Inspiration can come from the strangest of places for the TecHome Builder. Sometimes, the spark can even be ignited by an electrically-charged cartoon rodent named Pikachu.
The smart phone gaming app, “Pokemon Go,” has dominated the news cycle in recent weeks—a headline-maker second only to the current election. The app, a reimagining of handheld gaming from the nineties, is made all the more interesting through its use of augmented reality (AR) technology.
The industry has seen a handful of endeavors in the AR space, yet Henry Clifford, president of Livewire, calls “Pokemon Go” one of the neater applications he has seen enter the market.
“It gets people up and going, walking around, albeit sometimes walking off of cliffs and in front of cars. But hey, that’s what the Darwin Awards are for,” laughs Clifford. “However, it’s also a great example of what a lousy experience it is to have an augmented reality world trapped on a four-inch screen.”
While undeniably innovative, the app is limited in its AR potential, a concept that Clifford sees a bright future for, especially in residential construction.
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“This is Going to be Huge”
Clifford believes that the entire industry is heading towards some sort of widespread AR solution, likely in the form of a wearable such as HoloLens or Google Glass. He notes the final product will possibly resemble technology similar to the heads-up displays (HUD) seen in fighter jets. Users will be shown data in the context of how they are actually looking around a given room.
The coolest thing about “Pokemon Go,” for Clifford, is that it has started to make people think differently about augmented reality and all that it can achieve.
“You can’t un-see that capability. You can’t not want that,” says Clifford. “Therefore, in construction, I can’t help but think that this technology is going to be huge.”
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Enhancing, Designing and Upselling
Many builders and integrators alike currently utilize virtual reality headsets to deliver an immersive tool for clients to tour a prospective home. However, with augmented reality, Clifford imagines a scenario far more practical and built upon participation, rather than spectacle.
He describes a scene where builder and client could stand on an empty plot of land, and construct an entire home through augmented reality on site. The client turns to their left to see exactly where their new pool will be, with a recreation of that pool crafted through AR.
But what if they want to move that pool a little more to the right? What if they want to see what a flat screen television would look like on their living room wall? No problem, says Clifford.
“We have been stuck in this mode of using birds-eye views and third-party perspectives. We’re spectators, not participants,” says Clifford. “But augmented reality will drive participation and encourage collaboration. I also think it will drive upsell opportunities through the roof.”
Builder’s Perspective: 3 Possible Applications
Custom homebuilder Jeff Hansell agrees with the potential that augmented reality presents for construction, even after originally dismissing the idea based on how he first perceived the “Pokemon Go” phenomenon.
“After I thought about it for a while, I think there are some really interesting areas that this could go for us,” says Hansell, co-owner of Swiftwater Custom Homes.
The builder points to three possible game-changing applications for residential AR.
DESIGN – AR could be incorporated into the jobsite while working with a design professional on overlay finish options and walking around an unfinished project. For example, clients could stand in front of their fireplace and see what different setups—mantle, entertainment center, bookcase—would look like in a finished product.
DETAILS – Clients could participate remotely in a walkthrough of the home and assist in confirming or altering details in “real time” with the architect or designer. Builders could also be involved with this, communicating to the client or design team from on or off site.
POST-CONSTRUCTION – Using AR, clients could view potential maintenance items, while on the line with a service technician, to help determine whether a service call is required.
Don’t Just Raise the Bar, Reset It
For residential professionals involved with technology, Clifford states it is their responsibility to make it look easy, deliver that “Wow!” factor and build credibility. By using these tools, he believes builders can edge out competitors by taking the customers through a scenario that will truly blow them away.
“The bar just gets reset,” says Clifford. “From this point forward, your clients will go to someone else using lesser technology and go, ‘Oh, you have a 2D drawing? Isn’t that quaint! How vintage of you!’”
Do you really want to be below the bar? Perhaps you could learn a thing or two from Pokemon, which boasts the iconic catchphrase, “Gotta catch ‘em all!”
In the case for builders, the ones worth catching (and keeping) are new clients.
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