scanning. And so instead of scanning as a model, it scans as a point cloud. And there’s a lot of technologies out there that, you know, you can use a drone to measure something as precise as a wire, its location up on the top of a bridge to pinpoint accuracy, to see if a bridge has moved at all.

It’s incredibly accurate nowadays for measuring things that are really precise, but also for You know, measuring whole spaces. A lot of the work we do as well, we’re looking to incorporate real world scanning into our platform and it is using these AI system scanning. So what it does is you can, you know, scan a room or a space and it uses AI to imagine what the aspects of it that it hasn’t been able to see in that images.

And so you can actually create a model of a whole space really quickly and with very, very high accuracy and fidelity. 

Mat: So it can be plus or minus. What, 10 mil, do you reckon, or? I think it’s higher too. Because, yeah, when I looked at it a while ago, maybe two or three years ago, it was plus or minus 100 mil and it was useful, it was very expensive and useful for pipeline projects or things that you really wanted to track in real time where there was 10 million a day at stake, right?

David: Yeah. It’s accurate enough to scan the fluff on a towel. Yeah. That’s how accurate it is now. So you can create, you know, a 3D model of a fluffy object like a towel. So it’s come a very, very long way. I’m not sure to exactly what accuracy, but it’s, it’s pretty spot on when they’re using it for measuring movement in buildings and things like that. I’d say it would be within the millimeter. 

Mat: And just on a separate topic, I guess, what’s the future? Because you’ve obviously had, you’ve had experience in construction development, you’ve had in our built technology business. So what, what is the future of building? Like, what does it, what does it look like?

To everyone, the sort of common view of the future is, you know, well, there’s flying drones, there’s always flying cars, whatever, whatever year you’re in, there’s some form of flying car in the future, right? And there’s scanning and AR. What are the technologies that We’re not thinking about that. You think might be around the corner.

David: Well, I think about the, I guess the kinds of projects that I’ve experienced. I’ve spoken to people about and, you know, when you look at some of the stuff they’re doing in Saudi Arabia, you’re seeing real like A. I. And data driven design. So, like, understanding how people move through spaces and, you know, using your models to design.

How this space should be proportioned and laid out. You’re seeing a lot of prefabricated work. So obviously like taking a really radical design, break it down into chunks that you can make in a factory and just assembly on site. And I think that’s happening more and more, you know, even speaking to Australian builders who are starting to have stuff manufactured over overseas and, 48 hour period on site.

I think you’re going to see. Technology’s reducing the requirement for labor. I think labor and material shortages are something that’s going to be very common in the West. Well maybe not shortages, but labor costs. So I’d be expecting materials to change over time away from those really labor dependent materials, like, you know, like face bricks and things like that or the emergence of technology that helps build that kind of stuff.

I just hope people get better at waterproofing.

Mat: Yeah, I think, you know, we, I had a we do training for our staff and, and the other day I just said, look, follow these principles for waterproofing. Anything that will stay wet, we’ll have moisture moving through it. Anything that can fill up with water will fill up with water. And anything that can impede the flow of water will impede the flow of water.

So if you just build from those principles, like just presuming that any where that water can get into it well, and we, despite that, we still need to cope with, but yeah, I mean, water. That’s 90 percent of building defects is, is something to do with water. 

David: You see, and, and even just the longevity of it, like you see a lot of a lot of designs that are reliant on things like membrane as opposed to like gravitational flow or just removing water from it as you know, old pitched roofs were.

I’ve, the reason I say that is I’ve actually just moved out of a a house which had a flat concrete roof with planter boxes on top and all over it. Into a and you can imagine it after five or six years, it was just leaking nonstop. And I’ve just moved into an old weather board house with a pitched roof and the big storms came through the other nights and I was expecting, you know, water to get, make its way in somewhere.

Nothing. And I was just, yeah, it just really made me appreciate the, the idea of just removing water from an area as quickly as possible, as opposed to trying to pond it or anything like that. 

Mat: Yeah, absolutely. And I think one of the big disasters is modern waterproofing and where it’s degradable materials as a substrate.

So where you have, and yeah, the common, so concrete’s actually pretty good. I think, you know, most of the time when concrete leaks, it’s, it’s penetrations in concrete rather than concrete. It’s very like concrete actually gets more and more waterproof with age. So it’s actually the, the antithesis of lightweight.

Waterproof areas, which degrade over time and move around and, and the worst, yeah, I could talk about water. Yeah, you’re opening a can of worms right now. Really exciting podcast. Yeah, yeah, we’re going, it’s going from, from, from the future to, to the harsh reality of, of every day, you know, but, 

David: the reason I raise it is because, like, I look at some of these really radical, incredible designs and, You know, even building them is going to be an absolute challenge.

Yeah. It’s not just the building it. I’m looking at it thinking about the servicing it. You know, what happens after 15, 20 years, like where are you getting the scissor lift to take it out there and repair that? And that’s the thing that I’m really interested to see how it all plays out in the future. 

Mat: And look, I, I learned early on that any idiot can build a house or any idiot can build something, but to build it on like on time on budget.

And keep water out. That’s, that’s the art, 

you know, that’s the art to be functional and do it on a, within a timeframe and a budget. Like anyone, anyone can do it. Yeah, we have the future, but I don’t know, I think I’ve got it. We’ve got a guest coming up at some point or, you know, when the stars need to align, but we are, we, I do want to get someone on who does prefab because prefab is, you know, I mentioned flying cars before, like.

Prefab and flying cars are always in the future, no matter what year you’re in, like, you know, it feels like after 100 years of promise, prefab might actually be the thing that we just have to have to use. But, you know, the problem is such a cyclical industry and having. You know, the cost of a factory running, churning out houses, whether there’s an upturn or a downturn, ends up being a problem at some point.

So, yeah, but prefab, yeah, there’s no reason. There’s no reason it can’t happen. I think it’s just a little bit different than what people think. You know, it’s not Yeah, 

David: I do wonder how that affects, you know, countries that are relying on the construction industry as ways of You know, boosting the economy, because you may see the non localization of construction.

If 90 percent of the construction is done in a country with much lower labor costs and shipped over and just assembled in place, I’m interested to see what that. What that means for our industry, but also price, property prices and things like that. It’s going to be really interesting to see how that changes things.

Mat: Yeah. Well, we’ll see. Look, I think it’s like anything you’re kind of going, Oh, it’s the end of the world. If we don’t have a building industry and everything gets, gets shipped from China or wherever, but such a long time horizon. If and when that might happen, but yeah, it’s still got to be assembled, still got to be put together.

So, yeah, I don’t, I don’t know. It’s a, it’s a hard, it’s an, it’s an interesting one, particularly at the moment, because there is a shortage of trade. There’s a half a million. shortfall in trades people in Australia and there’s a short fall of housing. So yeah, it has to be something has to be done differently.

Don’t know what that is exactly, but yeah, there, there, there is, we do need to rethink the way we build. But yeah, who knows, who knows. So the key takeaways from today’s episode Wondering what they are. Dave, do you have any ideas? 

David: I’d say one of the takeaways, I’d, I’d, I think you’ll, hopefully your listeners take from it, is that these technologies are here now and they are in a state that is usable and can provide a lot of utility to both them and their customers and everyone in the whole process.

So I think that’s hopefully that’s a takeaway they, they receive. 

Mat: Yeah. And I think also the the fact that, yeah, the market’s changing things, like it’s a different market with different expectations. I do wonder whether your technology will move the dial a little bit on the market, whether it does change how buildings are sold.

So I do think it will inevitably, it can’t. not impact real estate and how agents work, particularly off the plan agents. Like it does, it will set a new benchmark for how properties are sold. There’s no two ways about it because who off the plan means that You’ve got a set of plans, right? But I think people are going to be expecting more as a standard, as a standard of any development, so that it definitely will move the needle on the whole industry and maybe the, the third takeaway is technology is changing and will impact the whole industry and things are moving.

But as to whether, you know, whether Apple or Manor will still be producing headsets in, you know, two years time or five years time or if someone else will come on the scene, I don’t know. I don’t know. Who’s your money on, though? Just to wrap up. Who’s your money on? 

David: Oh, I would say I’m most excited to see the Apple headset.

I think I’ve spent a long time in developing and I’m really excited to see what that does and how that changes things. It’s really the usability is what is going to make these things take off the ability to build to it as a, like as an app developer or a creative, but the usability of it. And I just think that Apple they designed things really well.

Mat: Great. Dave, thanks so much for joining us. Thank you. Thanks also to our listeners to access exclusive content. We invite you to join our community by subscribing to our mailing list. The link can be found in the show notes. Okay. Thanks again. And until next time, 

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