The VR experience is developing into an effective marketing tool.

What if you could see the future? Well, sometimes, with virtual reality technology, you can. And it makes one helluva strong marketing tool. 

In late 2016, Investa Property Group sough the services of 3D architectural firm Ivolve Studios, seeking help to retain an anchor tenant and attract new tenants to property in Sydney's Kent Street. 

Investa was planning a 'AAA refurbishment' of the building, developed around a glass- fronted atrium in a complete reworking of the space, says Ivolve director Sunny Chan. 

How best to show off the grandeur of the finished design? Computer - generated images and animation were considered, but Mr Chan had a better idea - VR. 

''If we get them to don a headset and walk around the virtual fit out, they'll better envisage the proposed new space'' he says. 

The virtual tour was a success and a big bank re-signed as the Kent Street anchor tenant. 

A pioneer in the field of VR software, Ivolve has been utilising it since 2003, when Mr Chan invested $100,000 in a VR system from the United States - well before 3D glasses were standard in cinemas. 

Since then, while hardware costs have become more affordable - what cost $50,000 - $100,000 in the early 2000s would now cost about $6000- $8000 the software remains pricey. 

"The content will cost anything from $10,000-$150,000 so for the moment VR is used mostly in larger scale commercial developments and high end residential developments'' Says Mr Chan. 

In the most high- profile example of the latter, Ivolve helped a client sell a $15 million 'lighthouse' at Pacific Bondi Beach last year. The sub-penthouse was just a concrete shell and the client wanted prospective buyers to better envisage the apartment's spatial qualities. 

With VR, says Chan, you not only see the results; you ''walk around'' the finished apartment, getting a realistic sense of dimension, depth and scale. ''You can reach up and see how high the kitchen cupboards are, walk onto the balcony and see the views'' he says. 

The apartment sold within a month. Although VR has its limitations, says Chan, the industry is moving fast to address them. New devices have significantly higher resolution, will be wireless and in some instances self- contained (no computer required). 

Some hardware developers are even claiming their technology can be seamlessly integrated into daily life in the near future. 

''We work with high-end clients and their expectations of the resolution are high, too'' Chan says. ''They're expecting Star Trek or Ironman technology, but VR isn't quite there yet''. 

Still, even if the future doesn't look quite as clear as it could, it's reaping rewards. Investa's Alicia Mitchell, who worked with Mr Chan on the Kent Street project, says Ivolve's VR technology is a highly engaging and impactful marketing tool. ''It takes the experience of 'inspecting' your potential workplace of the future to the next level'', she says. 

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Mark Leo
Commercial
mleo@investa.com.au