The Future of Virtual Tours Might Be Reinventing IPIX or the Egg Lens

By
Real Estate Agent with RE/MAX Stars Realty

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.

IPIX 360 Virtual TourThe 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.

Egg Solutions Lens

 

 

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

 

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Re-Blogged 1 time:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Harry F. D'Elia 12/22/2009 08:00 PM
Topic:
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Tips tools and technologies for today's REALTOR
Virtual-Tours
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Show All Comments
Rainmaker
1,182,536
Joe Jackson
Keller Williams Capital Partners Realty - Columbus, OH
Clintonville and Central Ohio Real Estate Expert

Sam

I have a egg but it has dust on it. got it in 2002

 

I have not been real thrilled with any of the VT options out there and would welcome a new solution that will WOW the consumer

December 20, 2009 01:53 PM #3
Rainmaker
1,364,360
Sam Miller
RE/MAX Stars Realty - Howard, OH
Knox County Ohio

Kevin - I agree that video has amazing potential but I think the average agent will not be able to produce a real estate listing video worthy of using in most marketing.

Ira - All good points.  I do not generally see buyers enter the home and do a 360 spin but then again they do not have to because they have the ability to take a casual walk through the home.  With the 360 tour you can more easily see adjoining rooms and gain a better feel of the layout than simply viewing still photos.  Your idea of a floorplan is interesting.

Joe - I loved using the Egg because it actually worked like they marketed it.  Straight forward, 360 degree photos...overall it was a neat product.  The biggest challenge when I was using it was the slow internet viewing speeds, non compatible browsers and the camera lens angles available that worked with the egg lens were far from wide angle.  Today, browsers are not a challenge, you can get high speed even on your cell phone and with the DSLR cameras available now have the 10-22 lens options.

December 20, 2009 02:19 PM #4
Rainmaker
166,511
Linda Davis
RE/MAX Realty Group - Gales Ferry, CT

When I take my listing photographs, I'm often trying to shoot around things I don't want in the photo. I think it is easier to stage a still photo than it is to stage a video. I suppose if you have a luxury home, videos will better show off the home.

December 20, 2009 04:16 PM #5
Rainer
73,788
John Mitchener, e-PRO, Ecobroker
Keller Williams Realty - Las Cruces, NM

As Ira points out, a major challenge to real estate photography is proper lighting. Every house is different and trying to "do it right" for a single exposure is beyond the skill level of most real estate agents and the cost to have a professional photographer shoot it will be beyond the acceptable cost level for all but luxury properties in most markets. 

The state of the software has improved over the years, but the results are less than satisfying in many cases with curved walls and weird tile patterns because of lack of correction of images.

Good images do help sell properties.

 

December 20, 2009 04:31 PM #6
Rainmaker
1,364,360
Sam Miller
RE/MAX Stars Realty - Howard, OH
Knox County Ohio

Linda - I agree with you.  A single photo, a wide panoramic photo and even a 360 degree photo is easier to color correct than trying to color correct an entire video file.

 

December 20, 2009 04:51 PM #7
Ambassador
1,675,639
Margaret Rome, Baltimore Maryland
HomeRome Realty - Baltimore, MD
Sell Your Home With Margaret Rome

Sam,

I think good still photos do a better job at presenting our properties. As Ira states, never saw anyone come into a house and " pirouette around in a circle".

You can use an unlimited number of digital pictures and have a terrific presentation.

Did you ever have anyone complain that the  rotating motion made them ill?

December 20, 2009 10:51 PM #8
Rainer
61,841
Amy Hunter
Hearth & Home Videos - Sudbury, MA

As a provider of video tours and still photography for Realtors, I am always  "checking out" the tours online.  It seems to me that the 360 degree tour is a dying breed.  Almost all the virtual tours I see on listings are either true video or a zoom-pan slide show made from still photos.

I think the direction of virtual tours is video.  More people have camcorders and are getting more comfortable with them.  Of course the danger is the dreaded "Blair Witch" type tour with lots of shaking and weird exposures. The auto exposure going to light and dark extremes is especially annoying. It's important to have a professional do the video unless you're unusually proficient with a camcorder. 

A video tour is more natural than a 360 one - and Sam, of course color, lighting and other aspects on a video can be edited with software, just as photos can.

I agree with other commenters - I have NEVER stood in the center of a room and spun around to see what it looks like.

Feel free to see some samples of true video tours on my web site,   www.hnhvideos.com   to see the difference between a natural viewpoint going through a house vs. a 360 spin. 

 

December 21, 2009 06:43 AM #9
Rainmaker
1,364,360
Sam Miller
RE/MAX Stars Realty - Howard, OH
Knox County Ohio

Amy - Thanks for commenting.  I love the idea of video tours but fear the consumer will be exposed to thousands of "Blair Witch" type tours in the future with agents trying to shoot their own videos using their cell phone, digital camera, or iPod Nano.  Hiring a professional to shoot and edit high quality real estate videos would produce a much higher quality marketing piece but I question what percentage of agents and brokerages will make that type of investment.  I did a blog on the benefits of the ultra wide angle 10-22 lens for the DSLR and even though people could visually see the difference I believe very few will drop their not so wide angle pocket digital cameras. 

 

December 21, 2009 07:03 AM #10
Rainer
39,212
Stuart Berman
Ben Kona - Baltimore, MD

I believe photos with video should be the future.  Camera's today you can shoot a short video of a property as well as great photos.  Shoot all the rooms with a camera and leave the focal points to video.  You do not need every room in the video.   Video's do not have to be complicated, shoot one floor, point shoot, cut and download.  It should get people excited about seeing a property and what it offers.  The video should act as a mini commercial of the property.  This can allow people a chance to learn about the property and any special features that they would not get from photos or virtual tours.  

Shooting video can take you to the next level of selling a property.  Not only can you sell the property you can sell yourself as a great agent while still serving your client.  While shooting the video you let people know how to contact you, your website and more.  Shooting video on a camera or camcorder is completely different from having a video created from photos while adding a generic voice talking about the property.  I have seen this from some firms in my area.  To me it's generic and dull.  

I have a strong opinion on this since I am building a platform to support the idea of having videos part of agents listings and profiles.  

December 21, 2009 07:49 AM #11
Rainmaker
84,095
Terri Adams-Scott
J. Rockcliff, REALTORS - Walnut Creek, CA
Realtor, Walnut Creek CA Real Estate

I believe the future is in video tours.  I have never (personally) liked the 360 degree tours because it's not a natural way to view a home, they make me dizzy and I feel they expose the home to security issues.  At least with a good slide show or well produced video, you can control the essential highlights of the home and not jeopardize the safety or security of the family living there. 

Look how big YouTube has become...consumers love video and most have the highspeed internet connection to view them even in HD.  Manufacturers are adding video capabilities to our phones and look how inexpensive the HD flip cameras have become.  They wouldn't be doing this if the demand (for producing and viewing) wasn't there. 

Will online video replace the virtual tours?  That depends on the Realtors, but I firmly believe that's what the consumer wants. 

December 21, 2009 08:11 AM #12
Rainmaker
39,374
Ed Kaminsky
Kaminsky Real Estate Group/Shorewood Realtors - Manhattan Beach, CA
Ed Kaminsky

I still believe that 360 degree VTs are the best options for my relocation buyers. As more and more people take on the pre-lim portion of their buying experience, I want to be certain that my listings, floating out there on 50+ real estate related websites, offer the buyer (no matter where they live or what time of day they are previewing) the FULL experience of standing the rooms of the house. I cannot stand VTs that take a still shot I already saw in the MLS photo montage and just pan around it on the screen. Silly. I already saw that. I hope the EGG evolves. It was a great product. Now I have an in house marketing director that shoots both the photos and the VTs at the same visit, comes back to the office and processes everything so it's all ready within 24 hrs and when my listings go up, they go up with full detail. We use Circlepix now and love it.

December 21, 2009 03:55 PM #13
Rainer
144,219
Trisha Pennington
Coldwell Banker Reilly & Sons - Leavenworth, KS

I havent heard of either, Ill have to take a look at this.

December 21, 2009 04:01 PM #14
Rainmaker
99,209
Mary Ann Daniell, Realtor Killeen Fort Hood Texas
Coldwell Banker United, Realtors - Killeen, TX

Yes I have had clients mention the 360 degree tours make them feel dizzy!   Virtual tours, no matter what company, seem to be all over the map.   Many different kinds, many different prices.  If you sell luxury real estate, a professional video of the home may be worth the money.   I like the comment about how the tour should be a "mini commercial" highlighting the best features of the home to create interest.  Realtor should take more close up photos of interesting features and fewer photos of tiny bedrooms and bathrooms with toilet seats up!

December 21, 2009 04:32 PM #15
Rainer
122,035
Michael Cole
CPG Tours - Orange, CA

Hi Sam,

Great topic. Tours should be used to attract buyers. And when we developed ours, we found that buyers really didn't care for the 360º type tours. In fact, they often have a negative impact - which is why went with the 'Ken Burns' style. But as other have pointed out, even if it was the preferred choice of buyers, most agents really don't have the time, skill, equipment or inclination to produce what's needed for quality results.

Just my 2¢

December 21, 2009 05:56 PM #16
Rainer
146,522
Fred Light
| Nashua Video Tours - Nashua, NH
Real Estate Video Tours for MA and NH

I talk with sellers every day as I am photographing their homes - as most sellers are also buyers as they are seeking a new home once theirs sells.  Almost everyone I speak to expresses their dislike for the spin around tours.  Although some are quite good (and quite expensive, therefore seen rarely), most are really bad.  They're distorted, the walls are freakishly curved, the lighting is bad....   it's not natural to spin around in a circle to view space.  It was good technology 10 years ago when there were no alternatives, but today, in the days of 1080p high definition video such as what is available on YouTube now, they look antiquated.

Buyers want good, quality, clear, LARGE photos.  If they see a tour, they want to see MORE information than what they saw in the photos - not just regurgitating the same MLS photos in a slideshow program - zooming in and out.  They want to see more information - and that's where I think video excels. It gives you a realistic view of the home, the layout and how the rooms connect. It can also give you a glimpse of the street the home is on, the neighborhood, community and it's amenities - and even showcase the agent!  Video is exploding among the better agents.  I've never been busier!

It's 2009 and 90% of realtors can't even take an acceptable MLS photo - so yes, much of the video online today is not exactly stellar either!  But neither are the photos.   Until standards are raised by brokers requiring a certain level of quality in the online presentation, this is the way it will be for the near future I'm afraid.  

But - for those agents who really understand business and marketing, it presents a great opportunity to shine and compete on an entirely different level and blow away 90% of their competition.  It's happening now.  I hear doom and gloom from so many agents - many who have sold a few or even no properties this year - yet my clients, almost without exception - are having one of their best years EVER.  They're busy.  They're listing.  They're selling.  

December 21, 2009 06:13 PM #17
Rainmaker
125,422
Allyson Hoffman
RE/MAX Villager (Chicago North and North Suburbs Real Estate) - Northbrook, IL
Making Today's Dreams Tomorrow's Reality!

Sam, that  is definitely a great topic and interesting new idea.  But having used the IPIX system as a very early adopter (I think it was called Jutvision and then I think Bamboo -- can't remember for sure), I eventually returned to lots of quality still photos too finding that so many of the spinning tours made people's heads spin, so to speak.  Lots of distortion and long white walls turned many people off.  Much like Ira and Margaret, amongst others who have commented, I think the mutliple quality still photos allows me to be more selective about the emphasis of the marketing.  If this quality could be guaranteed in a new product, as you are suggesting, I would definitely be open, however, to revisiting these thoughts.

December 21, 2009 10:45 PM #18
Rainmaker
1,364,360
Sam Miller
RE/MAX Stars Realty - Howard, OH
Knox County Ohio

Thanks everyone for all the comments.  Let me be begin by saying that I am a fan of well done video and it sounds like many who commented are also.  I agree with the comments about the old style distorted 360 virtual tours making some viewers feel dizzy.  I want to be very clear I am not talking about posting a 10 year old IPIX virtual tour today.  My blog explores the idea that these type of tours (IPIX and EGG) could be reinvented using CURRENT technology such as HD digital images from a quality DSLR, utilizing a much wider angle camera lenses, vendor improved virtual tour software and a more modern and much sharper virtual tour lens.  

 

 

 

December 21, 2009 10:55 PM #19
Rainer
3,091
Jill Kuchle
HUFF Realty - Florence, KY

Hi Sam,  I agree with the others about the 360 virtual tours making folks dizzy.  I think the wave of the future is gearing up towards video.  Especially with the explosion of social media sites that enable you to put video up there.  It just seems like that is where everything is heading.  As far as the EGG is concerned - we had one and it was very hard to use - at least that was my experience with it and I felt the pictures made me feel like I was in an EGG looking out!!! 

December 27, 2009 11:36 AM #20
Ambassador
883,319
Lane Bailey
Century 21 Results Realty - Suwanee, GA
Realtor & Car Guy

I think that using a tool like MagToo.com (you have to use it in Internet Explorer) is a good option.  It is interactive, but at the same time, technologically feasible for most agents.  And, using good technique, you can compensate for not having a wide enough lens... 

January 01, 2010 11:05 PM #21
Rainmaker
1,364,360
Sam Miller
RE/MAX Stars Realty - Howard, OH
Knox County Ohio

Watch for some upcoming news and an update about this topic.  

December 22, 2011 09:36 AM #22
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Rainmaker
1,364,360

Sam Miller

Knox County Ohio
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