That time I was (almost) fooled by fake furniture

My wife and I currently live in New York, but we’re moving to the PNW in June. Since we’re at some point hoping to buy a house, and because I just love looking at Zillow in general, I’ve been looking at Zillow a lot lately.

Aside from gawking at houses I can’t afford, I like to browse through the photos for glimpses into people’s lives, or just weird stuff. I haven’t compiled my own favorites list of this kind of thing, but here are a couple good ones, if you’re interested:

One thing I hate about real estate photos for home-browsing purposes, but love for the hilarity, is when they use a fish-eye lens (or whatever) and it has odd results. Below, for instance, are two photos of the same room from different angles.

The result of the lens distortion in this case is that the coffee table appears to be something like 2ft x 2ft from one angle, and 2ft x 4ft from the other angle. Magic!

My newest favorite thing, and what makes this topic semi-relevant to a computer science course, is the computer generated furniture that’s become commonplace in real estate photos. The living room pictured at the top of this post, for instance, has no furniture in it. (Full listing here.)

This fake furniture trend feels a little deceptive at first, and it does make me wonder what else they are doctoring in these photos. But it makes practical sense, because it’s so much easier and cheaper to “stage” a home and let people know what it could look like fully furnished. And it’s amazing how good it looks sometimes. I haven’t tried to look up what software these realtors are using, in part because I worry that I would spend hours playing with it, but it seems pretty darn good.

If I do end up in a software engineering career, I probably won’t work on anything super important. Just statistically speaking. But when people ask me what I do, I think I’d be satisfied if I could say something like: “You know that fake furniture in Zillow? Yeah, I helped write the software that does that.”

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