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Apple’s new iOS system means a whole new augmented reality world for real estate

Augmented reality is set to become mainstream with Apple releasing its newest operating system iOS11 a few days ago and with it a promising opportunity for real estate apps looking to offer augmented reality.

Apple’s new iOS11 includes ARKit, a new framework for developers to create augmented reality experiences for iPads and iPhones, starting at iPhone version 5s and going all the way up to the latest version X.

A few months ago we reported a breakdown on Apple’s announcements from its major annual conference.

Apple senior VP of software engineering Craig Federighi announced ARKit and said there would be new development tools for app developers to easily add augmented reality images into the next gen of apps.

Apple has been working with some companies in trialling the new tech, including Ikea which lets users add furniture into their house using AR.

In a demo, Federighi pointed an iPhone at the empty table and then added a coffee cup and lamp, with the shadow of the lamp changing as the AR cup moved around on the table. ARKit can help find planes, track motion, and estimate scale and ambient lighting. For consumers, this means there will be a lot more apps like Pokemon-Go coming to the App Store.

“By blending digital objects and information with the environment around you, ARKit takes apps beyond the screen, freeing them to interact with the real world in entirely new ways,” Apple says on its website.

In contrast to virtual reality (which usually requires separate, awkward equipment and creates an entire artificial world), AR overlays information on top of the real world and is easy to use through the mobile devices people carry around every day.

With Apple now taking the lead with AR, it’s not surprising that AR is trickling into the real estate world .

There are a few companies already on the AR bandwagon including Rooomy, Hutch and HomeSpotter. It’s safe to say there is plenty of scope for other players to get a slice of the pie.

Rooomy’s augmented-reality app can overlay furnishings onto a smartphone’s camera view. The app is mainly designed to be a virtual staging solution for the real estate industry. Real estate agents in the US can upload photos of rooms for a flat fee. After using in a built-in tool to identify where the walls in the room are, it is turned into a 3D model. Potential buyers can then browse homes for sale within the app, and explore the furnished rooms before scheduling a showing.

Hutch is an interior design app that takes a photo of a room and virtually redecorates it. It has raised US$17 million in funding including $10m from real estate platform Zillow. Users take a picture of the space and Hutch sends back a virtual design showing how the space will look if the user purchases recommended items. They will replace your furniture and light fixtures and even coffee-table books and trinkets. The decorating and design is done by hand — it takes about 20 minutes for a designer to create one room.

HomeSpotter allows in-app text messaging functionality to help facilitate conversations between agents and homebuyers. The company claims it has 250,000 agents who use the app throughout the US and Canada. The idea behind it is to allows buyers to communicate with agents of a listing they like and keep all notes and comments organised in one place. Agents get one app that organises all their client conversations about specific properties.

Apple’s ARKit does have limitations. It can detect horizontal surfaces like floors and tables, but not vertical surfaces like walls but it is likely that Apple will soon add this function.

Made with ARKit is a twitter account that curates the “very coolest” augmented reality stuff made with Apple’s ARKit framework.

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Azal Khan

Azal Khan was a in-house features writer for Elite Agent Magazine.