Real estate giant REA Group has created a mobile application that uses computer vision technology to bring augmented reality to the real estate signage sitting out the front of properties.
REA's 'digital neighbourhood' app, currently in the final stages of preparation before being let loose on the public, is built on the technology platform of augmented reality start-up Plattar, which recently closed a $1.1 million seed round thanks to the help of REA's parent company News Corp.
Plattar offers a template-driven app builder and content management system for businesses to build, manage and deploy their own AR applications - what REA CIO Nigel Dalton dubs the "WordPress of AR".
News, REA and Ray White undertook a pilot of the technology in February, where 3D Ray White listings were published in a News Corp publication; users were asked to download a specific app and scan the print listing that appeared to access the 3D property information.
REA has since built another application, the new digital neighbourhood app, and is planning a full-scale rollout that Dalton hopes will eventually span the 46,000 property signs within its portfolio.
At the moment, the application only works on six signs scattered around REA's office. But after showing off the application at the property industry's AREC conference two months ago, Dalton says he is in no doubt about the "huge demand" for the technology.
He is preparing to launch the app soon, and will have about six months to prove its viability before the business has a conversation about integrating it into the core realestate.com.au mobile app.
It works like this: a smartphone user opens the app and holds their camera up to the property sign, at which point they are presented with a range of augmented reality features.
They can choose to take a video tour of the property's insides, they can hear a short 3D presentation from the real estate agent, they can access more photos of the property, or they can view a 3D image of the floor plan, among others.
It will give potential homeowners or renters the ability to check out the inside of a property street-side, without having to walk indoors, potentially eliminating lengthy queues on open days or wasted trips to inappropriate properties.
But what does it mean for real estate agents who rely on foot traffic to lure potential buyers and renters?
Dalton says it's all in the business model.
While pricing and packaging for the digital neighbourhood app is not settled just yet, Dalton believes there is "absolutely" a market for savvy agents who are keen to stand out above the pack.
"The real estate agents we have worked with on this new AR app have loved the time-saving aspects, notably around the open for inspection process," he said.
"Time is a precious commodity for agents, and by providing them more genuinely qualified renters and buyers, who have gained faith it is a perfect property to phone up about or visit, it helps everyone. It's a win all-round."