PEI

UPEI students juggle studies with business

While many university students are getting settled into residence for the start of a new semester, two students at UPEI have already been doing some real-life homework.

Third-year business students Evan Hawley and Mike Thompson opened a virtual reality business over the summer

Evan Hawley (left) and Mike Thompson show Steve Arnold of 'Canada’s Rotating House' some of Odyssey Virtual's 360-degree images. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

While many university students are getting settled into residence for the start of a new semester, two students at UPEI have already been doing some real-life homework.

Evan Hawley, a third-year business student, and Mike Thompson, who is in his third year of marketing, say they aren't waiting until graduation to become entrepreneurs.

They've even dropped a couple of courses this semester to focus on their new business, Odyssey Virtual.

"Applying what we're learning at university is pretty awesome," Thompson said.

Mike Thompson of Odyssey Virtual says their virtual reality technology is 'almost like Google street view through homes.' (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

The company uses specialized cameras and drones to create 360-degree virtual tours of houses.

"It's almost like Google street view through homes," Thompson said.

"You can look up you can look down, all around. You can zoom in, zoom out. So you get a really good perspective of what the house looks like on the inside before you show up."

Virtual house tours are not new to P.E.I. Some real estate companies are already using their own technology.

Hawley and Thompson said they hope to eventually break into the real estate market, but for now they're focusing on the rental market and people who advertise on platforms such as Kijiji, AirBnb and Facebook.

They said Odyssey Virtual has about a half dozen clients, including Steve Arnold of "Canada's Rotating House" in Rustico, P.E.I.

Evan Hawley, a third-year-business student at UPEI, says he uses high-quality cameras to create the virtual tours. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

Arnold and his family live on the second floor, and rent out four condos on the bottom floor.

When advertising a round house, he said, a virtual tour helps answer a lot of questions for prospective renters because it's like being in a "real-life video game."

"They can look around as if they are right here visiting, and then they can make a really informed decision without actually being here."

Hawley said he got the idea while creating a marketing platform for an international competition through UPEI.

It took them part of last semester and all summer to develop their product, they said, and they'll continue to build the company as they work toward their degrees.

"It's kind of exciting to see all that work come to fruition," Hawley said.

With files from Sarah MacMillan