Three-dimensional photography has to be simple and fast. You need push-button simplicity and it can’t take a long time to capture a property. That was one of the many crucial insights we received from national real estate brokerage Redfin and its CTO, Sasha Aickin, when developing our Matterport 3D camera and cloud platform.
Redfin has been collaborating with us for about two years as an expert customer. Redfin has long pioneered an approach that entails leveraging technology and delivering a customer-first agent service model to make buying and/or selling a home better and easier. Redfin agents are paid based upon client satisfaction and have closed over $13 billion in home sales and saved customers over $175 million. While Matterport has significant expertise in computer vision and 3D imaging, Redfin really knows and understands real estate. Since we view real estate as an industry that gives us an opportunity to bring 3D media to consumers in a way that will have a significant impact for a lot of people, we couldn’t have hoped for a better partner.
One of the first things Redfin told us was that the image capture process has to be easy and quick. Our first beta cameras were handheld. Users would move the camera around a room to capture it in 3D, and that would require both skill and time. That wouldn’t work in real estate. If photographers (or agents) had to attend lengthy training classes, Redfin told us, they probably wouldn’t adopt it. They also wouldn’t use it if it took too much time to capture an image. If photographers have to spend hours on a site capturing an image or massaging the final result, the economics break down, as does the quality.
With that in mind, we automated the entire process by turning our camera into a robotic device, controlled wirelessly through an iPad app, which provides a quick and consistent capture. It sits on a tripod. All a photographer has to do is touch a button and move it from room to room. From there, the entire process of creating the 3D model is automated by our cloud system, providing consistent, high-quality results.
Another thing that Redfin told us was that the images have to be great, so the bar for visual quality was set very high from the start. Real estate listings can sink or swim on the quality of visual media. If a 3D photo didn’t capture the essence of the house or if 3D images were dim or distorted, it could make a listing even worse. Redfin was one of the very influential voices that helped Matterport realize that we weren’t a 3D modeling company, but a 3D MEDIA COMPANY, where 3D needs to enhance the visual experience rather than being an end unto itself. This was an “ah-hah” moment for the company.
We’re very excited that with that advice and interaction we were able to develop 3D Showcase, an immersive way of showing every room in a home from multiple perspectives in a crisp, detailed, realistic manner. Take a tour of this Redfin agent-listed home in Seattle, WA. I believe we’ve reset people’s expectations of what it should feel like to really experience a property online.
Our 3D images capture a wealth of underlying data, and our 3D media platform will enable a lot of new features in the not-so-distant future. Could you use that data captured by the camera to leave annotations or notes in specific locations or obtain the precise dimensions of features in a room? Absolutely. Can you take measurements or see a heads up display with square footage or other information as you walk from room to room? Yes. 3D makes images more attractive, but perhaps even more importantly, it adds structural data that allows people to understand the space around them. You’ll see a lot of developments on the Matterport platform in the future – it only gets better!
We look forward to getting much more advice from our “lean forward” partners like Redfin!