Are consumers ready for Star Trek-like experiences that turn in-store shopping into 3D virtual models? Lowe’s thinks so and is rolling out installations into two Canadian stores that use augmented reality to create virtual replicas of their home improvement projects.
The home improvement retailer will launch 20-by-20 foot booths in Toronto stores later this year that will pull in Lowe’s inventory mapped with 3D technology and show shoppers what their dream room looks like. The prototype—dubbed Holoroom project—is the first product to come out of Lowe’s Innovation Lab, a unit that works with start-ups, universities and companies to build new digital experiences on behalf of Lowe’s.
"The Holoroom is the first of many concepts soon to come from the Lowe’s Innovation Labs and exemplifies the process the Labs will use moving forward: Using the power of science fiction narratives to ideate possible futures and then identify uncommon partners to bring those visions to life," said Kyle Nel, executive director of Lowe’s Innovation Lab.
Store associates will equip shoppers with an iPad (and pre-installed app) that turns specific dimensions of a room into a virtual space that can be packed with Lowe’s inventory. Once finished, shoppers receive a piece of paper that is printed with a marker on it. The marker uses augmented reality triggered by an consumer-facing iPhone or Android app to share or tweak the design from home.
While the prototype certainly adds a fun way for employees to work with customers, Lowe’s actually has a bigger plan around collecting data with the Holoroom project.
Scott Susskind, Co-CEO and CTO of SciFutures (which worked with Lowe’s to develop the app) said that analytics collected on the back-end of the project could inform in-store and online product placement and merchandising.
Holoroom is limited to smartphones and tablets right now, but could also take on the form of wearable glass in the future.
The augmented reality effort was spawned out of a story written by a science fiction writer. SciFutures works with sci-fi writers to conceptualize technology into actual marketing ideas that brands can use.
Lowe’s launched its innovation unit about a year ago to brainstorm and develop digital marketing ideas to stay ahead of the curve of competitors like Home Depot or IKEA, which are both relatively tech-savvy (especially in terms of augmented reality). The unit has offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles that experiment with tech and plans to open a third in Boulder, Colo.
Check out the video below to see how the in-store technology works: