While there are a few agents who can get by with a tablet for outside of the office work, most prefer a full featured laptop. They just want it lighter. And if they could ditch the tablet, they wouldn’t mind that either.
Microsoft answered the call with its Surface Pro which was eventually cloned by the other computer manufacturers. I used a 7 inch Dell version for travel for a few years without incident (though it was way too small for real work). So when it was time for a new laptop this Christmas, I bought the 12 inch Surface Pro 4 from Microsoft.
It’s absolutely beautiful – thin, light, fast, great screen – but an overall hardware fail. Whether it was because Microsoft rushed it out for the holidays or it was just their own poor manufacturing process, I – and many others – kept getting blue screens that were likely due to a bad processor or energy supply. I sent it back and got an Asus Zenbook instead.
If I could have, I would have waited for the hybrids to get the kinks worked out. Since they’re quite thin, they’re toying around with the newest, smallest internal hardware looking for the optimal configuration. But if you’re looking now, Dell’s models look very good.
I got the Apple Watch for reasons unrelated to work. I wanted a single device that told me the time, date, tracked activity and alerted me to important phone activity. Things like text alerts, alarms, appointments and when my phone battery was dead (which sadly, happened, too often…).
It sets up easily though it takes a while for the first sync back and forth to your phone. The screen (I got the 38mm version) is small but larger than I expected and surprisingly easy to read. On my “home” screen I’ve got the date, time, weather, appointments, alerts plus the activity tracker. Tap any one, and I can get more information – hour by hour weather, full list of appointments, email, etc… Lots of features and, while they don’t have the functionality of the full phone versions, many popular apps have iWatch versions.
I showed this to some agents who thought it was a great idea until they realized you need to have your phone nearby for most of the features to work. As they say in the business, that’s a deal killer. It would need to have almost full phone functionality for them to be interested. Plus, they didn’t like the idea of having something that could distract them at a meeting that they’d have to remember to turn/set on/off. So…agents felt it was superfluous. But I love it!
Ricoh Theta S 360 Degree Video Camera
My son is really in to 360 degree and 3D video (aka virtual reality). But while he might like to putz around with 8 mini cameras on a mount and spend days processing footage, that’s not for me (or agents). So I decided to give the Ricoh Theta 360 a try.
There are two versions. One that takes panoramic (360 degree) photos and another that takes those plus panoramic video.
With the panoramic photo feature, you create a “still” image that users can use their mouse to view from different angles. Move up, you see the ceiling, move down, you see the floor.
If you have the know-how, you can also stitch panoramic stills together to create a video. You’ll need pricey software to work with these, though, plus a lot of patience to configure output size and quality (my head is still spinning from my son’s “tutorial” on this…).
The video version lets you film spaces. You can walk around with the camera or, you can film yourself talking and pointing out features. The only downside is that you can’t pause. Nor can you easily stitch videos together. So it’s best to plan out what you want to film and let the camera run.
Since YouTube recently allowed uploads of 360 degree videos (and the Theta versions are YouTube ready), this would be an easy –and cheap – way to present a space in a novel way. Viewers can also use a headset to get a “3D” experience, but calibration between the headset and video is important to avoid the nausea many users experience.
You’ll be seeing a lot of these cameras on the market but Ricoh seems to have the technology down for now. The price point isn’t bad either. And if you don’t think you want to deal with the video creating/editing process, you can upload your panoramic images to the Theta website and get an embed code to place them on your website.
To give you an idea of how the video version works, you can look at the house tour below. Not the best example – but there are very few of these online right now – and none that I could find for commercial real estate. Just a note – some browsers (like mobile Safari) don’t have 360 degree viewing built in – but you can view this and others in the mobile YouTube app.