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UPEI students brave a new world with Odyssey Virtual, a drone-fueled media production company

Evan Hawley, 22, a Dartmouth, N.S., native is one of the co-founders of Odyssey Virtual. He wants to see the company move into producing videos of pre-to-post construction of property developments. - Photo illustration by Belle DeMont
Evan Hawley, 22, a Dartmouth, N.S., native is one of the co-founders of Odyssey Virtual. He wants to see the company move into producing videos of pre-to-post construction of property developments. - Photo illustration by Belle DeMont - Contributed / Photo Illustration by Belle DeMont

SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. — As technology becomes the way of the world a pair of University of Prince Edward Island students have found a way to bring put a new spin on the real estate market through videos and photos captured by drones and virtual reality.

Odyssey Virtual is a media production company that specializes in drone services, 3D virtual tours and marketing services in the real estate and property industries.

The owners are UPEI students Mike Thompson (20), of Summerside, and Dartmouth, N.S., native Evan Hawley (22).

The partnership got started after Hawley worked with an engineering team on project that required designing the safest vehicle. To showcase the vehicle the team came up with a plan to use VR video and drones to capture the capabilities.

“Then Evan approached me with the idea of trying virtual house tours for those interested in buying homes on the Island,” said Thompson.

Hawley and Thompson quickly found the real estate market had been untouched by this technology.

Mike Thompson, of Summerside
Mike Thompson, of Summerside

As they began to build a clientele, they were asked if they worked more with drones, “Videos of houses from all angles and videos captured by drones is in big demand,” Thompson said.

Now, almost two years later, the pair are seeing small businesses incorporate 3D virtual tours as a selling point to get customers into their shops, restaurants, etc.

“As one of the oldest industries in the book, buying and selling property, it’s important that professionals are able to communicate the value of their properties better,” said Hawley.

Even UPEI has gotten in on the action.

“A big project we did was for the university. It was for their marketing and recruitment department. It’s a massive thing for them because say they’re in another province or even another country recruiting students, and someone asks 'well what’s the engineering department like'. The recruiters will be able to take them there in a sense through VR and the student will have a better feel of what the university will be like,” said Thompson.

Thompson has been an aspiring business man from a young age.

He said the idea of virtual reality in house tours is to limit the amount of time a realtor has to spend in a house and allows for more serious clients to reach out, rather than having the agent fielding calls to send photos or set the scene.

Matt McKenna, of Greenway Realty, specializes in sales and leasing. He has personally reaped the benefits of Thompson and Hawley’s work.

“What they produce is really valuable to sell a premium product. For the higher end properties, it’s really important because it allows a realtor to sell the experience and set themselves apart from competing listings and sellers.”

“For a $500,000 listing and up, when there’s a lot of competition for those sales and similar listings, virtual tours and drone videos can make the difference,” said McKenna.

“It’s personally saved me a lot of time, now the first step when I get a call is to refer them to this tour, and then if they’re still interested, set up a physical showing. But it’s also opened to door for more serious buyers.”

Thompson and Hawley agree the company’s drone work is just the tip of the iceberg.

“We pride ourselves on staying a head of the curve and offering unique opportunities. We aim to be a flagship marketing and drone agency while helping clients transition into a new world,” said Hawley.

“VR is really cool because it captures a whole environment of a space and gives someone the utmost control without physically being there,” Hawley added, “It’s like a 24-hour open house.”

Recently the team worked on a time-lapse video of a construction build.

“I’ve always been into construction. My dad would drive me around to sites when I was little because I was so fascinated by them. We were contacted by a housing development company that wanted us to film a time-lapse of their build. It was a really cool experience and there’s so much that it can mean for a company. On top of showing what kind of work they do it can speak to their credibility and demonstrate on-time builds as well as the area they’re building in and the landscape the residents will be in,” said Hawley.

“When you think about it, buying a house is probably one of the biggest investments a person can make. But they’re not just buying a house, they’re buying into their community and the surrounding areas.”

The pair hope 2019 will prove fruitful, surpassing the three-year marker.

“Some businesses struggle with that milestone. We really want to get past it,” said Hawley.

“I also want to see us doing more work in the pre-to-post construction work, so like that time-lapse of a build and hopefully arm realtor with innovative tools to showcase their markets, from breaking ground to the final product.”

Thompson added, “As a business you always want to see growth. We want that in 2019 and to gain more clients. There’s a lot of possibilities out there.”


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