Virtual tours have been a pretty big buzz in real estate industry for more than 15 years now. During this time we have seen many changes relating to virtual tours and long time agents will remember some of the first larger scale virtual tour providers such as PictureWorks. The introduction of photo stitching and the 180 degree wide panoramic photos and soon to follow 360 degree rotating views changed the real estate marketing landscape.
The challenge with many of the early virtual tour products was that 15 years ago most of America was still on a dial up internet connection which made viewing virtual tours a long and often painful experience. The good news was that ISDN connections, DSL and broadband connections were just around the corner and Bamboo which later became IPIX introduced a unique 180 camera lens that enabled users to take just two photos using their lens, software and virtual tour key to create a true 360 degree rotating image. This technology was mind blowing at the time and IPIX became a huge hit at real estate trade shows, real estate publications and it seemed that even REALTOR.com got excited about the future of IPIX.
The next truly revolutionary product introduced was the Egg Solutions System which featured a very unique looking 360 degree camera lens. This lens allowed you to take a single photo and once you imported the 360 degree donut shaped photo into the software you got a truly impressive single shot virtual tour image. This system may have come slightly ahead of the market because at that point there were no ultra wide angle lens cameras available and many of the 360 degree imagines were not capturing the majoring of the room essentially cutting out the top 1/4 of the room and the bottom 1/4 leaving mainly the center image. Another challenge with the Egg Solutions System was that many of the web browsers at that time didn't support the player without the required browser update.
During the past couple of years I have had dozens of conversations with more than one hundred top real estate professionals about virtual tours. In each of the conversations we shared the discussion of either the IPIX or the Egg came up. Most agents feel that with evolution of the digital camera, the abilities of the latest browsers, the addition of high speed internet and the enhanced speeds that are available even our cell phones and mobile devices allow us the opportunity to create truly mind blowing realistic virtual tours.
I still believe that the Egg Solutions System and that funky looking lens could become the hot ticket once again. The key is adapting the Egg lens by creating an adapter ring that would fit and connect an ultra wide angle lens like the Canon DSLR 10-22 lens. This would enhance the range of view and create a much wider viewing angle from floor to ceiling. Having the ability to take a single 360 degree photo is very appealing and a huge time saver for agents. If you could combine the 360 degree full view experience with the back end and reporting system from a service such as Tour Factory or Visual Tours you would have one hot product.
I also can envision the IPIX 180 degree lens combined with an ultra wide angle DSLR 10-22 lens under a similar arrangement as I described above with the Egg Solutions System. The one thing that I think IPIX would need to do in order to be super successful would be to dump the virtual tour key purchases in exchange for an annual subscription. Agents simply dislike paying per tour and tend to be more attracted to the monthly or annual subscription service. The IPIX system was once extremely popular and I believe it could become a major player once again if it could utilize an ultra wide angle 360 degree view.
You are probably wondering why I didn't go into detail talking about other virtual tour products and there is a very straight forward explanation. None of the other real estate specific virtual tour products have offered the uniqueness and viewing experience as the IPIX and the Egg. I love what Real Estate Shows, Tour Factory, Visual Tours, OBEO and some of the other providers offer but in most cases they are more of a Ken Burns style slide show than what I believe we originally set out to do with a virtual tour 15 years ago. For me the goal was simply creating 360 degree views of the interior of my listed homes and marketing these 360 tours on my website offering interested buyers a realistic feel of the home.
Do you think we will see a higher end version of IPIX or the Egg and their unique lenses adapted with the ultra wide angle DSLR type cameras? Do you think another vendor will take the IPIX or Egg models and plus them and take these 360 degree virtual tours to the next level? I am interested in knowing your thoughts and where you see virtual tours headed? Do you believe virtual tours be replaced by online video? What is the future of virtual tours?
Sam Miller of RE/MAX Stars Realty Apple Valley Lake Community. Get the newest real estate listings sent directly to your email inbox as they come on the market at Knox County Ohio MLS Listings By E-Mail.