Our First Hackathon; Virtual Reality Hits Real Estate; and More on Five for Wednesday!

Header image for the iOi Hackathon. Includes information about the dates (August 1st, teams can start. August 28th-29th, teams meet in San Francisco. August 30th, the winning team is announced).

      1. CRT Labs is hosting our first ever hackathon as part of the iOi Summit in San Francisco in late August. To find out more about this awesome event, including how you can register to be part of the hackathon, head on over to this blog post by Chad!
      2. One real estate company is going all-in incorporating Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality into their business model. Find out about how these technologies are shaping how to do business with clients on the Fast Company website (click ahead to the second video in the playlist).
      3. We’re still a long way off from the Star Trek replicators I so desperately need in my life, but this robotic assembly line for burgers in San Francisco might be the first step to get us there.
      4. The Wirecutter has recently updated its comparative look between the Amazon Echo and Google Home. Which voice assistant are you using in your home?
      5. And finally, as we hit into the hottest part of the year (at least in Chicago) – move over air conditioning, robotic cooling assistants are coming. I think I’ll stick with my central air.

iOi Artificial Intelligence Hackathon. A Race for the Prize!

Header image for the iOi Hackathon. Includes information about the dates (August 1st, teams can start. August 28th-29th, teams meet in San Francisco. August 30th, the winning team is announced).

I’m very excited to announce that CRT is helping put together a Hackathon for NAR’s iOi (Innovation, Opportunity & Investment) Summit! Teams participating in the Hackathon can start on August 1st and must finish at our iOi Summit in San Francisco on August 28th and 29th. There is no cost for the Hackthon portion of the Summit. We will provide space at the venue on August 28th & 29th for participants. The prize will be awarded on August 30th at the venue.

What is the theme of the Hackathon?

The theme is artificial intelligence and machine learning innovation in real estate. You can read more about the Hackathon here, including some potential project ideas and the rules. We are looking to do more than chat bots and we want you to think about the impact of AI/ML in other areas of the selling and buying process. We will be providing APIs for the Hackathon and give you access not only to data, but also innovative tools in the AI/ML space. If you have any tools that are not open source that you’d like to use, we must review them before they are accepted.

Is there a prize for this event?

Short answer: yes. Long answer, we have a couple of options for prizes and we want to choose the best for the event. We have not determined that yet, but it will be announced shortly.

How do I register?

You can go here and register. Please note, you can have a team of up to five. If you are registering as an individual, please indicate if you’d like to have us add you to a team or if you want to work by yourself. You can start on your projects as soon as August 1st, so the sooner you sign up the more time you will have.

We are excited to see your ideas for this first NAR iOi Hackathon.  See you there!

Google Duplex Is Real and It’s Pretty Amazing; The Best Utilities for PCs and Macs; More in Five for Wednesday

woman asking google duplex to make a dinner reservation

      1. More than a few people thought Google might be up to something sneaky when they demonstrated their human-sounding voice AI Duplex, but it’s real, it’s coming soon, and it’s amazing.
      2. Want to get more out of your computer? Tech site The Verge has great recommendations for PC users as well as for Mac users.
      3. Not sure if we’re surprised by this, but people spend almost as much time on Instagram as they do Facebook, and Snapchat isn’t far behind either. Check out what’s happened with social app traffic over the last 12 months.
      4. Google Earth can now calculate both distance and area; all you have to do is put down some anchor points.
      5. Lastly, letters in different alphabets can look identical, which makes it easier for scammers to get you to visit a phishing site. Learn more here, and be careful out there.

3D Printed Homes, Alexa Branches Out, and More on Five For Wednesday

(image credit: Project Milestone)

  1. The world’s first 3D-printed concrete homes have been constructed in the Netherlands. The houses are printed on-site, cutting down on costs and construction time. Since the concrete is easy to print into whatever shape is needed, the designs include some pretty wild forms. They will be ready to house occupants by 2019.
  2. Alexa and the Ethereum blockchain work together in this DIY smart home project. Not only does the home feature secure video monitoring and Alexa voice commands, but the homeowners created their own family cryptocurrency (through Ethereum) in order to incentivize chores – brushing your teeth, for instance, can be “cashed in” for screen time or real money.
  3. Speaking of Alexa – Amazon’s Alexa for Hospitality program has launched, with Marriott, Westin, and Aloft hotels installing Alexa devices into their rooms to help guests order room service, answer questions about hotel accommodations, and more. The chains promise that recorded information will be deleted after 24 hours, and that users will be logged out of the devices automatically at check-out.
  4. Alexa’s ubiquity also crosses into mesh routers, with TP-Link announcing a new mesh kit that includes the ZigBee protocol and integration with IFTTT and Alexa. We’ve been recommending smart hub systems to NAR’s members and consumers for years, and incorporating smart hub technology into wireless routers is a surefire way to get smart devices working together without a lot of additional effort or money.
  5. Engineers at MIT have designed a smart plug that works with machine learning to figure out what devices are sucking power out of your home, which can help you save money and lower your energy consumption. We’ve seen similar projects before that work with energy storage devices, so it’s exciting to see what can be done straight at the outlet.

Big Changes Coming to MS Office; Wire Transfer Thieves Busted; More in Five for Wednesday

scissors cutting a red ribbon

      1. Microsoft is rolling out some big changes to Office.com and Office 365. You’ll notice the changes mostly in the tool bar / “ribbons” for Word, Excel, Powerpoint and the like. We really hope they get this right, because those ribbons have been pretty unwieldy for some time.
      2. Everyone in real estate knows fraudulent wire transfers are a big problem, so it’s nice to hear 74 of the bad guys just got nabbed by the FBI.
      3. Google Translate is now available in downloadable versions of 59 languages. If you’ve never used Translate, it’s amazing and makes things like foreign travel so much better.
      4. Need to touch up the paint on some of the houses in your inventory? Using one of these color sensors will make the job a lot easier (and better looking).
      5. Microsoft hasn’t been in the hardware game for very long, but they do seem to be up to some interesting things. More Surface devices are on the way, including (we hope) the two-screened device they taunted us with back in 2009.

Why Apple’s ARKit2 is Big for Real Estate

Craig Federighi from Apple on stage talking about shared experiences on ARKit2

Screenshot taken from Apple WWDC event by Chad Curry.

Note: For an overview of augmented reality/mixed reality and virtual reality, read our post here.

On Monday, Apple kicked off it’s annual WWDC and it was full of less flash and shiny objects than in the past. What it did have were some very interesting announcements around their software, especially their augmented reality software, called ARKit.

Real estate stands to be greatly impacted by augmented reality.

Imagine the following scenarios:

  • Bring virtual representations of your furniture with you to a showing of a home and stage each room to see how this new place could look with your furniture.
  • Listing details for the home could show up as you walk through a property. Information about how new the flooring or tile is shows up when you point your camera at it.
  • From your phone, you could see the distance and direction to work, school, parks or other locations as you stand in a property.
  • Measure all aspects of the space with your phone and have actionable measurements before you move in.

With ARKit2 we are closer than ever to making that a possibility.

ARKit is the development framework for building augmented/mixed reality apps. It makes it easier to just build and get results. There were four changes that are key to AR becoming more prevalent in real estate applications:

  1. New File Format
  2. Object Detection
  3. Shared AR Experience
  4. Measure App

New File Format

This one is most exciting to me. The new file format called USDZ (Universal Scene Description) was developed by Pixar and allows for you to build assets and use them in various apps. You can send and share these assets and they can be used with anyone using an iDevice. Now, if you’re using Android, you might feel like I’m forgetting about you. I’m not. I anticipate this coming to the Android platform shortly. The reason I’m optimistic is because tools like Adobe’s Creative Cloud Suite are supporting this format.

This new file format means you can share AR objects with other apps and users. So, in the future, I could take a pic of my couch and render it as an AR object, and send it along to my wife who wants to see how it looks in a house we are looking at. We could even try out new furntiure.

Object Detection

ARKit2 can detect and allow you to virtually interact with real objects. Lego gave a demo with one of their Lego sets and how it can be detected to create an augmented reality experience:

What’s cool about this is that a specific object could be used to initiate a program or app. For example, I bring a vase from my house that I’ve set as an object to use for this app, set it in the middle of a room in the house, point my camera at it and all my living room furniture appears on my screen placed throughout the room.

Shared AR Experience

This is what makes ARKit2 a big possibility in real estate. Shared experiences let you interact with other users in a virtual/augmented plane. In the video above, the two guys from Lego are interacting in a game. But in real estate. what if you and your partner could interact in a house with our furniture as a team and move things around in the room and make sure it looks how we want it? Having shared experiences means that doing a virtual, real-time staging using your own furniture helps you as a buyer and the REALTOR understand how this house could work.

Measure App

The Measure app is deceptively simple. It allows you to take measurements of objects easily. The trick it plays is that it can measure 3D objects rather simply. In the demo below, you’ll see Craig Federighi from Apple point his camera at a few things and dimensions just appear. Imagine what this means for trying to figure out how to shop for your home:

Having this functionality built right into the phone serves the purpose of giving you a practical tool on your phone. But I believe it’s being built for the future. As it’s learning to create these dimensions and do so accurately, it will make it easier to capture 3D renderings of real world objects and import them into the phone.

There are already some pretty cool apps out there that do some of these things, but the fact that Apple has now integrated all of these features under one system makes it extremely powerful. How else can you see this being useful in real estate? Next we will look at ARCore from Google to give you a sense of what’s to come on the Android side.

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