Opinion: Looking at the low(er) hanging fruit – opportunities for applying VR and AR in social housing today! | News

The Innovation and Technology Network Strip

The Innovation and Technology Network

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Opinion: Looking at the low(er) hanging fruit – opportunities for applying VR and AR in social housing today!

By Chris Milborrow

This month I hosted the first of our HQN Innovation and Technology Network sessions on the applications of virtual reality (vr) and augmented reality (AR) in the social housing sector.

During the session I provided delegates with some information about VR and AR, their broad value propositions, and their differences and individual merits. I also shared some case studies to bring both to life, albeit with the vast majority coming from within the social housing sector.

On reflection, and using the valuable post-session feedback from delegates, there are a few conclusions I’ve come to about how ‘ready’ the sector is for VR and AR, and how strong, or otherwise, the current business case is for housing associations to take them seriously. These conclusions are:

  • Wide adoption of VR and AR within the sector is still a long way off. We’re currently at the stage of piloting and testing on a smaller scale, and a requirement at this stage is to find solutions that are relatively low cost, have minimal barriers to entry (incl. pre-requisites), and present a fairly low level of risk
  • The business case needs to be rock solid. VR and AR are both technologies that are at risk of slipping into the ‘nice to have’ or ‘tech for techs sake’ category in social housing, leading to a perception of novelty over practical value
  • We need to think beyond current sector processes and norms when we consider how we might apply VR and AR

This led me to develop the following list which sets out three applications that I’d consider are immediate opportunities for those interested in experimenting with VR and AR within the social housing sector.

Augmented reality for remote repairs support

Recently, Kingdom Housing Association worked with XM Reality to deliver an AR solution that allows a trades operative to be virtually present in a tenant’s home, to see the issue in real time using video technology on a mobile phone or tablet, and to offer support and advice by having their hand superimposed on the scene in the tenant’s home.

More information about how this approach can deliver real business and customer benefits can be found at Kingdom Uses Augmented Reality Technology - Kingdom Housing | Kingdom HA, Fife

360 property tours with Matterport

For free (or for advanced features as little as £7.99 a month) with Matterport, you can capture a space in 3D with your smartphone and provide your staff and customers with 360 property tours.

Imagine if senior stakeholders could review the condition of a void property virtually while in the office, or if you could conduct desktop tours of multiple properties with an applicant, before progressing to an in-person site visit.

Immersive experiences

Beyond the two more obvious applications above, there is now a wealth of VR content available for free online.

For between £5-£50, buying a decent VR headset and pairing it with a smartphone will allow you to transport your customers around the globe to fantasy worlds, back or forward in time, or into immersive sensory environments.

This could be used for a wide range of things, including to put staff in the shoes of someone with dementia, for engaging customers in education and learning, or as an immersive therapy option.

The list above is by no means exhaustive, and part of the Innovation and Technology Network is to prompt ideas and discover new ways of applying technology to deliver business benefits together. I hope we can use it to generate more user cases to add weight to the VR and AR business case for social housing.

For more information about our upcoming VR & AR Core Technology Sessions, visit Events and workshops | Housing Quality Network (hqnetwork.co.uk)