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Teams with Matterport to photograph interiors immersively.



COURTESY: MATTERPORT - A sample Matterport rendering of a Vacasa-managed rental home. Browsers can zoom in, opening doors and studying details of every room for which a door is allowed to be opened.

Vacation rentals management company Vacasa has been spending its recent round of financing.

The latest announcement is it has partnered with Matterport to 3D-photograph all of Vacasa’s 3,500 rental homes by this summer. Matterport makes a camera that uses additional sensors to gauge the depth of a room. The camera takes multiple pictures that are stitched together into a whole. Viewers using a regular website can click through the environment as if they were walking through the home, to get a better sense of space.

Matterport CEO Bill Brown prefers the term immersive media. Matterport is an immersive media company and the models can be viewed on the web, on mobile devices or in VR headsets.

“The recent VR craze has not impacted us,” Brown told the Business Tribune. “We started in 2011 doing what had traditionally required expensive equipment and time.”

Realtor-friendly

Realtors have historically shot flat, rather awkward photos of houses they are trying to sell, first with point-and-shoots and now with smart phones. The problem is, no one has time to put together more than a rough slide show.

“We wanted to take 3D CAD versions of spaces and merge them with high end photography, but make it easy for the average user to capture.”

Portland-based Vacasa has more than 1,000 employees and manages more than 3,500 vacation homes in the U.S., Europe, and Central and South America.

Matterport, based in Sunnyvale in Silicon Valley, spent three years developing a camera that sells for $4,500. It sits on a tripod in the middle of the room. The photographer operates it with an iPad, and a motor rotates the camera as it takes photos and measures depth.

Minecraft for moms

A regular camera sees color and brightness, while this one can also measure the distance between the camera and everything in the field of vision.

Viewers can zoom right in to read the spines of the books on a shelf, or click on closet doors to see if they open, as in a video game. It’s like Minecraft for moms.

“You just have to turn the iPad on with a big blue button and be smart enough to not be in the way,” Brown adds. The photographer stays behind the camera, out of the shot. The camera uploads the images to the cloud and provides an embeddable link.

Brown says the company tried 15 industries where it might have a commercial application, including construction management, architecture, insurance and forensic animation.

The latter involves creating 3D animations of crime scenes for the jury to see. Matterport’s technology was used to do this in the trial of George Zimmerman, who was acquitted of the charges of second degree murder and manslaughter of Trayvon Martin in 2012 in Sanford, Florida.

They hit upon the real estate and hospitality industries as the sweet spot.

$4,500 camera

Anyone can purchase the camera, but the company finds that high-producing agents with more than 50 listings a year tend to be those that purchase the camera, rather than use a Matterport Service Provider, for example, to create the 3D model. It takes about an hour to shoot a 3,500 square foot house.

Other customers apart from Vacasa include Redfin (real estate) and CoStar (property management).

“Vacasa is a big customer for us,” said Brown. “We look for customers who are innovative and have a customer focus. It’s impressive that Vacasa is making sure all their listings have the same experience.”

Vacasa is deploying Matterport across all its rentals, at no cost to the homeowner. A spokeswoman said it expects to be done by the end of May.

No photographic experience required

Vacasa has been advertising for photographers to shoot homes. For example in Sun Valley, Idaho, the ad included this text:

“No photographic experience is required, but the successful candidate will have good computer skills. We’re looking for someone with reliable transportation who can commit to full-time work for four to six weeks with possible extensions depending on needs in the area. All work will be in the field, but the employee must have a good Internet connection to be able to upload the completed tours.”

Brown says some of his customers use high school students. “There’s no settings, you just power it on.”

Matterport can collect engagement data, which is useful in market research for client companies. “We can track anonymously what features people are looking at, but we haven’t built out all of the analytics yet. We’re looking to create a heat map.”

CEO and co­founder Eric Breon said “We know that quality photography drives bookings, and now we’re taking that philosophy a step further to provide a fully immersive booking experience.

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