augmentedrealityA lot of attention in real estate goes into looking at what the next big thing will be in technology that will impact our business. As a self-confessed closet Geek, I do my best to stay on top of future trends. All things related to data has garnered my greatest attention over the last few years – from Predictive Analytics, to Artificial Intelligence and the emergence of the “algorithm economy.”

The future impact of these trends on real estate will be stunning, but there are two other trends closer to the vest for real estate brokerages that could have a much more rapid and practical impact. And that’s what is happening in leveraging technology to allow people to not just see a house remotely, but feel as if they are actually inside the home.

VR has the buzz

One of the biggest buzzes in real estate continues to be around Virtual Reality. VR gives real estate agents the ability to immerse customers into a property, virtually, through a three dimensional online experience. Matterport is among the hottest technology being used to create the most advanced digital 3D property tours. Just visit their website, and you’ll see the value of what they do.

It is being used by some of real estate’s biggest and most forward-thinking brands: Redfin, Alain Pinel Realtors, Halstead, and, to name a few. In fact, Matterport has spawned a cottage industry, giving birth to a nationwide network of professional 3D photographers who have helped drive down the cost of a 3D tour and make it more accessible to agents nationwide.

Pushing VR into mainstream America with VR headsets are big brands like Sony, HTC and Oculus Rift (owned by Facebook), which range from $399 – $799. Pushing the price point lower while rapidly expanding market access is Samsung with its Gear VR priced at $99 (just attach a Samsung smartphone) and Google Cardboard at just $16.99, that uses just about any smartphone. There are many more models in or coming to the marketplace, and I believe VR technology will help accelerate real estate’s next phase of property immersion.

AR will be bigger

But for all the hype that has focused on VR, I think Niantic’s Pokémon GO shows how huge Augmented Reality can be. Far more powerful than a VR, AR is the technology that can make people feel as if they are actually inside the home.

Here’s a great primer on AR from that also explains what makes it different than VR:

“Augmented is the integration of digital information with the user’s environment in real time. Unlike virtual reality, which creates a totally artificial environment, augmented reality uses the existing environment and overlays new information on top of it. “

All of these new VR headsets will really create just another a pathway to the world of AR. Imagine those Millennial home buyers who don’t want to spend a weekend in an agent’s car driving around tour properties in person. Or what this does for an overseas buyer. But they won’t even need the headsets, as AR technology can just as easily be displayed on a tablet to give an immersion experience.

With Pokémon GO, we saw how an app could tie animation with “markers” in the real world. Now use contextual digital information – recreate the walls, furniture and décor of a home in every room, and then allow the buyer to change the furniture to their own, paint the walls the color of their choice and make the home they are touring their own.

That’s why I believe AR is going to be the real game changer. VR just moves us down the road faster to that door.