Company: MIDC, a subsidiary of SSSS
Technology: Augmented reality
Imagine this. You pay a fortune to buy your dream apartment. After moving in, you want to take your Mercedes Benz to the parking lot. You realize that the ramp is too small for the car to turn and the parking lot can’t accommodate a big car. You kick yourself for investing in something that wasn’t really worth it.
Sigh! If only someone had given you a real-life experience of your apartment before you bought it. Sounds far-fetched? Not really.
One company is making it possible. MIDC, the real estate subsidiary of Stumpp, Schuele & Somappa Springs, is leveraging augmented reality to allow its prospective buyers to visualize, interact with, and experience 3D prototypes of their homes in real time. Customers can now see how each corner of their house would look like once it’s built. They can even see how exactly each room would be lit at any given time, move furniture around, change interiors, and make modifications, and check out the view from their balconies—exactly the way it would appear.
A lot of it does sound like a sci-fi movie, but thanks to the company’s IT team—headed by Sri Karumbati, CIO, SSSS—MIDC has achieved substantial benefits from this initiative.
MIDC realized that one of the numerous challenges of building a house or an apartment is probably converting ideas into design. As a relatively new entrant in the market, MIDC was also stuck at this stage. Communicating the concept to architects was a laborious and time-consuming process. The result wasn’t satisfying either.
That’s when IT stepped in. With the help of augmented reality, Karumbati and his team came up with 3D prototypes of the apartment area, which were, in turn, presented to architects.
“We let our imagination go wild and came up with some sort of utopian apartments that are perfect in all aspects. Then, we presented this to architects. Some of those ideas may not be feasible, but the point is, we were able to communicate our requirements very clearly and get the design very close to what we wanted,” says Karumbati.
But for imagination to go wild, Karumbati and the IT team needed inspiration. So, they decided to start experimenting with technologies and concepts used in interactive games. His team started by modeling of the apartment space in 3D. The 3D model was the input. The team used proprietary mathematical algorithms to bring the 3D space alive virtually with static, moving, and, living objects. Physical, material, and lighting properties of the objects were also added so that the prototype behaves naturally.
Karumbati didn’t stop at that. The IT team managed to integrate virtual reality with Google Maps, making it possible for buyers to view how the surroundings of their future home would look like. The system’s output is an executable file for desktop, mobile, and Web. One can become a part of the space—prototype of the house—and navigate anywhere in real time, using a game controller or equivalent device. The IT team also made use of a 3D glass to allow customers to experience the prototypes.
The project team, including architects and designers, were able to visualize and interact with the concept from the very beginning. Various design iterations were done with almost no additional cost. For example, the company was able to figure that it would be a bad idea to fit the mirror in the washroom a few inches above eye level. Or that keeping switchboards behind doors would inconvenience residents. Because the company was able to deduce these issues at the design stage itself, it saved a ton of rework and money.
That was just a trailer to the numerous benefits that the new-age technology had on offer. Presenting the entire project in an interactive format in stereoscopy greatly enhanced the marketing and sales process, says Karumbati. And more than anything, customers loved the concept.
The proof of the pudding was the company’s recent marketing event where the technology was received by a crowd that was thrilled to bits. “Real estate is currently a sellers’ market, where one can highlight only the good and hide all the bad to convince the customer. That’s changing. Customers are becoming rightfully demanding. They refuse to get misled. Our aim is to be able to be a player in the next-gen buyers’ market. The AR project enables us to achieve exactly that,” says Karumbati.
MIDC is now able to articulate it’s the features of its products to customers in a manner unimaginable. Cross-selling additional offerings like interiors has also become a cake walk.
“Overall, the benefits are multi-fold. We have achieved higher revenues from primary and complementary sales, which contribute to the top line. We have saved cost due to better design and quality, thereby contributing to the middle line. And as a result, we’ve achieved a handsome growth in the bottom line. The technology is, and will, remain an indispensable tool for the company,” says Karumbati. He credits the project’s success to the fact that it was a collective effort.
The concept of a perfect architect will perhaps remain an oxymoron, but a perfect home can very well become a reality.