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Check out the Pacific’s virtual reality penthouses

Silicon Valley’s newest gimmick lets luxe building sell units that don’t yet exist

The Pacific building in Pac Heights. Patricia Chang

The Pacific, the ultra-swank new residential building that opened on Webster Street last summer, comes so loaded with ritzy details that it seems they could hardly add anything more.

And yet, the building is technically incomplete: Several of the penthouses are still mere shells, waiting for buyers to snap them up and create their own space.

This is routine for high-end buildings, but it poses a challenge for anyone trying to sell an empty slot. Even the best salesperson can only talk about unparalleled views for so long.

But now it’s Silicon Valley to the rescue. Last week, the Pacific lured potential buyers up to the penthouse level in part to strap on Oculus headsets and take a 360-plus degree peek at virtual renderings of how the space could one day look.

Adam L Brinklow

How the penthouses look today.

Erik Altman, the managing director at Steelblue, the noted renderings service who designed the digital penthouse tour, tells Curbed SF that people have been doing this kind of thing for over a decade now. But the recent leaps in tech and renewed public interest in VR as a concept has increased demand.

“We’re creating a spherical representation of a space that surrounds the viewers,” says Altman. “There’s nothing with cords attached to it anymore, and every year these tech companies are putting out better technology.”

Peering around the Pacific’s unbuilt penthouse space, via advanced technology, can be an odd experience: Some users get a bit dizzy, while others may grow anxious at not being able to see the real world around them.

But it certainly provides a more interesting condo hunting experience than looking around an unfinished space and hearing about potential.

How they look via Oculus.

Users move from room to room by directing their eyes to certain icons—physically moving in the real world is not recommended, and doesn’t do anything anyway in terms of visual difference.

Similar virtual perspective tours are common on house listings these days, but the degree of detail—and how nice it plays with a headset—varies.

Altman says that the Pacific was the company’s largest virtual condo space yet. “A rendering has one point of view and you can place lighting and furniture wherever you like,” he says.

Adam L Brinklow

Altman adds: “With a big open floor plan like this and no walls, if you turn around you have to make sure the light is hitting the same place in the room always, that it reflects the right way off of different materials, everything.”

The virtual condos are a big investment—Altman didn’t want to say how much such a job typically costs, but a spokesperson for the Pacific put it succinctly, saying: “It’s not cheap.”

But unbuilt penthouses in this building sold last year for up to $11.75 million. So there’s certainly an incentive to invest.

You can check out a browser version of the tour here.