Open the mobile phone application offered by a French real estate agency and point your phone at a building along the Champs-Élysées or some other street in Paris. Within seconds, you will see the property’s value per square meter, superimposed over a live image of the building streamed through the phone’s camera.
Speed and convenience delivered with the aim of a smartphone. Could this be the new frontier of on-demand property search?
It depends whom you ask.
The application, engineered by Layar, a 10-month-old company based in Amsterdam, uses “augmented reality” technology, or A.R., to harness a phone’s camera, global positioning system and compass. Elements like statistics and 3-D images are, essentially, layered over a live picture so the user gets a single view with all available information.
These A.R. “mash-ups” already are being used to display information about tourist sites, chart subway stops and restaurants, allow interior designers to superimpose new furniture or color schemes on a room, and give crime statistics for a specific area.
The A.R. Beatles Tour, for example, superimposes videos and 3-D models, like a yellow submarine, when a smartphone with the application is pointed at locations in London and Liverpool that were significant in the band’s career.
But, “does it provide users with information that they find valuable?” asked Simon Baker, chief executive of Classified Ad Ventures, the publisher of an online real estate site called Property Portal Watch. “Is there real value in using it? Will it fundamentally replace the way we do things? Or is it a gimmick?”
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