For prospective home buyers, touring a house traditionally entails commuting to top prospects and painstakingly documenting each room with photos, but Zillow wants to drag the process into the 21st century. To that end, the Seattle, Washington-based real estate database company today announced the debut of 3D Home, an AI-powered iOS app that allows potential buyers to view 360-degree pics and tours of properties.
The service is available in the U.S. and Canada starting this week, a little more than a year after the launch of a pilot program that involved the creation and viewing of thousands of 3D tours. One early partner, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Georgia Properties, captured scans of over 600 listings.
“Making 3D home tours available for sellers and agents to capture and add to any listing, for free … is a huge milestone in our work to make the real estate transaction a more seamless, on-demand experience for consumers,” said Zillow’s director of product development, Josh Weisberg. “Previously, 3D tours were only found on high-end or expensive homes, due to the high cost and time-intensive capture process. Now, with 3D Home, adding an immersive experience to a home listing is fast, easy, and free, which benefits buyers and sellers at all price points.”
As Weisberg explains, 3D Home works by capturing images using an iPhone’s camera or a compatible external camera, like Ricoh’s 360-degree Theta V or Z1. On-screen icons guided by motion-detecting algorithms instruct users where and when to snap photos, and once the entire house has been captured, computer vision models adjust exposure levels, select thumbnail images that “best represent” each room, and stitch together 3D walkthroughs.
Processed tours populate the My 3D Home dashboard, where they can be edited, shared privately, or added directly to a home listing. Zillow says that they take as little as 20 minutes to create and that during the pilot, listings with 3D tours attracted more prospective buyers than those without them.
“Zillow has provided yet another way for agents to provide their clients with the best technology to promote their listings online,” said Eryn Richardson, general manager at Century 21 Heritage, another 3D Home pilot partner. “Zillow’s 3D Home tours is a great example of how Century 21 and Zillow are doing everything they can to create an amazing home shopping experience for consumers.”
Zillow, which says its mobile real estate apps are the most popular in their respective categories, is increasingly investing in AI in an effort to remain ahead of competitors like Trulia, Redfin, Homesnap, and Realtor.com. In 2006, Zillow introduced the Zestimate benchmark, which uses 7.5 million statistical and machine learning models to analyze hundreds of data points and automate the valuations of 110 million properties across the U.S. (Zillow claims the nationwide error rate is now below 4%.) And the company recently introduced Personalized Sort, a search and recommendations tool that taps AI to account for personal criteria, like decor and amenities.