Experiments with AR and property search

Property is a promising area for Augmented Reality. There’s layers of geographic-specific data. My memory of house hunting is lurching between being overwhelmed by the options and demoralised by the prices. That is, property search is not perfect. Could AR be a door to improving it?

At Mint Digital we spent 5 days building Properly, to explore the possibilities. Opportunities for AR-based property search might include:

  1. Sense of place

Property search is inextricably tied to place. As the saying goes: location, location, location. Much of my house search experience was figuring out which parts of location, location, location we could compromise on.

AR offers the possibility of giving more sense of location: where the schools are, where the transport is, even what newspapers the neighbours read. The AR context makes the data much more imaginable.

2. Bring serendipity back

It’s not uncommon to see people browsing an estate agent window on a Sunday afternoon. Are they visitors to the area? Are they locals wondering how much their house is worth? Are they potential buyers, wondering if they missed something online? Whatever the answer, it shows human requirements not fully met by current property search apps.

These Sunday afternoon browsers are the sort of user that we had in mind. The curious. The dreamers. Not the hard core property analyst or the hyper-organised buyer on a mission.

The web’s default is to give thousands of options. That’s too much. Humans get overwhelmed by the paradox of choice. One of our favourite apps is Hotel Tonight which provides a massively improved hotel search experience. How? Primarily by reducing choice.

Used in property search, AR tends to reduce choice. Our experiments suggest this makes for an improved user experience, particularly for exploratory, toe-dipping searchers.

3. Better usability than maps

Has a stranger ever asked you directions even though they have Google Maps in their hand? Most of our team have had that experience. It is easy to assume that maps are perfectly usable. But that’s not true, at least not for all users, all of the the time.

If you can improve usability for edge-case stragglers, you can reduce cognitive load for everyone. The OXO range of cookware (for instance, this brilliant measuring jug) was designed for dexterity-reduced, vision-impaired cooks. The end result is great for everyone. From playing with Properly, our sense is that AR can offer better usability than a map in some situations.

We hope you like our demo video. Please leave any comments or feedback below.

Caveats: Properly is built on Apple’s AR Kit which will be released later this year. The demo currently only works in very limited situations.

Thanks: Big thanks to @andrewprojdent for open sourcing his ARKit-CoreLocation library.

Team: Vala Petursdottir, Shoshi Roberts, Thomas Pomfret, Colin Miller, Sean Baines and me.