3D Tour, Virtual Tour, 3D Virtual Tour, Virtual Walkthrough. We constantly see photographers and real estate agents juggling with these terms and applying them to different solutions and technologies. The real estate industry is embracing technology and now is the best time to try and clearly define these terms to avoid confusion.
“The difference between Virtual Tour, Virtual Walkthrough, 3D Tour, 24/7 Open House Virtual Tour, Digital Twin, True 3D, 360 Tour is clear as mud!” says Dan Smigrod, the founder of We Get Around Network, a popular portal connecting the 3D/360º community world-wide.
“One of the challenges in our ‘space’ – yet another name for a 3D tour – is that even those in the industry cannot agree on what to call the various iterations. Ask 10 people to describe “it” and you are likely to get 15 different descriptions”, says Dan.
However, technology companies like iGUIDE, Matterport, or Asteroom and their users typically draw a clear line between a slide-show or a video call and a real 3D Tour. So, what is the difference between all these terms? Let’s try to “clear the mud”.
Over the years, the term “virtual tour” has been gradually evolving and changing its meaning. Before the emergence of the abovementioned innovative solutions, a slideshow or a series of panoramic images was legitimately called a “virtual tour”. However, nowadays, the meaning of this term is rapidly shifting towards something much more sophisticated and advanced.
Interestingly enough, the same thing happened to the term “virtual reality”, which used to be widely applied to the same 360-degree photographs.
“Even before there was virtual reality, the International Virtual Reality Photography Association (IVRPA) used the term Virtual Reality to describe 360ºs photos”, says Dan Smigrod. Simply put, you cannot use panoramic images and call them “virtual reality” anymore if you want to be properly understood because the meaning has changed drastically.
We are witnessing the same process for the words “virtual tour” and “virtual walkthrough”. So, let’s take a look at the most up-to-date meaning of these terms.
Virtual Tour is a general term used for a variety of tools and solutions ranging from slideshows, photos, and websites to 3D Tours and Virtual Reality experiences. We can see that this is rather an umbrella term that might have multiple meanings due to the meaning of the words “virtual” and “tour”, which basically may encompass any representation of the property done with some sort of computer device.
At the same time, 3D Tour (or 3D Virtual Tour) is a series of 360° images, also called photospheres, panoramas, or panos, where a user can navigate from one 360° image to another. This is a more specific term used for platforms like iGUIDE, Matterport, or Asteroom. More can be read about this definition in the White Paper, prepared by Alexander Likholyot, CEO of Planitar Inc, the maker of iGUIDE.
We all know somebody who takes still pictures, delivers them in the form of a slideshow and calls it a “virtual tour” We see a growing number of people, lately, using FaceTime or other video call apps to show a house to homebuyers live and call this process a “virtual walkthrough”.
So after discussing the most up-to-date sense of what “virtual tour” actually is, let’s define some other solutions which might be labeled in this way.
A slideshow is “a presentation of photographic slides projected on a surface or displayed on a screen one after another”, this definition is taken from Merriam-Webster Dictionary and seems to be quite accurate. It can be added that, sometimes, these slides are shown one after another automatically. An example of a slideshow platform is Smilebox.
Another solution that is widely used today is a live video stream (or live video tours) which means “to stream digital data (such as audio or video material) that is delivered continuously and is usually intended for immediate processing or playback.” – another W-M definition. Thus, whenever agents are using their smartphone apps like FaceTime, Skype, Whatsapp, etc. and are walking through the property showing the homebuyers the house and answering questions, they are doing a live video streaming or live video tour.
The words and their meanings are in constant flux, especially if they are technology-related. 3D Tours, slideshows, live video tours, and regular video are different solutions all of which can be rightfully called a “virtual tour”. Even if the industry itself cannot agree on what each term means, using specific and consistent terminology when marketing to your own clients is a better approach for avoiding confusion, boosting efficiency and promoting your personal brand.