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How Augmented Reality Could Affect the Lettings Market

3 August 2021 Julie Davidson Read time: 3 min
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Julie Davidson

In 2016, a little mobile game by the name Pokemon Go took the world by storm. All of a sudden, millions were heading outside and pointing their phones at the real world. It’s not uncommon for games to cement their place in the cultural lexicon, but Pokemon Go offered something different: it was our first real look at accessible augmented reality.

The concept of Pokemon Go was simple. Download the app, point your smartphone at real-life surroundings, and catch little monsters that look like they actually exist in your environment. As of February 2019, one billion people have downloaded the game.

What has this got to do with letting agents, you might ask? Augmented reality has the power to change the way people view homes, and it’s worth knowing about if you’re in the business of letting properties.  

Augmented reality in a nutshell

Augmented reality, otherwise known as AR, is a form of technology that overlays digital content and information onto the real world. You can see computer-generated inputs, such as graphics, videos and sounds, in your real-life surroundings. 

What was once a science-fiction concept reserved for the latest sci-fi movies has now become a science-based reality. From the health sector to the property industry, professionals are accomplishing their business tasks and pushing boundaries with AR. 

The evolution of augmented reality

The swinging sixties

While many associate the AR craze with catching all the Pokemon, the technology dates back to the 1950s. In 1957, cinematographer Morton Heilig invented a form of augmented reality with Sensorama, a machine that provided visuals, vibrations, sounds and smells to viewers. 

There were, however, no computer-led processes, which meant Sensorama wasn’t augmented reality in its purest form. That would come in 1968 when computer scientist Ivan Sutherland invented a head-mounted display that was a window into the virtual world. 

Rocking out in the nineties

There would be varying takes on AR in the years and decades following the sixties, with the actual term ‘augmented reality’ first coined in 1990. Just two years later, the first fully-functioning AR system was likely developed by Louis Rosenberg at USAF Armstrong’s Research Lab. 

It was called Virtual Fixtures and took shape as a complex robotic system designed to supplement a lack of high-speed 3D graphics. It allowed for an overlay of sensory information on a workspace to improve productivity. 

Here and now

Despite each incremental advancement, AR still wasn’t considered a particularly useful feature in everyday life, and it was expensive. That was until technological innovations came to the fore, ones that can be implemented on their own or combined to create augmented reality. 

General hardware components – such as those featured in a smartphone – and headset, monitor and optical projection displays, as well as sensors, input devices and software all have the capability to power AR. These options have made the tech more accessible, pushing the boundaries of what it can do in the process. 

How lettings can benefit from augmented reality

In the world of moving home, augmented reality has the potential to let renters tour a property with their smartphones, regardless of location. It can also let letting agents tweak a room’s design to give potential renters an idea of what they could do with the space. 

Virtual viewings via video are already on the rise, and it’s not far-fetched thinking that technology could make AR viewings a normal occurrence in the future. In the meantime, however, the tech probably isn’t quite up to the standard to provide a seamless experience. 

What AR alternatives are available now?  

Video walkthroughs currently offer a viable alternative to AR, helping renters find a new home without viewing it in person. At Movebubble, we offer a video-first platform where renters can search, view and secure their new place with just a few clicks. 

For letting agents it means renting out your stock faster and offering modern-day renters a smarter way to find a property. And with the instant booking feature, renters can secure their new place with minimum fuss. 

Making AR a reality 

The advancement of augmented reality is one of the most exciting innovations in recent years. It looks set to surpass virtual reality and become a fundamental component in our lives, from the way that we shop to how we learn. In the United States alone, 83.1 million people already use AR. And that number will grow around the world as augmented reality goes from futuristic tech to something that we use effortlessly in our everyday lives, including in the property market. But until that becomes a reality, video viewings are already doing a stellar job of helping renters find a new home without viewing the property in person. 

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