Gaming Technology Drives Virtual Tours of Homes

SUMMARY

"There is free movement and you can easily visualize what the finished home will look like," says [Blake Batson], who first came across an early version of the program when a colleague was working in a federal department charged with renovating government offices in late 2003. "I would say the virtual tour accelerated the sales process," says [Katy Sinha]. Seventeen of the 29 townhomes have been... (see full summary)

 
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Smart techie changing the way folks shop for a new house

By Sheila Brady

OTTAWA --A smart techie with finely tuned marketing smarts is on his way to transforming the way folks shop for a new home.

Blake Batson, the 42-year-old founder of ZIM Technologies, has successfully transplanted gaming technology to the business world, refining computer programming that allows participants to click and take a virtual tour through a new home.

Think about your child's favourite computer game and you get the idea. But instead of picking off bad guys in a dark castle, Batson lets buyers walk through rooms that are weeks and months away from construction.

"There is free movement and you can easily visualize what the finished home will look like," says Batson, who first came across an early version of the program when a colleague was working in a federal department charged with renovating government offices in late 2003.

Batson, who had already sold ZIM Technologies to Ottawa entrepreneur Michael Cowpland, bought the home-tour technology company and the programmers who went with it. He then pumped $1 million into the operations to make the program more interactive and fluid.

3Vista was launched in April 2004 and very quickly the successful technology entrepreneur signed up his first client, Dharma Developments, a new housing company owned by Akash and Katy Sinha.

"We were both small startup companies and hit it off," says Batson.

Batson saw a gaping niche in the housing industry: how to help buyers really feel and see a home when it is still just lines on paper.

The Sinhas were building 29 townhomes in Stittsville near Ottawa, but were months away from having a model. Instead, they installed 3Vista's virtual tour in their sales trailer and potential buyers grabbed a joystick instead of walking through an actual model.

Earlier this year, Dharma and 3Vista won the Ottawa-Carleton Home Builders' Association award for best new marketing product for 2006.

"I would say the virtual...

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