Virtual Reality is sexy. It appears to be one of the most promising areas of new technology in recent years. After some development time, consumer VR products are popping up, like: Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, Sony Playstation VR, and HTC Vive. Investment interest has started to tick-up, to new highs, in the number of deals done with AR / VR startups.
The excitement surrounding the maturing of this technology genre tends to focus on entertainment opportunities, however there are some other novel use-cases that should be discussed. Specifically, real estate could be profoundly disrupted by the emergence of VR as a substitute.
It might be hard to imagine VR replacing real estate, but some companies are making in-roads in the showcasing of homes and offices before purchase, like Matterport. While those firms are starting to graze the potential of this concept there is more to it than just previewing spaces. Some have suggested that
“the average firm has 30 to 50 percent more real estate than it needs” (Accenture).
Companies usually misjudge the actual amount of space they need, and end up overpaying for one of their largest fixed cost line items. If more employees were able to work outside the office, the demand for a larger office decreases. This isn’t exactly a new concept considering that the number of employees that “work-at-home…has grown by 103% since 2005” and “50% of the US workforce holds a job that is compatible with at least partial telework” (GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com).
If working outside of the office is growing and a large number of jobs don’t need to be in the office, it wouldn’t be that surprising to see VR companies making advances at improving that experience in the long run. It would give employees more flexibility and employers more cost savings. The improving UX / UI of VR will start making it easier to work within the virtual office experience, capturing more of the nuances of being in the same room, and allowing it to be a more substitutable alternative to brick-and-mortar spaces.
The logical end-game could be some companies forgoing a real office space all-together, and electing to work entirely in a virtual building that could be changed with a few lines of code. Imagine construction companies, materials, and all the headaches of a physical space replaced by one developer and a computer. There might be some cost savings.