The current pandemic has drastically affected several industries. One of the hard-hit industry sectors is real estate. When the COVID-19 outbreak was spreading worldwide like wildfire, governments across the world imposed restrictions on mobility. There was several unannounced lockdown extension in several nations, resulting in more harm to the real estate business. Though the virtual platforms have grown in popularity. Interestingly, we have witnessed the integration of real estate and augmented reality and the outcome has been very fruitful. Since the lockdown, virtual home staging has also grown in popularity.
An architect turned VFX artist, Michael Merron (Founder and CEO at VRPM), anticipated the popularity long back. Michael is a longtime admirer of digital environments and left architecture to focus on VFX. “I studied Architecture at the University of Greenwich and fell in love with computer-generated imagery during the 90s,” he added. Soon, he utilized his knowledge of architecture with his VFX skills to help create digital spaces. In 2008 he ventured into entrepreneurship and established a platform that focused the studios’ approach to photorealism. In 2016, he along with a group of real estate agents, developers, and designers, founded VRPM. The vision behind the establishment was to showcase property in a more engaging way. “VRPM was started because of a shared opinion that there is a better way to view a property,” shares Michael.
VRPM’s custom tool allows the clients to take any existing tour and add furniture. Currently, it is one of the UK’s leading Matterport service providers with a national network of photographers. The team has excelled in the ability to virtually stage any Matterport tour. He adds, “Virtual staging in a virtual tour is so much more immersive than seeing a single view staged, and adding furniture is only the beginning of what we can amend!”
Though Virtual staging is a fairly new concept but once the client has experienced it there is no going back. So, we engaged in a tête-à-tête with Michael who shared his view on the current crisis and how his team is leveraging technology to navigate the obstacles. Here are the snippets.
- VRPM is popular for its unique suite of tools, please brief us about the key features of this suite?
Our team at VRPM has developed a suite of tools and IP that enable us to virtually stage Matterport tours with photorealistic furniture, floors and walls. We are able to do this for any scan of any size in 48 hours. The big differentiator here is that unlike staging a single hotspot or image, it is necessary to stage hundreds of scan points with complete continuity in hours. Interestingly, we have now expanded our potential client base from our local area as a scanning service to a global audience of customers who want to do more with their digital twins.
- Considering that VRPM’s offering are digital, did the COVID-19 outbreak cause any disruption in demand?
My team and I are yet to fully understand the scope of disruption to our and many other industries. What I have felt is a rushed wave of demand to capture space with products that mean potential customers can experience them remotely. The pandemic has brought attention to our industry. At VRPM, we witnessed a double surge in demand, that is to capture space and then to augment it, by showing the flexibility of a space by virtually staging it.
- How has the COVID-19 outbreak changed you and your company in any terms?
In my opinion, the biggest change in VRPM was the way our 3D team operated throughout the course of the year. Also, we all are working remotely accessing our render farm and project servers and adjusting to the new normal. This has ensured that we will be able to expand to new geographical territories without much further technical planning.
- Describe us about your roles and responsibilities in the company
As the founder and custodian of VRPM, I feel an immense amount of responsibility for our team and the unity of that team. At this time, we are all working remotely which means that communication and working practices need to be clear and consistent. However, going forward I know that as our toolset matures we will be able to offer this at a great scale and I am looking forward to that chapter of growth.
- Have the uncertainty affected your leadership? How are you keeping yourself and your team motivated?
As I have mentioned previously communication is the key here. We use SLACK for all team communications. Also, our briefings, screen shares, and our video tutorials are all accessible on this platform. We are constantly updating our toolset to improve workflows and as a 3D artist having a development team behind you makes the day to day much more streamlined.
- Looking at the current uncertainties, help us in understanding your future plans and can we expect any updates to services?
Today, things are majorly uncertain but we want to take hold of things. I am looking forward to 2021 as I suspect everyone is! Currently, on the company’s front we are focusing on virtual staging, virtual renovation and product staging. The potential number of scans already completed by Matterport customers is increasing dramatically. However, once captured our clients need to add value to their assets and opportunely we are perfectly positioned to do so.
- Would you like to share any message with the aspiring, especially considering the current scenario?
Honestly, I don’t feel like I am in any position to advise people. Everyone’s journey is so varied. I do believe that what any aspiring entrepreneur should do is to do their very best. Believe in your product, be honest with yourself. If you know it could be better, make it better. It’s much easier to sell something you 100% believe in.
Read more: The 10 Ingenious AR-VR Leaders 2020