In This New Reality, It’s Time for VR to Shine

Millions of working professionals from across the corporate spectrum have been relegated to working from home as the Coronavirus ravages the global economy and alters our way of life. Some industries have been hit harder than others (hospitality, tourism, transportation) but all have been left scrambling to adjust to a new reality.

Office occupancy in major U.S. cities dropped precipitously, rent deferrals and relief requests dramatically increased, and brokers have been stuck at home, unable to tour spaces and meet clients in person. In an industry that relies so heavily on face-to-face interactions, it’s natural to wonder how one of the country’s largest and most traditional sectors will bounce back.

Fortunately, the emergence of innovative technologies over the past several years have armed brokers and other industry insiders with the tools and tech they need to adapt to this new normal. Moreover, it seems the role of virtual reality (VR) is primed to explode as a supplement to the in-person tours and walkthroughs that have long dominated the realm of commercial real estate selling.

“This is the urgent right now, because you’ve got to lease space, and how do you do that in a virtual setting that’s impactful and effective?” said CREtech CEO Michael Beckerman. “I think we’re at the dawn of the VR era in commercial real estate. No doubt.”

The Virtual Reemergence

As in any industry, there were early adopters of virtual touring among brokers and CRE professionals. Recent events, however, have pushed the medium to the main stage as an integral means of establishing business continuity and reviving commercial activity in markets around the world.

Executives from leading global brokerages have touted the benefits of VR technology in recent months as a vital tool in helping brokers, tenants, and owners inch towards some semblance of normality, amid the backdrop of a global pandemic.

“Candidly, it’s got to be part of your strategy,” said Jeff Eckhert, head of JLL’s US office agency leasing business. “For clients that need to sign leases, virtual tours have been helpful to narrow down potential locations.”

While most U.S. cities have slowly started to re-open their economies, many real estate and HR executives are taking converstative approaches to sending their employees back to the office until their workspaces have been adapted to meet CDC and other health authority guidelines.

VR seems primed to play a role in this regard as well, helping tenants re-evaluate and reconfigure their spaces to adhere to social distancing and safety recommendations. For example, allowing them to visualize everything from new floor plans and densification to furniture placement and seating arrangements.

A Magical Experience

If you’ve never used a VR headset and tasted the “magic” of a virtual simulation, the experience is quite exhilarating. Imagine turning an empty space into a three-dimensional mockup of a fully furnished workspace — all from the comfort of your living room.

For executives and business leaders, the promise is far more impactful. VR has become both a valuable design review tool and coordination resource that saves large firms time and money. Professionals across the industry are viewing 3D models in VR for longer periods of time, and collaborating across departments more efficiently.

“Immersion in the virtual world provides complete clarity,” said IrisVR Founder Shane Scranton. “Complex spaces became crystal-clear when the headset was on.” The company’s VR platform enables companies to host more efficient coordination meetings and collaborate in real-time.

The possibilities are seemingly endless when it comes to how VR technology can be used to help designers, architects, and brokers, bridge the gap between our physical worlds and digital realms.

In our next post on this topic, we’ll dive a little deeper and explore how VR technologies are specifically helping companies save time, catch errors, improve collaboration, enhance design outputs and much more.