Virtual Reality is Here. Where Are You?

In keeping with our firm’s philosophy of “locate where the work is” we opened shop in a Playa Vista based Virtual Reality incubator last week. The investment goes beyond a desk and mailing address, as we are designated “founders” in this incredibly vibrant community. (More on that in a later post).

Beyond the otherworldly revenue projections above, and inevitable emergence of titans in this field that absorb space, there will be a very real impact on the way we do business as commercial real estate brokers.

How so? Our firm is involved in the marketing of many adaptive reuse projects. They often include the re-purpose of functionally obsolete buildings into creative office and mixed use projects. The costs to “turn” these buildings can exceed that spent on the initial acquisition itself.

The challenge of course is in generating real leasing activity during the 12-24 month or longer construction period. Even “creative” tech and entertainment tenants are notoriously incapable of envisioning the finished product. More often than not real leasing activity only comes when the project is essentially complete.

VR has changed that. Current tech exists that enables a tenant prospect to don a headset in an unfinished building and enter a virtual world activated with people, furniture, natural light and views, in a finished space. Detail can get right down to the casting of shadows.

It’s early in the race, with firms from both the VR and Architectural industries collaborating, and competing, to provide user experiences that move the needle. In SteelBlue’s office last week we experienced VR that does just that, albeit with a focus on marketing rather than the nuts and bolts of design and engineering. InsiteVR approaches it from the other side, enabling Architectural firms to “convert” conceptual space designs in Unity software to generate VR experiences.

Both have their pros and cons. Neither are inexpensive. But when compared to the turn costs of a project, and the potential to accelerate leasing activity, the tech cannot be ignored.