How Virtual Reality is Augmenting Realty


The technology has reached the point where the appeal of the virtual can surpass that of the real, presenting other quandaries.

The 3D visualization company, roOomy, which was founded in Amsterdam in 2010 and entered the American real estate market about five years ago, can take photographs or 3D composites from a company like Matterport and fill the space with lifelike furniture and staging.

Looking to sell, but your living room is crammed with tchotchkes?

“We can digitally remove the clutter,” said Pieter Aarts, a founder and the chief executive at roOomy, and replace it with realistic renderings of high-end furniture from brands like Perigold, one of the company’s retail partners. (And lead prospective buyers to purchase those furnishings.)

The company recently partnered with the luxury brokerage Sotheby’s International Realty and the developer Toll Brothers to virtually furnish real and under-construction apartments, wooing prospective buyers with virtually styled looks.

“We want to give the consumer enough visual information to put in an offer without ever seeing the home,” said John Passerini, the global vice president of interactive marketing for Sotheby’s International Realty. Sotheby’s has begun using the Magic Leap headset, a “mixed reality” device, to allow house hunters to walk through a virtually rendered space.

The price to virtually stage a room now runs from $49 to $109, half of what it cost five years ago, Mr. Aarts said. The process remains labor intensive, involving several decisions about how to light the room and arrange the layout, and it can take up to three days to complete a commission, but thanks to the company’s “render farm” in Chengdu, China, where it exports much of the process, the turnaround is usually closer to one day, he said.

But has the pendulum swung too far in the virtual direction?