I was fortunate to have been asked to give a speech recently at the University of Colorado Boulder on forecasting the tech trends that will most impact the future of the commercial real estate industry. I touched on driverless cars, smart cities and buildings, drones, co-working, etc… But the parts of the presentation I focused on the most were VR and AI. I really think they are going to be a game changer in so many ways.
One of the best parts of my job are all of the amazing startups I get to connect with on a daily basis. I chat with them re their dreams, strategies and also their challenges. And I always try and keep my door (email and phone, actually) open to hear from as many other startups as I can who want to connect and compare notes.
Recently, I had the pleasure of having Bryan Colin of VirtualAPT reach out to me to connect.. He proceeded to introduce me to his site which is basically VR on steroids :). With a friggin robot!!! Even more state-of-the-art than what my little brain was forecasting during the UC speech I gave.
So I thought it would be really cool to share my conversation with Bryan. I hope this interview really causes you to think about how fast technology is actually progressing in the real estate tech space and the eventual impact it will have on virtually every aspect of the industry.
Michael: What’s the history of the company? What are the backgrounds of the Founders?
Bryan: The company started in January of 2016 as an attempt to solve the frustration with having to spend days looking for an apartment in NYC. Once we realized that existing technology didn’t exist for the experience we wanted, we spent 10 months in development before taking on clients in November of 2016. As one of the early innovators of modern VR/AR, VirtualAPT has many notable achievements thus far. Our Co-Founder and CTO, Robin van der Zwan, originally from Holland, graduated with a BS Computer Science from Leiden Institute of Advanced Computer Science in 2006. Robin’s previous experience includes blockchain technology development for a Bitcoin platform. I graduated from Skidmore College with a degree in Business Management in 2006. Having originally been a hedge fund trader, I got involved in technology development several years ago.
M: Tell us about your product-how does it work and what does it do?
B: Our team builds mobile supercomputers that travel autonomously through a space while capturing 4K content in 360 by 180 degrees. Using Lidar technology we are able to map in real time up to 500,000 square feet within 30 seconds and then draw the desired path. The robot will then move on it’s own on this path, mimicking a person being able to walk through the space, with realistic dimensions and depth. Within minutes the content is processed from the robot to create an immersive, 360-degree, VR experience. Our VR technology gives realistic tours that make the viewer feel like they are in the room, and it produces the highest quality content in the industry.
M: How is it different than other VR products?
B: We’ve built our VR robot from the ground up, and all of the software and hardware is proprietary. The mobility, quality, and turnaround time are unparalleled by any company. Our team has 18 patents pending, as well as 14 unique algorithms in the VR/AR space. In addition, we invented interactive Virtual Reality video, real-time AR in a VR video, streaming VR with mobility in cinema grade quality, a method to watch VR videos in multiple languages, and Field of Vision Stop and Go (FVSG). Our videos are web-based, and they will work on nearly every device made within the last decade including laptops, smartphones, smart TV, tablets and headsets.
M: Who are your customers and how do they use it?
B: Our main clientele are commercial and residential real estate brokerages and building owners as well as retail and brands. Many of our clients choose to keep the content private and share with specific clientele, while others choose to have it embedded with our custom web-player on their website. The companies are trying to reach a larger audience and offer a better experience. Our technology allows people to view 10 spaces in 20 minutes from the comfort of their home or office, so it tends to get the first look for a large quantity of end-users. With our retail clients, we use our VR and AR technology to give their customers a unique and interactive shopping experience. Our videos are totally customizable to our various clients’ visions.
M: What are your future plans?
B: Our plans are the aggressively grow and spread our technology worldwide, as we see substantial improvements that our technology offers over any other solution. We see the future of real estate as being this type of technology, and one of the major channels for brands and retail to need to integrate. Ideally, we are able to partner or work with large companies to scale our technology across their entire portfolios, as we see our ability to film hundreds of millions of square footage per month without much more capacity or any additional technical development.