Real estate agent robots

Are real estate agent robots the future of home sales?
Are robot real estate agents the future of home sales? (infographic from

Many erroneously describe Gordon Moore’s prediction as the doubling of computing power every two years.  “Moore’s Law” is more accurately described as the doubling of transistors on a chip every two years.  The point is that computer power is on steep path of improvements; and the prediction has been accurate since Moore’s 1965 paper “Cramming more components onto integrated circuits” (Electronics; April 19, 1965).  What does Moore’s Law have to do with real estate? Everything.  Many industries have benefited as computer processing power increased – including real estate.   Will we see real estate agent robots in the future?

It is often said that a smart phone has thousands more computing power than the Apollo guidance computer.  Consider how far computing power has increased over the last fifty years; common computer processors today exceed 1 billion transistors per chip with average clock speeds over 2.5 GHz (the Mac Plus I had in graduate school had an 8MHz processor with only 68,000 transistors!).  The ever growing processor power has allowed major developments in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic applications we are witnessing today.  And the promise of quantum computing is expected to make our current computers seem like abacuses.

A cutting edge 2013 paper by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne, of the University of Oxford, discussed the effects of advancements computerization and robotics on employment and the labor market (The Future of Employment: How susceptible are jobs to computerisation? Oxford Martin School – University of Oxford; September 2013).  The authors concluded that about 47% of the US workforce is at risk of being “automated soon” (which is in the next ten to twenty years).  Workers expected to be affected include, “…transportation and logistics occupations, together with the bulk of office and administrative support workers, and labour in production occupations…” The service industry, including real estate, was singled out as being affected by AI and robotics.

Included among the top occupations most at risk included: real estate broker, real estate agent, property manager, and real estate appraiser. The increasing reliance on automated property valuations by lenders, real estate agents, and consumers is a testament to the advancement of AI in the industry.  Back in April, Inman (a leading real estate information publisher) devised an experiment to see if a computer algorithm would best a real estate broker in choosing homes for potential home buyer.  The results announced May 10th revealed that the computer program did a better job than the real estate agent (Broker vs. bot: And the winner is…;; May 10, 2016).  Of course, there were limitations to Inman’s test; but still a notable result nonetheless demonstrating how AI is affecting the real estate industry. Robotics is making significant advances too.

Recent developments have made self-driving cars real, along with Honda’s Asimo; and even artificial companions.  You can now purchase your own service robot, if you can afford it.  Just like AI, robots may also take over real estate agent tasks in the near future.  Imagine walking into an open house and being greeting by a friendly and helpful robot! We often talk of how quickly the internet has developed and its impact on the real estate industry.  And it’s partly due to rapidly increasing computer processing power and Moore’s Law.  Imagine how AI and robotics will change home buying and selling in ten or twenty years.  And once quantum computing becomes commonplace, you may even experience a real virtual tour via a holodeck.

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