Tracie Watler speaks about virtual reality at a Cayman Islands Marketing Professionals Association workshop. - Photo: Chris Fletcher

On Cayman’s high-end real estate market, agents are stepping into the virtual realm to guide would-be buyers through immersive, 3D home tours.

Through increasingly accessible virtual reality headsets, house hunters can now peruse their island dream home without ever touching Cayman’s shores. Instead, shoppers can tour their potential abode from the comfort of their current one.

IRG Real Estate’s Tracie Watler said the technology has already assisted in the sale of one multimillion-dollar home in Cayman. When the buyers’ children in the United States asked to view the house before purchase, IRG set up a personal, virtual walk-through.

“They were very keen on the house, but they wanted to show it to their children, who were in the States at the time,” Watler said.

“So basically we sat down with them in the Ritz bar and sent the link to their family. They were all able to go through the house together and talk about it. On that basis, the family ended up buying the house, which was great. So for us, it’s already been worth the investment.”

Watler, who does not have a photography background, said the technology has been easy to take on. With a tablet and 360-photo camera, she is able to fully document properties and quickly generate a 3D archive.

“I just hit the download button and it loads to the cloud,” she said.

While a large property may take several hours to photograph, an application automatically processes and formats the content, Watler explained. Once online, viewers may access the content using VR goggles or on their Web browser in a standard, 2D format.

“There are the VR goggles, which is a very immersive experience. There is also the computer version, so anybody can do it. You don’t necessarily need the goggles. They can do it from the comfort of their own home and walk through a house as if they were actually there,” Watler said.

As 360-photo and virtual reality technology become more accessible, she anticipates an array of applications for businesses beyond high-end real estate.

Tanya Wigmore of Meticulosity, an e-commerce development and design firm in Cayman, envisions using the technology for tourism, construction projects and the medical sector.

“Travel is a huge industry. Say you are Disneyland and want to give a feel for your park. You could have people virtually walk through the park. If you were a resort here and wanted to show off your hotel rooms, you could,” Wigmore said.

In the medical sector, she said, virtual reality can help address patient anxiety from jitters at the dentist to much larger disorders like post-traumatic stress.

“There has been some good research to show how submersible VR really is. You have suspended disbelief. You can put yourself there and feel like you are in the environment and let yourself work through a lot of those built-up emotions and trapped feelings,” Wigmore said.

As more consumers buy into virtual reality, Wigmore said, one of the top challenges will be generating enough content.

“The real gap right now is on our side. The businesses are not producing enough content,” she said.

“It’s so easy to use, though. There is no reason to be afraid of it.”