360 Virtual Tours. Are they worth it?
I was producing virtual tours over 20 years ago on golf courses, using specialist Ricoh cameras for panoramic 360 shots. Back then we used to need to embed the images in a java applet — remember those? — and the results were pretty good. But there was an inherent contradiction or problem at the heart of the technology back then; the general speed of the Internet imposed major limits on image quality.
Things have moved on. The Cameras are much easier to work with today, there’s a multitude of platforms geared specifically towards hosting and delivering 360 content, and, most importantly, Internet speeds are dramatically faster.
It’s hard to judge the actual user experience. For exploring a property that you are thinking of buying or leasing, 360 virtual tours are undoubtedly useful. But useful is one thing… will they encourage people to visit a property or put them off? That’s what matters most to Estate Agents and people in the industry. And the answer to that question depends on a variety of things, not least the photogenicity of the property in question.
My decision to plunge once more into 360 technologies was inspired by the Coronvirus pandemic. Anything that helps mitigate the situation and reduce the need for visits has got to be a good thing. I’m determined not to be seen to exploit the situation, though, and I’m hoping I can supply 360 virtual tours for around £40 (for an average 2 or 3 bedroom house). When you do things on the cheap, a huge amount of pressure arises, forcing you to do things really well (people look for flaws and problems, reasons for the low price). I like that pressure.
So, yes, we will be offering 360 Virtual Tours soon. We want to be able to do them cheap, which means quickly, and well, which means getting the best out of the cameras, testing, experimenting, and generally getting very OCD and obsessive. That’s at the heart of everything when it comes to the services I offer and the technology I use. It’s home.
The above demo is a first step. It’s deliberately simplistic. Right now we are looking at ways of improving image quality. It’s very time consuming, testing, adjusting, uploading, testing again, and so on. I can’t say I am happy with the image quality right now but I can see lots of scope for improvement. The great news is that we can shoot in RAW.
As for features rather than image quality, of course we will be implementing the usual hotspots and other elements that make the experience more interesting and worthwhile. We are also hoping to allow hosted virtual tours so that agents can meet potential buyers inside the virtual property and show them around (this would use a Zoom-like connection), but only if it’s simple to use.