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New Real Estate Technology Products From Microsoft

July 22 2010

Is less more online?  Online information has gone from very high end professional content builders, and gradually lowered the barriers to participation, and now the trouble we face in the “information age” is weeding through what is good, credible information and what is bland and unverifiable information. Frustrating? Certainly, and not just for agents, but for home buyers and sellers as well.

gary flakeA flip side to the expression “less is more,” is that with the greater number of voices, the noise becomes too loud and the message is lost.

Microsoft has targeted this concern by developing  several technology products for real estate professionals to make their message bigger and better by focusing on the whole message and allowing users to dive into segments of information to understand the part and the whole. 

In a recent seminar I attended at Inman Connect 2010, Gary Flake a Technical Fellow at Microsoft outlined three exciting new technology solutions for real estate:

  1. Seadragon
  2. Photostynth
  3. Pivot

seadragon logoThe first technology Flake demonstrated for the crown, was Seadragon. This technology allows agents and brokers to embed a large photo into their website without excessive download time.  The key selling point aside from the relatively short upload time, is the deep zoom feature.  With the deep zoom feature an online home buyer can view a property photo as large 103,000 pixels and swim into the image, getting down to the details of the home. You won’t need to worry about losing the full resolution details you want to showcase. The technology is fast and easy to traverse. 

To access the image, an agent merely needs to provide the source of the image and click “create” and they will be able to add a one liner title to the image and it’s done. 

photosynth logoThe second technology Microsoft Live Labs has created is Photosynth. Photosynth allows you to make a 3D approximate view between all the images taken of a house. This software creates a collage of all images taken of the property, form all views of the home. The software intelligently organizes the images and determines how the photos relate to one another. The it automatically stitches together the images, creating a virtual tour collage. 

With Photosynth gives agents a way to move beyond a virtual tour experience, allowing the consumer to control what angles and details they would like to concentrate on, move around and explore. All images are deep zoomed, making small details easy to see for viewers.

One of the things I liked best about Photosynth is that the experience is interactive; consumers can choose the path they want to take the view the house, and Photosynth will link the images as the consumer travels through it. Images fade out as the consumer moves through the home.

This technology gives the user a full, non linear panorama that goes around the perimeter of the house. Interestingly enough  this technology was used by CNN to capture the white house for President Obama’s Inauguration.

pivot logoThe final product Gary Flake demonstrated for us, was Pivot. This is the newest experiment coming out of the Microsoft Live Lab. It looks at massive amounts of data and teases out the trends and themes within the data. For example it takes an icon, that represents a trend, then allows the user to step back and see that same icon duplicate to represent the overall trend over the past 10 years. This technology combines swaths of data and gives impressive visuals to cement important trends in the minds of the online consumers. Once a user has delved deep into the database, he or she can come back out and re-pivot to another related trend, represented in the data. New searches can be easily created using the same large database of information.

Pivot helps categorize data and make it visually compelling, and as it's a database (in icons), you can search a large number of things and see it rendered accordingly. It also allows its users to see the higher level trends from afar and be able to look closely at potential correlations.

Particularly as it relates to real estate, Pivot allows large listing repositories to provide the home buyer with an interactive home search. Users can filer search results in a listing service by the number of beds, or baths and see the icon chart change, as the number of home matches decreases to a more manageable size. The visualization of filtering data is unique and powerful.

The technology can do this for raw data and content of many forms. Agents and brokers can embed these experiences in a website, without overloading the system. I have included a video demo of Pivot below.

I highly recommend clicking the below links and finding online demos of these technology products. Technology, while overwhelming, is incredible. I was very impressed with these technologies.