Could Virtual Reality become a reality in public consultation?

Last week Oculus Rift VR headsets started shipping to consumers worldwide. Whilst broadcasting live on Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg unboxed the headset and explained the ‘game changing’ technology developed at Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters. Although the concept of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) has been around for a couple of years now (found mostly in the form of glitchy prototypes at tech conventions or gaming events), this is the first time the technology has been made widely available to consumers.

Aimed predominantly at the gaming industry, VR and AR technology has also been applied (with varying degrees of success) across advertising, educational and medical sectors, allowing users to immerse themselves in alternative environments—real or imagined—without leaving their seat. So how has the property sector embraced this technology?

In 2015 Savills were quick to set the bar with a virtual tour of their landmark property Furze Croft in Weybridge. Teaming up with VR production company, ReWind, attendees of the Masterpiece Fair in London were able to don a headset and take a 360˚ VR tour of the palatial mansion (where former residents include John Lennon & Cliff Richard).

In a similar vein, property marketers Totality adopted AR to promote the multi million pound St James Riverlight development in London. By holding an iPad up to a seemingly ‘run-of-the-mill’ brochure, potential buyers from all over the globe were able to interact with a virtual 3D model of the completed development in 2017.

But what about embracing this technology at the consultation stage of development? At MPC we are aware that a vast majority of opposition towards development, stems from fear of the unknown or an unwillingness to accept change. To counter this we will show images and CGIs of the proposed development, perhaps even a 3D architect’s model or fly-through video. But consider the potential of VR as a method of demonstrating, almost first hand, the benefits of your development—the retained open green spaces, the unobtrusive building heights and carefully considered architecture. Consider hosting a public consultation event in situ and employing AR technology to transform a derelict brownfield site, into state of the art apartments, in front of the public’s very eyes.

There’s no telling how much VR and AR will impact our day-to-day lives over the coming years, but one thing is for certain; the potential this technology brings to the property industry is huge—and we’ve only just scratched the surface. 

By Matt Brassington