The real estate industry has an identity problem. It has a habit of misrepresenting itself, literally. We have all seen the fisheye lens move that makes a closet size apartment look “lofty” or the creative ways that people can shoot around an ugly view out a window.
One company working on building better visual verifiability is Matterport, which recently announced an expansion into mobile device imaging alongside their normal camera-based approach. “When you’re looking at stuff online, the bulk of the challenge, all the way out to hotels as well, is what you see online is not always what you get when you get there,” said RJ Pittman, CEO of Matterport. “And that sort of disconnect has not been solved with photography or video because it’s very easy to manipulate it…with Matterport, all of that, there’s no question it becomes a ground truth. It is a system of record that is consistent and accurate.”
This misrepresentation can come back to harm the industry. Not having an accurate example of a building limits our ability to repair, remodel and redesign our spaces. To that end, RJ added that “what I see as the new frontier is when buildings become data. Because it’s not just about creating a digital set of photography. In my view, that is a form of data, but it’s not very actionable data, it’s not very manipulatable data. There’s not much more you can do with a photo other than look at it. What Matterport does is create a data layer that’s fairly foundational to the physical world. Because when we scan a space, we’re not just taking great photos or just getting a model of the walls, the ceilings, the hallways. What we are actually doing is capturing and creating an index of the building and everything that that building contains. In other words, we see and identify the contents of the space as well.”
That level of data offers something that is a big step beyond simple photographs. From identifying fixtures to room uses, the ability of the “building as data” approach can’t be overstated. As a true-to-scale model that can be combined with other building systems like HVAC or electric, opportunities like virtual staging and remodeling visualization become real possibilities.
But perhaps most intriguingly, the ability of data platforms like Matterport to help develop digital twins for buildings of any size could redefine the entire face of what home improvement as well as building capital projects look like even beyond staging furniture and visualizing updated spaces.
“Think of a world where everybody has a digital twin of their house,” RJ said. “You can hit a button and share a model with anyone. They don’t even have to be in your area. They can take your model, walk through your house in true 3D, and know exactly where your windows and doors are. Because you have this exact digital twin, designers, contractors, or whoever can collaborate and configure solutions to problems. Because you can install the whole system virtually and you can actually see one, two, ten different options. And the service providers can give you a very precise and confident bid. Suddenly you’ve created a level of scalability to the trade industries that have always been completely hampered by the huge amount of friction that is going out and doing physical bids for projects.”
So, while “dressing up” a listing might seem like a good way to call attention to its highlights it might actually be keeping it from reaching its full potential. By creating a way for our 3D spaces be easily documented and searchable we reap benefits that far outweigh the degraded sales pitch. As the saying goes, “the truth shall set you free.”