Finding a flat for rent or the right house to buy is actually quite a challenge. Just think about what would be important to you. Close to public transport, walking distance to the bakery (very important!), a supermarket not too far away. How about something green when you look out of the window? Or some mountains, a park, a lake or even the coastline close by. Would be nice, when you want to go for runs, wouldn’t it? Or do you prefer the city centre? Being close to where stuff is happening? I guess you also want to live in a certain kind of neighbourhood, where you feel safe and happy. Not far away from work. You don’t want it to be noisy. If you have kids, how about a child-friendly environment and a kindergarten in the vicinity? Now the favourite place will probably differ, depending on your individual needs, likes and constraints. So how do you go about finding that favourite place? A real estate agent? The newspaper? A map? A walk around? Maybe you’ll combine different strategies to come to a conclusion.
With the new digital earth applications, it has become a whole lot easier to explore and discover places virtually. Plain maps, aerial photographs, birds eye imagery, socio-demographic overlays, Points of Interest such as the bakery, the bus stops, the train station – just select what you want to have displayed in context with other bits of information. However, finding that favourite place is still far from being really straightforward and convenient.
Now take birds-eye imagery and current 3D-City models a little bit further and combine them with the sophisticated databases that already exist and enable you to filter a 3-bedroom place built in the last 5 years within your budget and in a certain area. Imagine, how you walk around in a virtual 3D-landscape, being able to view everything from many different perspectives. Some computer games these days will give you a good idea what will be possible for the „real“ mirror earth. With your preferences defined, you start walking around the virtual town. You see the free apartments highlighted in some way and the houses that are yet to be sold. Of course, you can walk inside and have a 360 look around.
Has this potential to disrupt the real estate industry? Introducing Google Earth Real Estate or Microsoft Virtual Earth Flat Finder. Of course by then, anyone will have a digital camera that will output stitched panoramas straight away, ready to be uploaded into digital earth from the mobile device. It will be as easy as just taking a photograph and sending it to someone. Next to no effort required.
I guess efforts are under way to make all this happen, and there will be people claiming that we can already do this. However, I still think the real estate agents will have some more time to prepare… Can’t yet find that place that I am looking for!