Virtual reality realty: Ottawa media firms set to merge

3D realty
(Stock image)

The prospect of offering realtors a full-suite of video and VR options has brought Ottawa firms 3Dshowing.com and Waterbridge Media together to form Bookmylisting.com.

Waterbridge Media, founded in 2010, does creative video work for local clients such as Calian Group and Ericsson. A bit younger, startup 3Dshowing specializes in virtual reality renderings.

With Bookmylisting.com, the two firms will bring their combined weights down to bear on Ottawa’s residential real estate market.

“Bringing their creative video experience with our 3D and high-tech systems, it seemed like a really nice marriage,” says Alex Comeau, partner with 3Dshowing.

The two media firms operated in separate worlds until a mutual connection from Comeau’s high school days brought the firms together over a coffee. Realizing their merger would give them a sizeable stake in the local real estate market, the merger has been in talks for the past few months, finally launching in January.

In a statement, Waterbridge managing partner Nik Topolovec said it’s exciting to partner with 3Dshowing because of the variety the two firms can bring to local realtors.

Finding the VR niche

While Waterbridge brings quality cameras and soaring drones to the partnership, 3Dshowing’s services are more niche.

Comeau says the firm has amassed one million virtual tours on its packages over the last 12 months, but concedes that the idea of VR real estate tours has yet to find mainstream appeal.

“I think it is really niche in terms of when it’s used the proper way,” he says.

One of the areas the firm has found success is in student residences. Comeau says a recent virtual tour set up for Ryerson University in Toronto has been popular due to the number of international and tech-savvy students embracing the medium.

He adds there are realtors who are willing to invest in the service as well, the ones that are “technologically forward thinking.”

The startup has found its residential niche catering to these profiles, but 3Dshowing has also branched out into commercial offerings.

In 2016, the firm produced a virtual tour of the Ottawa Art Gallery. Comeau says travel and tourism applications for 3D video are big selling points for institutions worried about accessibility barriers.

The company has also recently invested in a high-powered 3D capture device – calling it just a camera would be an insult – that retails at a minimum of US$19,000. The Leica BLK360 is a laser scanner that can capture the dimensional data of a building down to the depth of the walls and the heat signatures of the structure.

“It lets us digitize mass amounts of space very quickly and then take that data and explore it on the back-end on our computer,” says Comeau.

With this expensive tech, 3Dshowing could, for example, provide power plants with valuable information about the amounts of heat they’re generating.

Comeau says these applications, alongside its residential offerings, are all part of a simple company mandate: to digitize physical spaces.