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.

Leave comments below.

Three Apple WWDC 2018 Announcements You Should Know, and More on This Week’s Five for Wednesday

apple laptop

 

  1. Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) was this Monday, and included a slew of news related to their iOS and macOS platforms. One of the biggest announcements was improvements to their augmented reality platform, ARKit, which have the potential to transform AR from a novelty to a piece of technology we use every day. We think ARKit could mean big changes in real estate, too – so stay tuned to the blog for a post from Chad that lays out how the software will transform the industry.
  2. While there was no direct announcement about how Apple’s hardware and software will continue to evolve with smart home technology, CNET put together a great resource on how the company’s updates work within your smart home.
  3. We don’t want to crowd all of this 54W with Apple news, but the company also quietly added a huge win for privacy into iOS 12 – a restriction where third party hardware can’t be used to unlock your iPhone. This forces the use of a passcode when plugging the phone into a USB accessory after a short amount of time with it locked. The main need for this technology is to stop police from cracking into a phone, which we hope you’d never encounter, but it’s a good piece of mind if you find yourself without your phone full of personal information.
  4. Tesla has installed so much renewable energy storage that it’s actually making an impact on how much renewable energy costs for consumers around the world. The storage solutions, installed in multiple countries, have made renewable energy more reliable, lowered costs for energy in those countries, and made renewable energy storage more visible so that other companies can follow suit. We’re still a long way off from being a huge dent in how we consume energy, but its great to see these strides being made globally.
  5. New software uses your phone’s camera to help plot out maps. Incorporating real-time camera images into apps that rely on mapping software – like those steering self-driving cars – maps can be kept as accurately as possible, meaning those cars will have up-to-the-minute road information. Other uses include keeping tabs on overgrown trees that could affect power lines, tracking pedestrian traffic during events, and watching for flooding in the middle of a rainstorm.