Tech helps you take a virtual walk through real estate

Odyssey3D, a startup based in Toronto, Ontario, uses technology to showcase real estate online and through virtual reality

by Robin Dalmas

Jimmy Chan was frustrated as he shopped for his first home. After researching dozens of real estate listings online, looking at photos and reading descriptions, he thought he had found a house that he really liked.

“I can still remember to this day the moment I stepped foot through the doors and into the house. I felt incredibly disappointed. I felt like all the research I had done before going to the property was a complete waste of time.”

Photography tricks meant that triangular rooms looked square. Lack of photos meant he had no way of knowing, in one instance, that a ceiling had rotted from a pipe leak.

“I thought to myself at that point, what if there's a way that we can screen out all the properties that you don't want to see and only have to visit the ones that you actually like?”

Chan said the typical home buyer will view anywhere from 10 to 20 houses before deciding on the one that they want. That was the case for him, too. “We finally ended up selecting one, but we went to 15 different properties before we chose it.”

In January of 2017, Chan launched Odyssey3D. The startup, based in Toronto, Ontario, is hoping to completely change buyer/seller relations in real estate. “Odyssey3D uses leading-edge technology to showcase properties in the most realistic way possible online and through virtual reality,” Chan said. “We do that so buyers can walk through a home without having to book an appointment.” The company also aims to help realtors stand out from their competition.

Odyssey3D was conceived in Israel. “Per capita, Israel produces seven times more entrepreneurs than anywhere else in the world,” Chan said. “I wanted to understand this.” After Chan bought his house in Toronto, he went to Israel for a month for a field study elective course he was taking with York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering. “As a part of my research project, I had to come up with my own startup idea,” Chan said. Odyssey3D was born. Now he runs the startup on the campus of his alma mater, the Schulich School of Business at York University.

Odyssey3D, which you can see in this online demo, allows you to walk through a house or other real estate by navigating with your finger. Want to the view from the master bedroom deck? How about the really cool bathtub? Walk right in. Want to see an eagle eye view of the entire property? Use the dollhouse feature. You can even view the space in virtual reality using Google Cardboard and Samsung GearVR.

“We are compatible across platforms,” Chan said “Anyone who has an Apple device, Android device, PC, or tablet, they can all see it. But on top of that, we also have capabilities of viewing our spaces through virtual reality.”

Besides the main hardware and software that Odyssey3D used to develop its product, the company relies on a huge suite of other technology to keep the business going. Referral Maker CRM, designed specifically for real estate agents, helps Chan monitor lead generation and sales on a daily basis. Wave accounting helps generate invoice statements and do payroll. Trello helps him manage projects. He uses a tablet to demo his brainchild. “I give them the product, and they understand it in a couple seconds.” Skype allows him to have strategy meetings with his closest advisers, including Sahil Jaggi, a top real estate builder and investor in Toronto.

Odyssey3D has participated in three business incubators. There’s BEST Lab, a technology startup incubator at the Bergeron Centre for Engineering Excellence at York University. Chan also participated in Launch YU and The Brampton Starter Company.  These experiences have given Chan a huge network of mentors. “My phone can help me reach some of the smartest entrepreneurs in Canada,” he said. “They are a dial away from me.”

Though Odyssey3D is an extremely new startup, Chan can already envision his product taking off and being used in many applications. A potential use is in construction documentation, where the current solution is to take thousands of photos to document what’s behind the walls. “With our product, we can have full documentation in a much more holistic way without having to go through thousands of photos.” It can also be useful to nonprofit organizations who want to show off a new building or building wing to donors who might like a room named after them.

It was once hard for Chan to envision his new house. Now, he has no trouble envisioning the future of his company. “I'm very excited. I want to completely change buyer/seller relations in real estate. In the 5-year projection right now, going where we're headed, we're projecting a $5 to 10 million in revenue business.”

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Jimmy Chan is based in Toronto, ON. Since launching Odyssey3D in January 2017, his company has secured a collaboration deal with RE/MAX Realtron, Canada’s top producing brokerage in the Greater Toronto Area based on total volume of sales for 2016.