Businesses are increasingly finding use cases for Virtual and Augmented Reality and adopting the devices more into their day to day operations.
With customers and potential clients becoming better informed and more resilient to traditional selling techniques. Sales and marketing teams are using headsets as a perfect medium to enhance the sales and customer experience. Virtual worlds now offer the opportunity to engage in fun and unique experiences designed to provide the finishing touch to any sales pitch.
For instance, VR allows prospective buyers to take virtual tours of a house or apartment – instead of just looking at the floor plan. Sotheby's International Realty has been using VR to host open houses to sell luxury homes. Other realty companies, such as Halstead and Douglas Elliman have also rolled out their own versions of tours.
Meanwhile, a salesperson can instantly implement changes to an item they're selling. In select U.S. markets, Lowe's Home Improvement customers can design their perfect bathroom or kitchen and then, using VR, walk into the finished space and experience it — as a test drive. Powered by AR/VR application company Marxent's Visual Commerce application, Lowe's Holoroom customers work with a trained sales associate to make selections from thousands of SKUs — from paint and flooring to plumbing fixtures and appliances. Products are added to the design as virtual 3D objects. Once satisfied, the customer puts on a virtual reality headset to experience the space they've designed and make any needed refinements.
Automakers have also been using VR technologies to attract buyers, improve their time at dealerships and form a stronger emotional attachment to a product they helped create.
The Audi VR experience uses proprietary software and visualization technology from ZeroLight, a technology company based in Great Britain. Using a VR headset at the dealership, customers can configure their new Audi and experience their dream cars virtually, in real time. And, they have the opportunity to explore every detail of the vehicle as they choose options and accessories in the virtual setting of their choice — a lunar landscape, a tunnel, or the National Library in Paris.
Forbes reported that at the pilot location in London, the Audi VR experience increased new car sales by 60 percent to 70 percent, with 75 percent of sales to first time buyers and customers buying cars at 120 percent of the vehicle pricing because of an increased rate of optional feature purchases.
Incredibly, 50 percent of customers in the first year of London dealership's Audi VR experience pilot ordered vehicles without a physical test drive, basing their purchase decision upon their virtual experience. Audi offers the VR experience in select European markets and reportedly plans to offer it worldwide.
Within the construction industry, Virtual Reality has a host of benefits. VR platforms such as those provided by Iris VR enable architects to walk clients through their designs before they have been built, supplying vital opportunities for feedback and alteration.
The ability to explore construction plans in 1:1 scale through VR also bridges the gap between the real world and a designer’s imagination – letting them visualise the full scale effect of their designs. Virtual Reality portfolios have also evolved as a way for architects to showcase their work to prospective clients.
New technology makes it easy to turn paper plans into 3D computer models, and then into immersive VR simulations. Exploring building designs through VR helps potential clients to better understand an architect’s work.
Stepping aside from the declining sales figures in consumer use of virtual reality. Investors are now starting to see an increase demand in enterprise usage of AR & VR and analysts expect this trend to continue.
IDC anticipates the overall market will return to growth over the remainder of 2018 as more vendors target the commercial AR and VR markets and low-cost standalone VR headsets such as the Oculus Go gain more traction.
IDC believe that some of the future growth in demand for VR and AR headsets will be largely driven by businesses and enterprise-level applications such as employee training and remote collaboration. IDC said: “We believes the commercial market to be equally important and predict it will grow from 24 per cent of VR headset shipments in 2018 to 44.6 per cent by 2022.”
While enterprise markets have made use of professional-grade virtual reality (VR) technology for some time, the recent development of consumer-grade VR head-mounted displays (HMDs) from companies like Facebook/Oculus, HTC, and Samsung has raised the profile of VR immeasurably and, more importantly, sparked the potential for enterprise VR use cases leveraging consumer-grade VR solutions.
In addition to the availability of low-cost consumer grade VR solutions, the adoption of VR among enterprises is motivated by the opportunity for increased productivity, improved results, and efficiency through the greater level of immersion that VR applications offer compared to more conventional means.
IDC predicts that the Oculus platorm is likely to face pressure from both HTC's VIve platform and Microsoft's Windows Mixed Reality platform. The latter should see strong opportunities in the commercial market as brands such as HP, Dell, and Lenovo bring their years of experience catering to enterprise buyers. Another company looking to get into the commercial space, is augmented reality start-up Magic Leap, which just recently launched its $2,3000 Magic Leap One device.
"Industry watchers are eager to see new headsets ship from the likes of Magic Leap, Microsoft, and others. But for those devices to fulfil their promise we need developers creating the next-generation of applications that will drive new experiences on both the consumer and commercial sides of the market" said Tom Mainelli, program vice president, Devices and Augmented and Virtual Reality at IDC.
Virtual Reality has had so many rebirths and new year beginnings that it resembles the myth about a cat having nine lives.
2018 was touted as the big year for virtual reality. With over four months until the end of the year and a Christmas period in the Q4, it could still be a big year. But it depends on how we are measuring what constitutes a big year for VR. If we are gauging it on a consumer level and expecting the world to be gripped like in the movie Ready Player One, then unfortunately that is not the case.
Movies such as Ready Player One, were expected to drive the public's curiosity about virtual reality. Although it was not the aim, it was hoped the movie would help drive overall sales in headsets like the recently launched Oculus Go and the various mixed reality headsets built for Windows Mixed Reality.
The Fifa world cup was also an opportunity for viewers to get involved in virtual reality on a mass scale, with the BBC allowing viewers to watch matches by downloading the VR app.
But the truth is sales figures have fallen below forecasts predicted by analyst and sales have not generated consumer home adoption that was hoped for by the standalone Facebook owned Oculus Go.
The Oculus Go, at a cost of $199, is a standalone virtual reality headset. Unlike previous headsets that require a mobile phone or a connection to a powerful PC, the Oculus Go was deemed as the first mass market headset that was affordable and can be used by all.
Released in early 2018, Oculus Go made an estimated 289,000 shipments in Q2, helping major headset sales grow close to 40% in comparison to the first quarter. But overall, major headset sales were down 50% in the first half of 2018 compared to the same period in 2017, according to SuperData.
Sony's Playstation VR headset shipped an estimated 100,00 units in Q2, in comparison to three-times as much at the same period in 2017. Meanwhile, Microsoft appears to have dropped plans to introduce VR to the Xbox One X, with plans to concentrate solely on Windows Mixed Reality.
Although overall figures were down, what is clear is that consumers have adapted to the convenience and selling point of the Oculus Go. Sales of the standalone Oculus Go in its launch quarter, outstripped those of the PC-powered Oculus Rift in the entire first half of 2017.
On the other hand, Augmented Reality appears to be having a more mass appeal on mobile phones, than on HMDs (head-mounted devices). The application is an excellent tool for location-based discovery, games and retail shopping.
So far in 2018, it is appears that virtual reality and its cousin, augmented reality (in its HMD version) are still taking baby-steps. But with the introduction and cost of standalone devices, it looks like we are approaching the point where devices will be as comfortable to carry like mobile phones and super cool to wear like your favourite pair of Ray-Bans.
If the Virtual Reality industry is like a cat, then 2019 could be the year it uses its ninth life. But even if 2019 is not the breakthrough year, the time is near when the self-image of The AR & VR Industry changes reality and takes a huge leap, roaring like a lion!!
The number of towers being planned or built in London has passed the 500 mark for the first time as the skyscraper trend spills into the suburbs.
Last year’s tower tally of 510 is a rise of more than 12 per cent on the 455 recorded in 2016, according to New London Architecture’s annual count of buildings of at least 20 storeys (their definition of a skyscraper).
The think tank’s survey, released today, also found that a record 115 towers are under construction in the capital, up 26 per cent from 91 in 2016.
The figures will renew concerns that the skyline is under threat from towers being waved through by councils and the Mayor. However, there are also signs that Brexit uncertainty, rising construction costs and falling demand for expensive central London flats could slow the rate at which skyscrapers go up, although perhaps only temporarily.
The survey, using figures from property data specialists EG and consultancy GL Hearn, found that only 18 towers were actually finished last year, down sharply on 2016.
The pace of completions is expected to rise again to record levels this year. Those completed last year include Vauxhall Sky Gardens, the two riverside Corniche towers in Lambeth, Manhattan Plaza in Poplar, Lombard Wharf in Battersea and the Lighterman in Greenwich Peninsula.
Although more than two thirds of the towers in the pipeline are in inner London, the survey shows tall buildings are becoming a feature of the suburbs.
Towers are being planned in Walham Forest and Bromley for the first time, leaving just seven boroughs — Bexley, Enfield, Havering, Hillingdon, Kensington & Chelsea, Merton and Richmond — as the last areas in London where no new skyscrapers are planned.
The report says this could change as development areas such as Bexley Riverside, Meridian Water (Enfield) and Morden (Merton) all have potential for tall buildings in the future.
The Elizabeth line, due to fully open from December next year, could also act as a catalyst for tall building development in outer boroughs such as Ealing, Redbridge and Newham.
Peter Murray, chairman and co-founder of NLA, said: “There has definitely been a shift from luxury to more middle-cost housing. Towers are not the only way of delivering the density of housing that London needs, but in certain areas such as Transport for London sites near stations there are virtually no alternatives.”
More than 90 per cent of the tall buildings are residential and could deliver 106,000 new homes, according to the survey. About half of all the towers are in east London with 85 in Tower Hamlets and 70 in Greenwich.
Mr Murray said there were few signs that the Grenfell Tower disaster was deterring developers from planning tall buildings. He said: “You would expect most of the buildings going up now not to face the same problems as Grenfell did, they will all have sprinkler systems, for example.”
The Government will crack down on gazumping with new measures to professionalise the estate agency industry and make the process of buying property easier for consumers.
It announced a raft of changes to overhaul the largely unregulated sector, which has long suffered from being seen as anti-consumer.
They include encouraging the use of voluntary reservation agreements, in order to stop sales from falling through, ending the practice of gazumping, where sellers accept higher offers following an agreement to sell.
The Government also plans to get rid of ‘rogue agents’ by ensuring that all estate agents have a professional qualification. It will also make it a requirement for these companies to be transparent about whether they receive fees for referring clients to mortgage brokers, surveyors or solicitors.
Housing Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Buying a home is one of the biggest and most important purchases someone will make in their life. But for far too long buyers and sellers have been trapped in a stressful system full of delays and uncertainty. So we’re going to put the consumers back in the driving seat.”
Research carried out by the Government found that more than 6 in 10 people who bought or sold property have experienced stress due to delays in the property transaction process.
The measures come from a consultation held last year. More extreme proposals, such as creating financial penalties for buyers who pull out of purchases and cause chains to collapse, are not included in the new plans.
Agents must be members of redress schemes such as The Property Ombudsman. However, organisations like this lack power, and there are currently no requirements for estate agents to have a formal training or certification, unlike in the United States. It is unclear what kind of qualification the Government will mandate, and it will hold another consultation to work out how estate agents can be brought up to standard like conveyancers, solicitors and surveyors.
Russell Quirk, chief executive of online estate agency Emoov, said: “This is really great news. The industry and Government have talked to a long time to clean up house buying. If you add both speed and certainty to the process, there will be fewer transactions falling through, less wasted money, and less stress for the consumer.”
He added: “For far too long it has got away with being almost entirely unregulated. How can it be that financial advisers dealing with the loan for the property are vetted, but the people dealing with the asset itself and the trauma of a protracted process are not overseen or licensed?”
This is not the first measure to hit the industry in an effort to clean it up: last year a ban on letting fees was announced by the Chancellor which is due to start next year. In the past the Government also introduced Home Information Packs which are widely regarded as a failure.
Becky Fatemi, managing director of London estate agency Rokstone, said: “Rogue agents are small in number, but sadly the unprofessional behaviour of “wide boys" gives the industry a bad reputation."
As part of the Government's battle to protect leaseholders, it also announced it would require managing agents and freeholders to provide lease information and a fee timetable in order to stop them wielding power over leasees. It is also planning to increase efficiency in home buying with plans to introduce digital improvements such as electronic conveyancing.
Article: https://www.telegraph.co.uk / Image: swindonlink.com
The number of buy to let investors in the UK has hit a record high of 2.5m in the latest tax year - that’s five per cent up on the previous 12 months according to London agent Ludlow Thompson.
The number of landlords has increased 27 per cent in the past five years, up from 1.97m in 2011-12, and landlords now own an average of 1.8 buy to let properties each – rising for the fifth consecutive year.
The agency says that the fundamental aspects that make the UK and London market attractive to investors remain strong, including demand continuing to outstrip supply with government statistics predicting that the population of London alone will increase to approximately 10m by 2035.
“The long-term picture for the buy to let market remains strong. As a ‘London-leaning’ Brexit looks more likely, a final deal will focus on strengthening the appeal of the capital as a go-to destination for overseas professionals, graduates and students alike” anticipates Stephen Ludlow, the agency’s chairman.
He says recent Bank of England data also shows the resilience of the sector, despite the introduction of the three per cent stamp duty surcharge on additional homes, plus new mortgage stress tests and the tapering of mortgage interest relief.
Some 12.7 per cent of all mortgages in Q4 2017 went to buy to let investors, only a slight dip from 14.4 per cent in Q4 2016 and 16.3 per cent in 2015.
Ludlow continues: “Even taking into account the implementation of changes to buy to let tax relief, there are a number of tax reliefs available to landlords. Investors should also note that, historically, growing earning power and rising wages have tended to lead to rising rental values.”
Previous research from ludlowthompson shows that even when the new buy to let tax changes are fully implemented, investors are still set to benefit from £16.7 billion in tax relief.
Source: City AM / Ludlow Thompson
Exercise is basically the new clubbing. At least, that’s what Casey Phillips, a property agent at Shelley Sandzer, tells me as we’re discussing why the fitness industry is currently booming.
“Instead of getting drunk, you do a class together,” he says. “You just feel incredible afterwards.”
The wellness and fitness industry is estimated to reach a value of £22.8bn by 2020, according to Statista. Walk just a few steps outside your office and you can see the physical evidence of this on the streets of London: gyms are popping up everywhere.
This could be good news for landlords, who are facing the disappearance of several tenants as retailers and restaurants cut down their portfolios. A raft of company voluntary arrangements (CVAs) in recent months has left many property owners without occupants or receiving dramatically slashed rents.
But for health clubs and gyms, expansion is the name of the game.
“The sector is so active, it’s almost a landgrab for space,” says Phillips “It’s like a gold rush. Everyone’s just looking at anything they can.”
Part of this boom is down to a rise in the number of smaller chains and boutique gyms.
Phillips cites Xtend Barre and Triyoga as examples of fresh brands he has found homes for recently.
In fact, his work on clubs and gyms now dwarfs the amount of time he spends sourcing sites for shops and restaurants.
The rise of the boutique gym has been so fast because its requirements are different. Whereas more traditional brands need huge floor plates to accommodate as many machines as possible, new concepts are able to adapt to smaller or unusual spaces.
One operator which fits the bill is F45, a concept imported to our shores from Australia, which is rapidly expanding its presence through a franchising model. Less than four years old, the business already has more than 1,000 studios worldwide, including several in London.
In his time at the head of the company, founder Rob Deutsch has seen more and more landlords pay attention to gyms as important anchor tenants.
“Big shopping centre operators are now coming to us,” says Deutsch. “That didn’t happen before.”
The concept of F45 is simple. Instead of paying for a pricey personal trainer, customers attend a group training session and complete 45 minutes of intense workouts.
It can expand particularly quickly because it sells studios to franchisees, with a full set-up cost of around £200,000.
This can be made back in a matter of months, says Deutsch, due to the popularity of the sessions: “The economics of the model is very tight.”
The other reason it can slot into former retail spaces is the strict approach to equipment, which Deutsch says has to be practical and multifunctional to earn its place on the gym floor. “Our philosophy is if the equipment can’t be moved to the other side of the room, we don’t have it.”
That’s why the concept has been easy to install in some unlikely places, which in London include the basement of an Itsu restaurant that would otherwise have gone to waste.
Deutsch even hints that F45 is in talks about taking over some sites from a failing retailer in the US.
While he is tight-lipped on the possible deal, it is just one example of where gyms are picking up the slack left by struggling businesses.
The collapse of any chain is bad news for business, but it opens up a big opportunity for the leisure sector. The Gym Group told City A.M. earlier this year that it has been eyeing up some of the former Toys R Us sites in the UK.
But with the property world still trying to deal with the fallout of closures and CVAs across the retail and casual dining sectors, is the gym boom too good to be true?
It has already been widely acknowledged that one of the problems behind this year’s domino-chain of restaurant closures was over-expansion.
“There are similar characteristics,” admits David Bell, director of leisure at Savills. That gold rush for space has, he says, meant several fitness operators are paying big rents. Some form of adjustment seems inevitable.
“There’s going to be consolidation as there always is,” he says. “That will happen over the next three to five years.”
However, Bell is relatively relaxed about the future. “The fitness market is actually bucking the trend compared to retail and restaurants,” he says. “It’s all linked to health and wellbeing and to millennials. I think it is driven by tech and social media.”
As long as customers are lusting after Instagram-worthy workout shots, fitness concepts will keep growing and keep taking the spaces left empty by other businesses.
The battle of the capital's most sought-after addresses continues, with Mayfair fighting back in the property pricing stakes, according to a review by estate agent Wetherell.
For the first time in 10 years, Mayfair apartment prices have opened up "a wide value margin" above fellow prime spot Knightsbridge.
The agency - which is based in Mayfair - said Knightsbridge has been under pressure due to a lack of new homes provision, outdated stock and constrained supply. It had commissioned market intelligence firm Dataloft to analyst luxury apartment sales and lettings values across London's prime postcodes over the 17 years from 2000 to 2017.
Where Mayfair has over 4,360 residential addresses, Knightsbridge has 2,500, which the estate agent said could mean the former has the advantage on number of opportunities for redevelopment and real estate value growth.
Last year, Mayfair apartment prices averaged £2,378 per sq ft, six per cent above Knightsbridge, which averaged £2,242 per sq ft. Nearly three-quarters of last year's sales in Mayfair achieved £2,000 per sq ft or higher, according to the analysis.
It marked a sharp rise on the year before, when Mayfair apartments just nudged above Knightsbridge - averaging £2,314 per sq ft and £2,299 per sq ft respectively. Prior to that, Knightsbridge took the crown, with greater values in 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011.
Wetherell said that there was a brief period in 2007 when Mayfair prices were one per cent ahead of Knightsbridge's, with the development of One Hyde Park then helping to push Knightsbridge ahead.
The estate agent said a similar trend was emerging in the lettings market, with the highest rents in Mayfair now averaging £2,026 per week - 17 per cent higher than Knightsbridge.
Peter Wetherell, chief executive of the estate agent, said:
"Mayfair was historically London’s richest address. After 1945 many Mayfair homes were turned into offices, and planning priority was given to commercial premises.
This, combined with the development of One Hyde Park and other luxury Knightsbridge apartments led to the last decade of Knightsbridge being the capital’s top address."
Wetherell added that five years ago, planning permissions and office-to-resi conversions were halting the decline in Mayfair, leading to his estate agent's prediction Mayfair would claim the crown of London's most desirable address. He said the forecast has been proven "with the test of time, to be accurate".
The estate agent is also expecting a further boost from the Elizabeth Line, which launches in December. Crossrail impact reports have forecast a boost in property prices and new stations such as Mayfair's Bond Street are expected to bring a lift in residential prices to the surrounding areas.
Magic Leap, the secretive US start-up, confirmed on Wednesday that Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund would invest $400m in the developer of “mixed reality” headsets, as it races to get ahead of competing efforts from Apple, Microsoft and Facebook.
The funding from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund along with a further $62m from a group of unnamed investors takes Magic Leap’s total fundraising to $2.3bn. Founded in 2010, the Florida-based company has yet to release a single product to market.
The PIF joins Magic Leap’s other big-name backers including Google and Alibaba. The total of $462m comes as an extension to the $502m round it raised in October, led by Singapore’s Temasek, and values Magic Leap at about $6bn.
Many of the world’s leading tech companies are working on similar headsets that would blur the line between the digital and physical worlds, building on the “augmented reality” effects already found in mobile apps such as Pokémon Go and Snapchat.
“The Magic Leap team and I are happy to welcome the Public Investment Fund and the other new investors to the Magic Leap family. We look forward to having them join us on our journey to build an amazing future,” Rony Abovitz, the former surgical roboticist who founded Magic Leap, said on Wednesday, confirming an earlier report of the financing by the Financial Times.
The announcement comes as Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, is expected to visit the United States later this month and unveil investment deals.
The 32-year-old heir to the Gulf kingdom’s throne has been using the $230bn state fund as a vehicle to make bold investments that are intended to help diversify the country’s economy from a reliance on oil.
The PIF took a $3.5bn stake in Uber in 2016, but appeared to be shying away from striking solo deals in technology companies after agreeing later that year to put $45bn in an investment fund managed by SoftBank, the Japanese conglomerate, which is led by its founder Masayoshi Son.
But a deal with Magic Leap, which the Financial Times revealed last month, upends that logic.
The new capital will fuel Magic Leap’s ambitious plan to “harmonise people and technology” with a so far unreleased “mixed reality” headset. Yet beyond demonstration videos, few people beyond its investors and a small group of app developers have seen its technology. The company has suffered delays in bringing its product to market, causing some industry observers to question whether it can deliver on its outsized promises.
Mr Abovitz has said that “techno-biology” will take over from smartphones and PCs as many people’s primary way of interacting with technology. He claims that using Magic Leap’s headset will provide a more natural way to use productivity software or view entertainment.
Silicon Valley executives including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Apple’s Tim Cook and Microsoft’s Satya Nadella have suggested that the ability to mingle realistic digital images with the physical world will prove the next frontier in computing. However, after the limited success of virtual reality, these companies are investing heavily in the hopes of achieving a technical breakthrough that can convince mainstream consumers to wear computers on their faces.
https://www.ft.com / Arash Massoudi & Tim Bradshaw
London has overtaken New York as the top destination for the Norwegian wealth fund’s unlisted real estate investments, a report showed.
The $1 trillion fund is focusing on investing in ten locations, which it considers to be global cities that are expected to grow in terms of numbers, employment and trade.
London, New York and Paris accounted for 22.8 percent, 21.5 percent and 19.1 percent of the fund’s unlisted property investments in 2017.
In 2016, New York was first, followed by London and Paris, accounting for 19.2 percent, 17 percent and 13.1 percent, of these investments respectively.
The fund’s unlisted real estate investments corresponded to 2.6 percent of overal assets at end-2017. Its target is to invest up to 7 percent of its value in such properties over time.
The fund is a co-owner of London’s Regent Street and properties on the Champs-Elysees in Paris and Hudson Square in New York. It funnels the revenues from Norway’s oil and gas production, investing in stocks, bonds and real estate.
The fund made its first unlisted real estate investment in Asia, in Tokyo in December, and has eyed investing in Singapore, although it has yet to make a purchase in the city-state.
The fund invested 15 billion Norwegian crowns ($1.94 billion) in unlisted real estate in 2017, taking its total holdings to 219 billion crowns.
Source: https://uk.reuters.com / Reuters Staff