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Jordan Billinkoff (left) and Josh Glow watch as a user tries out their Gryd XR app on an "Occulus Go"
By BERNIE BELLAN
Jordan Billinkoff and Josh Glow are two young entrepreneurs who have developed a novel way to allow individuals interested in renting an apartment to tour apartments using virtual reality technology. Their business idea, using some of the latest innovations developed by companies such as Facebook and Google, is becoming increasingly popular with property management companies across Canada.


This year Billinkoff, 28, and Glow, 22, launched their new app, Gryd XR, which takes advantage of the rapidly declining cost of bringing the virtual reality experience to users.
Billinkoff had previously been well known to many readers as a videographer, having shot many weddings and bar/bat mitzvahs over the years. Glow had also been working in media and marketing  until quite recently. (He adds that he has a background in real estate as well.)

As a matter of fact, when Billinkoff transitioned from specializing in videoing life cycle events to the real estate market, Glow explained  that he picked up quite a bit of Billinkoff’s former business – although the two had never met.
Billinkoff noted  that when he was “doing event videos he started getting a lot of questions about doing commercial work, specifically real estate work, so I started shooting photos and videos only for real estate properties, and that was for a company I called Property Reel.”
“When property managers started asking where they could post the media,” Billinkoff explained, “I realized there was an opportunity for creating a better digital experience for searching for properties alone, so we changed the name from Property Reel to Gryd.”

Using a “3D scanning camera that spins around 360 degrees and digitally scans the interior of a space,” Gryd creates an experience for users that allows them to wander around an apartment virtually – moving into different rooms, constantly changing the perspective, as if the user is actually in that apartment.
I asked Billinkoff and Glow whether they have had  to go out to each city to do the 3D filming themselves. “We have 3D technicians in all major Canadian cities,” Billinkoff answered.

One of the technological innovations that allows Billinkoff and Glow to deliver such an incredibly real experience has been the development of a new virtual reality headset known as “Oculus Go” – which was only brought to market this past May. Anyone familiar with the advancement of 3D technology is aware of the “Oculus Rift” headset, which was developed in 2016 by Facebook (and which had purchased the technology from founder Palmer Luckey for $2 billion).
What the Oculus Go offers users though is the opportunity to put on a headset without having to be connected to another device, such as a gaming computer – which is how the Oculus Rift works.
“Past virtual reality tours were really just a panorama,” Billinkoff said (the kind of experience one can get from Google Street View).
With the Oculus Go now users will get “a true depth perception of the (apartment) unit,” he added.
And, to make things even easier for anyone interested in trying the 3D experience for apartment hunting (or for a variety of other uses that are constantly being developed) Gryd also offers a custom cardboard headset that, coupled with your smart phone, allows users to view apartments listing on the Gryd platform – in 3D.
The viewers, known as “Gryd Cardboards”, are cheap enough that property managers can simply give them to potential tenants to take home – and explore the many listings that Gryd has available to look at in 3D on the Gryd app, known as Gryd XR. (“XR” is shorthand for “Virtual and Augmented Reality”.)

Although Gryd is based in Winnipeg, Billinkoff explained that most of the company’s clients are not located in Winnipeg. Currently Gryd offers listings in 12 different cities, all of which are in Western Canada, including Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, and Saskatoon, as well as several smaller cities. In the very near future Gryd will be expanding to other Canadian cities as well, including Toronto.

The Gryd experience is ideally suited to individuals who either don’t have the time to start visiting different apartments or are simply physically unable to do so because they live somewhere else entirely. For instance, Glow suggested, an exchange student in China who will be coming to Winnipeg to attend the University of Manitoba will be able to access the Gryd XR app and, with a cardboard headset,  simply take a virtual reality tour of apartments in Winnipeg prior to renting.

Not only that, but in the not too distant future, Billinkoff said, apartment hunting on Gryd will be coupled with a 3D Google Street View experience so that will allow users  not only be able to view the interior of an apartment, they will be able to have a fully immersive experience of the area around the building as well.

Something else Gryd offers, Glow noted, is “virtual staging”.
“Say an apartment is empty. We can load virtual furniture into the 3D space so that property managers don’t need to stage the apartment to rent it. If you look at the furniture you can actually see where it’s from” (IKEA for instance).
“I think eventually you’re going to be able to look at an apartment and with the press of a button switch furniture styles to see what it looks like,” Glow said.

I asked Billinkoff and Glow whether they have a sense how many users of Gryd technology there are. Billinkoff said that what they’ve been hearing from property managers is that many individuals who are coming in to look at displays suites, for instance, have already taken a virtual reality tour of the suite online.
I suggesedt to Billinkoff and Glow that they should come out to the next meeting of the Jewish Business Network, June 27, so that they can demonstrate how their technology works at the meeting. (By the way, if you have a product or service that you might like to present to others at the JBN, let me know, and I’ll make sure there will be an opportunity for you at one of our meetings.) In the meantime, if you want to find out more about Gryd, go to gryd.com.