Zillow creates new ‘3D Home’ feature with special photo app to bring 360-degree tours to listings

Zillow 3D Home
Zillow’s new 3D Home feature allows users to move through a home virtually and get 360-degree views of rooms. (Zillow.com Image)

With house hunters increasingly looking for the easiest and fastest way to tour a home they might be interested in purchasing, Zillow is rolling out a new feature called “3D Home” that creates an immersive experience straight from an iPhone app.

According to the Seattle-based real estate technology company’s 2017 Housing Trends Report, more than 70 percent of first-time home buyers are millennials and they consider 3D media to be as important as open houses. Additionally, 44 percent of home buyers and 47 percent of renters are searching for a home from a distance — either from a different city, state or even out of the country, Zillow said in a news release.

By getting a better understanding of a home or rental property’s layout and the transitions between spaces, prospective buyers and renters can narrow down the number of properties that they actually might need to see in person.

For sellers and agents, the new service reduces the cost and effort previously needed to create a 360-degree tour of a home.

“Right now, it’s really expensive and time consuming to add 3D to a listing,” Zillow Group chief marketing officer Jeremy Wacksman told GeekWire. “An agent has to buy an expensive camera and pay hosting fees, not to mention the hours it takes to capture the images. We think everyone should have access to this type of technology. If the technology is already available on a device an agent or property manager already uses, we’ve gotten over the hurdle of adoption.”

Users can launch the Zillow Group Home Capture App and snap pictures much like they would using the panoramic setting on their iPhone camera. Photographs are uploaded through the app and stitched together automatically by Zillow to create a seamless tour from room to room.

Zillow 3D Homes
The Zillow Group Home Capture App allows users to snap panorama photographs of their home for use as a 360-degree tour. (Zillow Images)

Zillow says a 3,000-square-foot home can be captured in about 30 minutes and adds that its app is the only mobile-based app that can capture 3D mobile tours all at no cost.

Unlike a video walking tour where you might have to wait for a video to get to parts of a house you want to see, the 3D Home experience allows users to select from available rooms via thumbnails.

“There is a lot of machine learning and computer vision work to figure out where the capture was taken, and how to intelligently stitch them together,” Wacksman said. “More will come here as we build more software, and as the phones get better cameras.”

A Zillow team has been working on the product for about two years and was assembled around a researcher from the University of Washington whose wife already worked at Zillow.

“After hiring him, he helped bring other researchers who were doing this type of work,” Wacksman said. “He was able to tap into his UW network and bring together several more people, including recommendations from UNC and Cornell professors. These guys all shared a great vision that we are bringing into reality.”

The iOS app is in an early test phase in Scottsdale, Ariz., with select agents and photographers. Zillow plans to roll it out widely in the Phoenix area in early 2018 and across the U.S. later in the year.