Using the Matterport 3D Camera to Create Virtual Tours for Real Estate Listings

3D virtual tours are becoming more and more popular. They are used to showcase hotels and guest lodges, function venues, and mock-ups of architectural designs. They are also becoming a powerful marketing tool for real estate agents.

Professional-looking virtual tours were once something that could only be done by, well, professionals. Nowadays, this tool is available to almost anyone, as long as you have a 3D camera (or in some cases an, iPhone) and access to virtual tour generating software.

Creating a 3D virtual tour of your property not only increases the selling price but also sells the property quicker in many cases. Having a virtual tour on your property listing helps save you time and money by weeding out serious buyers from potential buyers for whom the property might not be a good fit. Potential buyers can have a fully immersive experience of the property before doing an in-person visit and often make a purchasing decision even before visiting the property in person.

What is a Matterport 360 virtual tour?

Matterport strives to bring property viewing into your home. They service hotels and guest houses, venues, and the real estate industry. Instead of traveling to the property for an on-site viewing, potential buyers or guests can enjoy an immersive experience as if they were on-site – from anywhere. Instead of having several panoramic images or scans on your website, a 360 virtual tour represents an in-life walk-through of the property. This is often referred to as your property’s digital twin.

You can use a 3D camera, a 360° spherical camera, a lidar camera, or even your iPhone or iPad to scan the space. Once the space is scanned, Matterport’s Cortex AI platform goes to work to transform the scans into an interactive 3D model. The platform recognizes objects and stitches your images together to produce an immersive virtual tour that you can then edit and add to your property listings.

The Matterport system is compatible with numerous capturing devices, including iPhones, 360 cameras, Matterport Pro2 3D cameras, and the Leica BLK360. iPhones work well when you need to scan smaller spaces or rooms. It is also handy to use at short notice (because it’s right there in your pocket) and can be used to compile VR experiences.

360 cameras are great for entry-level 3D scanning. They work fast and are portable – ideal for scanning several rooms or an entire house. They are also able to produce fair-quality outdoor scans.

The Matterport Pro2 is an all-inclusive 3D capturing system that produces Ultra High Quality (4K) images and digital twins of a property. Besides being able to create VR experiences, it also allows you to create schematic floor plans for the spaces you scan.

The Leica BLK360 is a Matterport compatible camera that delivers specialized high-accuracy 3D models. It can scan large areas and outdoor spaces (it performs better than most 3D cameras in sunlight) in 2K and is best to use for applications that require higher 3D accuracy.

The Matterport 3D Camera

Creating a 3D model or virtual tour used to involve expensive, specialized equipment. Static laser scanners were used to get the measurements of a space and produce high-definition images, which were then compiled into 3D models. These scanners are incredibly accurate and often used in projects that required survey-grade accuracy. This kind of specialized equipment often came with a significant investment, which means few people or companies could harness the features and benefits that these products offered.

More recently, several options have arisen that provide the benefits of static laser scanners with a lower price point. 3D cameras can create 3D models of spaces, similar to those you can create with traditional static laser scanners. Products and services like those offered by Matterport grew out of the need in the real estate industry for low-cost 3D scanning and modeling equipment and software.

The focus of this equipment and software is more on the quality of the images, how easy it is to use, and having automated features instead of having something that produces highly accurate images and models. That does not mean that the images and models produced are inaccurate – they are just not of the accuracy needed for surveyance in engineering or architecture.

According to Matterport, the measurements you get with their products are accurate within 1% of reality when used under normal operating conditions. Abnormal temperatures and equipment that isn’t calibrated correctly could affect the accuracy of your end product. Very small objects (smaller than 1in) and shiny or very dark objects might also not appear in images.

Matterport products focus on quickly and easily creating visual representations of a space that can be used as a virtual walk-through, in online advertising, or with VR equipment.

Matterport Pro2 cameras are designed to be used with Matterport Capture software. A Matterport Professional or Business subscription plan is required to access your 3D models and floor plans that you capture with the Matterport camera. The camera captures a ‘photosphere’ – a 360° image of the space. Pro2 cameras have 134 megapixels and produce Ultra High Definition 4k print quality images along with 3D captures of your scans.

The Matterport Pro2 pairs with any iOS device that is running the Matterport Capture app via its internal Wi-Fi to scan and capture images of a space. Using the Pro2 is easy, and each scan or sweep takes about 20 seconds to capture. The battery life is quite impressive – giving you about 8 hours of scan time on one charge. This long battery life means you can easily scan multiple sites or properties in a day without needing to charge the battery in between. It takes around four and a half hours to charge the battery fully.

How does the process work?

The camera shoots a 360° scan of the space (the Pro2 does this in about 20 seconds). The scan gets sent to your iPhone or iPad. Once you upload the scans, the Matterport software uses the data to stitch together the images into 3D data and create a 3D model and 360° panorama.

matterport 3d cameraAll you need to scan a space is a compatible camera (even your iPhone can work), a tripod (ideally with a quick-release clamp), and an iPad. A 360° spherical camera or 3D camera will automatically rotate to capture the images. That means the photographer should either operate the camera remotely (from outside the space being captured) or pivot with the camera, so they are always behind it. This is done to avoid the photographer being captured as a part of the scene. Having said that, if there are people in the space that you are scanning, Matterport’s software will automatically blur out their faces.

Matterport recommends that you take multiple scans of the same space between 5 and 8 feet apart. That allows for one scan to slightly overlap with the next and helps the software stitch the images together better.

The images are sent via Wi-Fi to the Matterport Capture App on an iOS device (Android coming soon). Using an iPad with a large screen allows you to view each space’s scan in 2D while you are on-site and re-take a shot if it isn’t right. It is recommended that you use an iPad with at least 128GB of onboard storage as all the captured images are stored on your iPad and not on the camera itself.

Once you are happy with your shots, you can connect your iPad to Wi-Fi and upload them to the Matterport Capture app. Once it has been processed, you will receive an email with a link to your Matterport space where it sits on the Matterport Cloud. You can then do all your editing and sharing from the Cloud. In this space, you can create videos and guided tours, trim your video, select specific starting points for each tour, and add tags to your model. These tags, called Mattertags, allow you to link to other videos, additional texts or incorporate other links into your final product.

Matterport Cortex AI is the part of the process that creates the 3D digital twin of your space. It automates many tasks like processing and reconstructing your images to adjusting the color and recognizing and labeling rooms and objects in each room.

The software can also generate the best images or videos from the digital twin, which can be used in a host of marketing materials.

What can you do with your 3D model or virtual tour?

The Matterport Application Programming Interface (API) enables you to create custom edits (with the use of editing applications), connect to Google Street View, and upload your images or virtual tours to your real estate listings, single property sites, or real estate website.

Besides viewing your 3D tour on a mobile device or computer, you can also use the Matterport virtual reality application to view it with a VR headset or by connecting your phone with Google Cardboard VR.

Your 3D showcase can be shared on social media or as a link in an email. You can also generate Ultra High-Quality images that are print-ready, along with videos, animated GIFs, OBJ, XYZ, JPG, and PDF files.

The Benefits of Using a 3D Camera to Capture Scans for a 3D Virtual Tour

Using a 3D camera like Matterport’s Pro2 allows you to create 3-dimensional representations of your properties. Instead of having a number of 2D imagery on your site where viewers are left to figure out exactly how everything fits together, they can now have an immersive experience.

Matterport showcase 3D virtual tours show viewers the exact look and layout of the property as if they were doing an in-person walk-through.

How Using a 3D Camera Can Help Benefit Real Estate Websites

Having a virtual tour of your property helps you separate those who are ‘just viewing’ from seriously interested buyers. Potential buyers can view the property as if they were there before scheduling an appointment for in-person viewing. That means real estate agents spend less time on walk-throughs with persons who find that the property is not a good fit for them once they see it.

According to Matterport, 95% of people are more likely to inquire about a property that has a virtual tour as part of its listing than properties that don’t. What is more, 74% of estate agents who use Matterport win more listings than realtors who don’t.

In general, properties with a 3D virtual tour featured on their listings sell at a sales price between 4-9% higher than properties without a virtual tour. They are also on the market for 31% less time. That means you not only have the potential to make more money but to do so in a shorter period.

Matterport software can accommodate a variety of different sized spaces, from cottages or apartments to entire homes, hotels and office buildings, or factories. It also allows you to customize your 3D tours by adding your own branding to the images and models.

The time and effort it takes to scan a space are only slightly more than what it takes to capture that same space’s 2D photography images. The uploading and processing time of your 3D space could take a while, but you could leave the automated process to run while carrying on with other things. The point is: for the same effort that it takes to capture traditional images of your properties, you can create impressive immersive Matterport 3D virtual tours instead.

Creating a fully-immersive 3D virtual tour is becoming more accessible to real estate agents. While Matterport compatible cameras tend to provide better results, you could even use your iPhone to capture scans and load them onto the Capture app.

The Matterport Cortex software does all the heavy lifting from there and lets you know when the link to your 3D space is ready. From here, you can share it via your marketing channels. It is now quick and easy to harness the benefits that having a Virtual tour of your property brings you – saving you time and money. In fact, it even helps you make a little bit more money faster.