The future of virtual reality in the UAE

The future of virtual reality in the UAEImage Credit: Supplied

Founded in 2009, AeonVirtual is a Canadian company specializing in real-time interactive virtual reality technologies that cater to industries such as real estate, transportation and retail.

Using the company's tailor-made software, real estate developers now have the option to showcase their developments through a lifelike virtual reality experience that will engage their clients via the interactive user interface. Potential clients will also have the option to sell or lease units via the real-time availability engine that connects the virtual model to the developer's database.

Having built towers, gated communities and even entire cities for their clients in North America, the Middle East and Africa, the company, which has been operating in the UAE for the past seven months, aims to take Cityscape Global by storm.

Making presence felt

Speaking about the company's presence in the region, Moufid Ayoubi, Managing Partner — Middle East at AeonVirtual, says, ''We have two prominent Dubai real estate developers on board who will be using our software to launch upcoming projects at Cityscape Global.

''We have built a healthy pipeline over the course of the past several months that we believe will soon be realized into real business, as many developers have shown great appetite to make the shift from traditional to smart marketing. You should be hearing about the awarding of our next two contracts in Dubai soon — signed with two local developers.''

Visitors to the AeonVirtual stand (2H33) at Cityscape Global can expect to be amazed. The brand will be exhibiting its software on interactive touchscreens that will display its past projects in North America, as well as the new ones in Dubai.

''We have had great traction in Lebanon, after successful meetings with top Lebanese developers who are changing the landscape of Beirut and its surrounding mountains. We have also received great interest from companies in Turkey and Saudi Arabia,'' says Ayoubi.

At the exhibit

Interested visitors will view real estate projects by virtually flying over them, walking through neighbourhoods and visiting future homes via immersive realtime walk-throughs.

''Gasps and wows are guaranteed at our stand!,'' says Ayoubi. ''This is what we witness every time we participate in fairs and exhibitions around the world. It brings us joy to see that we are evoking life-like feelings in users through their emo tional connections with the virtual space in question,'' says Ayoubi.

He also said that potential clients who commit to use the brand's software to launch their projects at Cityscape would be offered special discounts.

''The discount is a way of acknowledging developers who are supporting our growth in Dubai and the region as a whole,'' says Ayoubi. ''Moroever a first-of-its-kind surprise will be revealed on the first day of the show.''

Educating partners

Ayoubi believes that limitations to building a virtual reality-centric business in the region disappear when one focuses on executing an impeccable marketing plan. After all, the product can potentially revolutionise the way global real estate developers market and sell or lease off-plan projects.

''In every region or country we decide to tap into, we take baby steps to explore the potential of the business and its reception by the target audience,'' says Ayoubi.

''There is no doubt that Dubai is the right place and platform to launch such technology, especially since His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, are both tech-oriented leaders with a vision to make Dubai the smartest city in the world in three years.

''It is all about educating future partners about the benefits of our technology. In fact, we spend 75 per cent of the allocated time at meetings on educating them and explaining the pros and cons of every single feature our technology facilitates.''

Ayoubi adds that not all communities around the world are ready to accept latest technologies, let alone interactive virtual reality. ''We do face difficulties and resistance, like any other business. But we are creating a new culture in the real estate market and cannot give up at the first 'no' or 'not interested' we hear.''

In line with Smart City

AeonVirtual's services in terms of interactive marketing are in line with Dubai's Smart City initiatives. People will have the ability to visualize any space or object they want to interact with, and be able remove ambiguity through transparency — ultimately changing people's lives for the better.

Ayoubi says, ''We are extremely fortunate to operate in a fruitful environment, which is empowered by the ruler's vision and supporting strategies, and a second-to none infrastructure and relative ease of doing business. This will help us cultivate interactive virtual reality in the city.

''Imagine having interactive screens at vital government agencies, ministries, hotels and even transport hubs such as airports and seaports. People can extract the exact information they need to make smart decisions.

''Imagine using virtual reality in malls, where you could find your way around on a completely new level.''

With a strong foundation in the UAE, which is bound to get stronger after the exhibition, AeonVirtual will set up its regional headquarters in Dubai to oversee its Middle East and Turkey operations.

''So far, we have been covering only one sector among the several industries we cater to. But our future plans include other industries that AeonVirtual is expanding into, such as hospitality, railway, aviation, marine vessels and luxury yachts, product design, luxury retail and more,'' says Ayoubi.

The science behind the product

Moufid Ayoubi, Managing Partner — Middle East, AeonVirtual, explains the science behind the experience his company offers.

The user interface is born out of an entire development that is fashioned into a real-time virtual reality experience for a client. Various features are added with the help of the tailor-made software. The physical interaction between the client and the project happens through the user interface that could be controlled by touching the screen, or by using a mouse or Xbox controller to fly over the virtual space. In some instances Oculus VR goggles are used.

The real-time availability engine is actually one of AeonVirtual's most requested features. This is because of the live connection that is set up between the project's database and the virtual model on display, which can be used via the user interface. So, for instance, potential buyers can get to know the exact number of units that are available in real time.

This is how it works: When a buyer walks into a developer's showroom to check out its upcoming off-plan residence or commercial tower, he or she will view a virtual model of the building. This recreation will show the structure's units divided according to a colour scheme. Each colour will indicate the units that are available, sold, or reserved in real time, since the status of each unit will be updated as and when changes occur.

The future of virtual reality

The virtual reality market in the Middle East is in its infancy, says Moufid Ayoubi, Managing Partner—Middle East at AeonVirtual.

In an indication that virtual reality is the future, tech giants such as Google, Apple and Samsung have announced the creation of virtual reality gadgets, which will allow people to incorporate the concept into their lives.

Another testament to the technology's potential was Facebook's $2 billion (about Dh7.3 billion) takeover of Oculus VR earlier this year. The world's first company to produce virtual reality headsets, Oculus will develop a new virtual reality headset called the Gear VR for Samsung.

Click on Smart Living City Dubai and read about the smart move towards the future

Source: Gareth Kurt Warren, Features Writer, Property Weekly


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