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Matterport's Next Trick: Annotating the Real World in VR

Matterport says home buyers will be more informed with the combination of a VR headset and "pop-up information."


Matterport makes a camera that enables 3-D virtual tours, like the one embedded below of a house in San Francisco, and says these tours are “better than a gallery of pictures.”

Next up: Can it make a tour that’s better than a tour guide?

At a real estate show today, the company is launching a new feature called Matter Tags, which will let clients drop text, audio and video information into their virtual tours, which can be viewed on the Web or in a VR headset.

“It’s pop-up information,” CEO Bill Brown said in an interview with Re/code. “You can walk into this kitchen and then look at this point to learn something more about that stove.”

The company’s $4,500 camera takes about 30 seconds to make a complete 360-degree scan. It’s designed to be picked up and moved around a room to gather several angles, and end users — such as vacationers, prospective home buyers, or hotel guests being pitched on an upgraded room — can then travel from point to point to get a sense of the scale of the space.

“It’s harder to reckon distance in space” on a 2-D screen, Brown said. “With the VR experience, people showing up to open houses already know that they want to make an offer.”

(I pointed out that that probably already happens even without VR in the comically housing-starved wilds of San Francisco, but Brown said this happens in normal places, too.)

He said he saw the company’s long-term business as rooted not in hardware, but in the processing the company does in the cloud to convert images into interactive models, for which it charges subscription and processing fees. Matterport is working with Google’s Project Tango and Intel’s RealSense on how to capture a space for a virtual tour from a tablet or phone with the right types of depth-sensing cameras baked in.

That, in turn, may encourage consumers to start making 3-D tours, he said: For sharing vacation memories, planning home redecoration, or even recreating the ambiance of a party.

Matterport has raised $56 million to date, including a $30 million series C last month led by Qualcomm.

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