If you have ever used Google Expeditions VR, looked at Google Street View or done a real estate tour in VR you may have seen content created by Virtual Tour Co. If the name doesn’t ring a bell the clients they work with might - Zillow, Expedia, and Facebook just to name a few! What’s even more cool is that this company has a tie to Idaho and is one of our newest members.
Virtual Tour Co. is based out of Jackson, WY and their National Sales Manager Lori Asbenson is based in Boise, Idaho. I caught up with Asbenson and Virtual Tour Co’s Founder Ray Espinoza last week to learn more about Virtual Tour Co and what they’re up to. The company’s journey started six years ago while Ray was on a board at Google. Google had been working in VR mostly through their street view program which Ray was part of. In April of 2017 Google determined they didn’t want to handle some of the program aspects in thus Ray spun out Virtual Tour Co.
They publish Google Street View for a large number of clients, but one of their most interesting products we discussed is Smart Tour. Smart Tour is a VR tour platform. Click HERE for an example. Think of it like the Netflix of VR home tour products (vs. the VCR). In the market right now, if a real estate agent or broker wants to create a VR tour of a property they usually need to buy the necessary camera and pay a hosting fee to have the content online. Smart Tours has focused on making it as easy as possible for customers. Similar to hiring a photographer to capture 2D photos of a house an agent can hire them to do a shoot and they take care of everything. No hosting fees, no equipment to buy or struggle about who owns the content. It’s easy for the agent with minimal disruption to how they currently do their business which they feel is what really sets them apart from their competition in this space. Plus, with the relationship that they have with Google they’re able to shoot a property within 72 hours leveraging Google’s vetted photographers. Check out this fun video about Smart Tour!
I asked them where they see the company and this tech going and they’re both very excited about the flexibility that they have. Since they’re a platform they’re able to adapt as the hardware and software evolves in the immersive technology space. Espinoza predicts that the 3D experience is going to increase 1000 fold in the next six months based on where the technology is heading. He also thinks the market is going to follow a similar trajectory to Youtube’s. Businesses will be rewarded with preferred placement by the likes of Google if they have 360/VR content to share. As virtual tours become more and more popular we will also likely start seeing advertising coming up (yep, it’s coming!) As to what excites them about being part of the Idaho ecosystem, they are excited to be part of the community and to help the ecosystem grow. They know there’s no vertical that this tech isn’t going to touch as they want to help make sure Idaho has a jump in this space!
If you would like to connect with Lori Asbenson she can be reached at lori.asbenson(at)virtualtours.company