A screenshot of the actions menu on UDR's latest smart phone application, which combines augmented reality and mobile apartment search with social networking.
Credit: UDR A screenshot of the actions menu on UDR's latest smart phone application, which combines augmented reality and mobile apartment search with social networking.

Highlands Ranch, Colo.-based apartment REIT UDR will release its latest smart phone application this week via the Android and iPhone application Web sites, and UDR vice president of marketing Steve Taraborelli shared an exclusive look at the new technology and functionality with MULTIFAMILY EXECUTIVE as the new Social Reality Apartment Search app goes live. "As a company we recognized early the advantages that mobile marketing had to offer and committed ourselves to incorporating it into our operating portfolio,” Taraborelli says. "In 2009, we successfully rolled out a number of different mobile and web services including augmented reality search applications for the iPhone and Google Android, which have improved business by revolutionizing the way people find and rent our apartments. During the fourth quarter, almost 10 percent of our Internet traffic came from a mobile device.”

First to roll out augmented reality (AR) for the apartment sector, UDR is also first to integrate social networking with its AR application, which had not been accomplished in any apps prior to the Social Reality Apartment Search launched this week. Augmented reality provides an overlay of text and graphics on live video provided by a smart phone’s digital camera.

Credit: UDR

UDR’s new application enables to users to then send information on the apartment community they are looking at via Twitter to like-minded, apartment searching friends. Not into Twitter? UDR’s current app also allows users to leave "self publishing" notes that are geo-located and visible to future users viewing a specific property with the company’s AR application. And if you’re interested in an apartment in San Francisco but happen to be in Washington, D.C., all you’ve got to do is select San Francisco on the built-in map, and the application feeds AR data to your smart phone via Yahoo! Local.

"We’re trying with the augmented social reality apartment search application to foster a two-way dialogue with a broader audience group,” Taraborelli says. “Unlike before, our social AR app now allows consumers to Tweet and post virtual notes on any points-of-interest—even the front door of our UDR apartment community. As a company, we want to embrace and encourage free-flowing social community information. Our main business goal is to leverage the various social media modalities in order to improve customer satisfaction."

Hot components of the UDR app that are sure to be picked up as others in the apartment space adopt AR technology for apartment mobile marketing include:

  • Smart Marker Technology: Enables UDR apartment searchers to interact with comment markers that they create using virtual post-it notes for the public to read. A "My Marker" tool allows apartment seekers to create, edit, and share their own points of interest and drop markers that incorporate text and links for audio, video, and Web sites for others to view, creating a media-rich experience for users and a digital social community for apartment seekers.

  • Credit: UDR
  • Built-in Twitter Functionality: Users can send a Tweet to Twitter. The Tweet shows it came from the UDR augmented reality application and includes a link back to the specific UDR apartment community being viewed.

  • Map Sliding: Users can manually slide a locator map to anywhere they desire. A button on the bottom of the map will appear stating "Perform Search for Current Region." Once tapped, the AR application pulls up local information via a Yahoo! Local feed and performs as if the user were actually standing there, a first for augmented reality mapping. Now you can "be there" from anywhere.

  • Map View Button: Conveniently toggles between an AR display and a Google Maps view of application markers relative to the user’s real-time position. Simple but smart.