I got a chance to play with Google Glass last week. I was, I’ll admit, ridiculously excited about it – but then I’m pretty much plumb-centre of their current user base, as this inspired Tumblr page clearly shows.
Having spent most of the last 13 years involved in property portals, I went into the demo wondering how – and, actually, if – Glass will affect the way that property and technology interact. At its heart, the question that I wanted an answer to was: “Gimmick or Game-Changer?”
Now that I’ve had a few days to consider the answer, I think that there are 5 things that a pioneering portal ought to be considering already, with an eye on the roll-out of Glass in early 2014:
1. Augmented Reality (AR). Is this the time when roaming the streets with a property portal app switched on is finally going to deliver an experience like that which Zoopla tried to pioneer in the UK, way back in 2010? Much depends on consumer adoption of Glass, of course. There are also limits to the quality of the data property portals receive from real estate agents. However, many of the hardware issues that AR apps have faced in the past – just how accurately could older phones pinpoint you and the direction that you were looking, then organise appropriate layers of properties? – are in retreat. I think that this will be something that will come to define the Google Glass experience in property.
2. Directions. Far and away the best feature that I trialled was the ability for you to tell Glass where you want to go, start walking and for the map in front of your eye to turn as you turn. Simple, beautiful technology. For a portal, some address details will be there already, as Trulia’s first-to-launch Glassware app shows. Will this encourage real estate agents in all territories to finally agree to give portals house numbers as well as zip/post codes? Somehow I still doubt it …
3. Design. When you see what Google had to cram into the hardware in order to get it to sit practically on your face, it’s hard to knock the current design. But it actually is a bit … uncomfortable. And, outside of fanboy/girl geekland, I doubt that it will achieve mass adoption in its current guise, as a result of this and its operational tics (there are few physical twitches more strange than having to flip your head back to “waken” the Glass). That means that there is likely to be a lag before real estate agent clients demand that a portal is fully across this technology.
4. Visualisation. Research in the UK shows that buyers have a hard time imagining what a property might become with them living in it. TV channels the world over are filled with property programmes encouraging people to try and see past bad curtains and unfortunate sofas to what the property could become. Glass enables virtually-staged images to be presented of the room one is standing inside and I think that this will become a crucial element of an agent’s armoury when on a viewing. Leads from buyers and tenants are a portal’s currency and using technology to solve people’s imagination failure, driving up interest, will become a valuable part of their offering.
5. Video/audio. Glass talks to you. A lot. (Even more than the brilliant Somo Global guru, who could not have been more excited and knowledgeable about the technology if he had actually crafted it himself). And Glass shows still images and videos on demand. So to have listings with best-in-class audio and video capability embedded in them is something that is already important but will become ever more so. Consumers will continue to be drawn to the sites that have the highest quality of information on any property – and those will be the sites that see the coming technology, realise the implications for their businesses and prepare for it.
In summary, Google Glass is a gimmick which will be tweaked and twiddled until it starts to become mass market. Before we know it, a significant number of people searching for property will be looking through Glass, or something very similar, and the capture of these individuals will become an important competitive issue amongst portals.
Starting to consider how best to position a portal’s data requirements from real estate agents and create interactive output now will enable that business to be ready for the time their most forward-thinking clients ask – as they certainly will – “What is your strategy regarding Google Glass?”