IT’S HARD TO SELL A VIEW FOR A CONDOstill under construction, but with the help of a Sarasota-based virtual reality company, Imerza, potential buyers at the BLVD can check out the view from any unit in the building, even before they have been built. “It’s so high quality it makes you believe you are there,” says Chris Gallagher of Imerza. How could this be possible? Using camera-equipped drones, pictures were taken of the view in all directions from each floor of BLVD, or rather where BLVD will be. Now the resulting images get used as backdrops in virtual environments created at Imerza. Prospective consumers at the BLVD sales office can strap on an Oculus headset and take a walk through a unit that does not yet exist. “Everything is built out through virtual reality,” says Cooper Daves, a sales consultant for BLVD. In addition to showcasing views, working in a 3D-rendered version of a condo allows agents to work with buyers to customize countertops and wall colors to better realize the final product. It’s all the product of five years of research and investment, first as part of the services of Hoyt Architects and later as a spun-off business all its own. Gallagher, a partner at Hoyt and now also Imerza, says the push for virtual reality comes partly from forward thinking but also just a demand within the marketplace. “No one really cares about the nuts and bolts of architecture and what goes on in this building,” Gallagher says. “They don’t want 2D renderings. They want the final vision, and this gets you there right away.”

Now Imerza works with developers and even other architects around the country, striking deals with builders like JebCo Ventures and The Kolter Group, and the company just won a bid for a virtual reality contract for the City of Miami, which Gallagher believes to be a first-in-nation project providing virtual reality renderings for an upcoming transportation initiative. That Ringling College of Art and Design now offers a virtual reality major only gives the local firm an edge as the market grows. “It’s hard to think of a field that isn’t going to be affected [by virtual reality], and the expectations will only get bigger,” he says.