High-tech house hunting

02nd March 2015
High-tech house hunting

Virtual Reality  nudges realty to make buying, renting or furnishing a home, just an app away.

From Anand Parthasarathy
Bangalore, March 2 2015: Caveat emptor, the latin phrase which means 'buyer beware',   seems like  good advice when  are buying a new home -- a transaction that can  cost  anything from Rs 20 lakhs to  Rs 1 crore or more in cities these days.  Which is why many prospective house hunters  would dearly like to add  another caveat: 'try before you buy'.
This is difficult, when  many properties  are  still under construction when booking starts -- so it is difficult to visualize how the finished and furnished apartment or villa will look like.  But thanks to a combo of a phone app -- and technologies like 3-D, virtual reality and augmented reality, you can at least 'look before you leap': immerse yourself in  virtual realizations of the  fully constructed property, before  leaping for your check book.
Last week online real estate platform CommonFloor.com launched  a  solution   that  provides  users with a near-real visual experience of the project that are looking to buy.  The tool  called CommonFloor Retina (CFRetina)  harnesses  a new tool -- Google Cardboard. This is a  cardboard cutout  mount that, when combined with a pair of lenses  and a tiny magnet and strapped  to the phone with a rubber affords a  virtual reality experience. It works with an Android app that  turns images into twin stereoscopic views. The lenses allow a person to perceive left and right images as a single three-dimensional image. The magnet on the headgear acts as a navigation tool. The CFRetina app   can be selected to  let you walk through  some 20  upcoming housing projects -- some 500 , India-wide are in the pipeline. The  Cardboard attachment can be purchased  for Rs 1000 but if you are the DIY type, Google provides instructions for assembling it.
Another leading online real estate portal, IndiaProperty.com,   launched its own augmented reality-based Real Estate Mobile Application last year. The user needs to install the 3DPanoX  app -- then  scan the logo of the project or the image on  a  brochure or newspaper advertisement using their smartphone camera. The app  provides a 3-D visualization of the whole project along with panoramic shots, floor plans and other project details. India Property also leverages 3-D imagery in its web portal with tools like TruView and Virtual Walk-through.
For those who want to check out the locality of  a new construction, Housing.com   provides a drones-eye view, allowing you to navigate around the area, much as you would pilot a glider.
Searching on the keyword Vaastu  will bring up a number of  apps   which use the device camera and compass capabilities to judge directional compliance. Users  can choose  Entry Door, Living Room, Bedroom, Kitchen, etc, point the camera and tap focus on the screen image, and the Vastu compliance result will be displayed .
One of the hassles of house hunters  is  making a quick plan of an apartment. RoomScan is a truly amazing free  app,  that works only with iPhone and iPad because it harnesses  the  gyroscope and GPS on the phone.  Open this app on your phone, tap it against all four walls in the room, and your phone will sketch out the floor plan of the room!  The floor plans are accurate within  15 cms. The $4.99 paid version  lets you map windows and other openings.
 For Android users , there is a somewhat cruder  app called MagicPlan which  measures your rooms and draws your floor plan,  just by taking pictures. Happy  home hunting!

Link to YouTube Video on   CommonFloor Retina 
Link to YouTube Video on    IndiaProperty 3DPanoX app 
Link to YouTube Video on  RoomScan