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One of the emerging subtopics of the broader pandemic discussion that’s consuming our attention and stalling global commerce is how can immersive tech like AR support shelter-in-place masses? We’re talking everything from industry conferences to knowledge workers’ remote productivity.

But what about high-touch local services? Clearly social distancing protocols preclude, or at least challenge, the traditional ritual of service pros visiting your home to fix something. As we’ve examined, this is where Streem can assist through AR and your smartphone camera.

This brings the industrial AR concept of “see what I see” remote assistance to home services. In other words, home services pros can see and guide you through a service issue using your upheld smartphone — anything from setting up a wi-fi router to diagnosing a broken dishwasher.

Of course, this can’t replace some service visits (like that dishwasher). But it can handle low-hanging fruit issues (like router setup). For the dishwasher or other heavy jobs, it can reduce and streamline an eventual technician visit. In fact, Streem can reduce truck rolls by 42 percent.

Augmented Realty

With that backdrop, Stream’s owner Frontdoor has made it free to contractors in its network. With its home-service brands American Home Shield, HSA, Landmark and OneGuard, Frontdoor serves 2.2 million U.S. homes and 4 million annual service requests from 17,000 contractors.

And as part of this move, it’s expanding into real estate. Though Streem erstwhile works primarily in home services, the idea is that it can likewise help real estate agents offer live virtual showings by appointment, where they walk homebuyers through a given house and answer their questions.

Just as Streem’s application to home services lets remote experts make spatially anchored annotations, it can serve real-estate in native ways. That includes things like spatially-anchored notes in a given property, or getting appliance measurements for inquisitive homebuyers.

This will all happen through partnerships with nationwide real estate companies Realogy and Howard Hanna. Frontdoor plans to continue scaling up through additional partners. The free use of Streem’s technology to show homes while social distancing should accelerate that goal.

Chance to Shine

Speaking of accelerating goals, making Streem free can be seen as both altruistic and opportunistic. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with the latter unless predatory (which this isn’t). It could embolden Frontdoor/Streem’s overall value to its contractor network and homeowners.

It could also accelerate AR as its cost barrier lowers (free) while its necessity increases. As we’ve said, one silver lining in challenging times could be forced new perspectives that lead to discoveries. That includes new tactics or tech adoption that sustains into normal times.

In that way, this could be AR’s chance to shine. Though overall market traction has been slow, the need to continue selling houses and fixing dishwashers could accelerate AR adoption. And that could have lasting effects when its broader (non-pandemic) values are realized on a larger scale.

“Streem is uniquely equipped to help keep families healthy and safe in their homes, and to allow service contractors, real estate professionals and others to continue to meet critical needs,” said Streem president and GM Ryan Fink in a statement. “We also know that the pandemic will have a lasting impact on how we live and work and believe that this technology will have a transformative influence on how business is conducted going forward.”

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Disclosure: AR Insider has no financial stake in the companies mentioned in this post, nor received payment for its production. Disclosure and ethics policy can be seen here.