Print 15 comment(s) - last by hartleyb.. on Jun 19 at 1:55 PM

Testing phase sales kiosk utilizes augmented reality to help customers visualize home improvement projects

Clothing manufacturers have been among the first industries to jump on the augmented reality bandwagon.  Japan's Fast Retailing Comp., Ltd.'s (TYO:9983) Uniqlo brand, which has stores in San Francisco, Calif. and New York City, N.Y., recently added mirrors that allow you to see how a different color of the clothing item you were thinking of buying would look.  Eyeglass stores have similarly added kiosks that allow you to compare video of how you look with multiple frames.

America's second largest hardware store chain, Mooresville, N.C.-based Lowe's Companies Inc. (LOW), has come up with an even bolder version of augmented reality; one which it hopes to one day use across its network of 1,700+ stores to help customers decide on their home improvement projects.

Developed by Lowe's research team -- Lowe's Innovation Labs -- the new device is a full room, which Lowe's is calling the "Holoroom", seemingly a homage to Star Trek's "Holodeck".  It's not clear whether there are an actual holograms involved or some alternative (e.g. a wearable display?).  And unlike Star Trek's holodecks, you won't be able to physically experience the virtual reality with touch or smell.

Star Trek
The Star Trek "holodeck" [Image Source: CBS]

The Holoroom does offer a holodeck-like visual experience (and possibly sound feedback, as well) -- when it comes to home improvement, at least.  Customers enter the room, interact via gesture and voice commands, and modify a 3D render graphical room of their choice to feature different appliances, cabinets, paints, floor materials, etc.  They can then either print their plan or save it to their Google Inc. (GOOG) Android-powered or Apple, Inc. (AAPL) iOS-powered mobile device.  The customer also receives instructions of what materials to buy to make their 3D dream room a reality.

Lowe’s Innovation Labs director Kyle Nel comments:

We know that for many homeowners, the struggle to visualize a completed home improvement project or to share that vision with others can stop a project in its tracks.  The Holoroom is our solution, enabling consumers to visualize their project and share that vision with family and friends.

Lowe’s wants to lead innovation by developing disruptive technologies that will help us establish a long-term competitive advantage.  Lowe’s Innovation Labs will allow us to quickly bring in new technology and new partners, explore a wide range of possibilities and identify opportunities to develop concepts like the Holoroom.

Lowe's Innovation Labs recruited engineering and futurist concepts firm SciFutures to help design the interface and graphics for the Holoroom.

Lowe's Holoroom
Lowe's "Holoroom"

SciFutures founder and CEO Ari Poppers brags:

We use the power of science fiction narratives to predict future possibilities and explain complex technologies in a way everyone can understand.  Using this science fiction prototyping process we collaborated with Lowe’s to see the world could look like, and their determination to bring that vision to life led to the Holoroom.

The pair's collaborative effort is almost finished.  A test deployment has been installed at a Toronto area Lowe's store and features the ability for customers to plan a bathroom remodel.  The test deployment will expand in the next 12-18 months to include other Toronto-area stores and to feature more kinds of rooms, allowing customers to plan full house remodeling projects.

Source: Lowe's

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By tim851 on 6/13/2014 9:33:35 AM , Rating: 3
This ain't no Holodeck, just Augmented Reality in a weird room. It will be made redundant by Occulus Rift next year.

RE: Holodeck?
By Akrovah on 6/13/2014 10:53:25 AM , Rating: 3
I hadn't thought of that. The Rift could be a landmark introduction that completely changes the way we visualize and design a re-model or even a tool for architects to show non-structural people what they really envision.

I really want Occulous to succeed. The tech they are developing has so many awesome uses outside fo gaming.

RE: Holodeck?
By tayb on 6/13/2014 11:43:02 AM , Rating: 3
It's always next year with the Occulus Rift.

RE: Holodeck?
By tim851 on 6/13/2014 12:59:31 PM , Rating: 2
It's always next year with the Occulus Rift.

Yeah, they've been working on this thing since 2012 and what have they got to show for it? Nothing, except totally awesome developer versions and now the backing by that Facebook company, as if they had any funds.

I call Vaporware!

RE: Holodeck?
By tayb on 6/13/2014 2:11:24 PM , Rating: 2
In 2011 it was in development. In 2012 it was next year. In 2013 it was next year. In 2014 it is next year.

As of today all you can do is purchase the second generation development kit which will ship in August. The company has made no commitment to a release date or even a release year. The only information to go on is a quote from someone at Occulus which indicates that the company would be "disappointed if the headset was not released before 2016."

Translation? In 2015 it will be next year.

Wake me up when there is an actual product road map with expected pricing and release dates. Until then you can keep talking about "next year" just like the past two years.

RE: Holodeck?
By Digimonkey on 6/16/2014 10:14:45 AM , Rating: 2
When John Carmack demoed the duct taped prototype Rift at E3 and Quackcon 2012, he estimated it'd be about 2-3 years before a viable consumer release.

It's been stated several times that if it's not released by the end of 2015 something has went horribly wrong. So an early to mid 2015 release seems likely, which would put it in the 3 year mark that was estimated.

RE: Holodeck?
By peterrushkin on 6/13/2014 12:55:40 PM , Rating: 1
We really need occulus to be everywhere and succeed.

What we don't need is Sony with their craptastic console and crappy morphicraplus VR tech with all of its flashing lights LMAO.

I mean, they have it tethered to a console that can't even push gfx to a screen let alone to a VR headset and have the best experience.

It's simple. You want POS VR go with Sony, enjoy that experience you loser.

If you want High-end VR with Occulus 2 and 3 pushing 1440p+ and beyond. Go with Occulus.

RE: Holodeck?
By geddarkstorm on 6/13/2014 11:56:54 PM , Rating: 2
I dunno, Meta seems kinda cooler than Occulus, if slightly different usage model. At least more practical and efficient

RE: Holodeck?
By hpglow on 6/15/2014 2:21:55 AM , Rating: 2
I would buy one for $50 otherwise they can keep their headset. We need some real graphics breakthroughs not more gimmicks. I've been a console buyer since the 2600/VCS and been gaming on the PC since the 486 DX/33 days and we just don't see innovation at any decent pace anymore. I remember buying Voodoo, Power VR, and Riva TNT boards back in the day and being amazed by the detail presented. Now every couple years I put down $300 to $400 for a new card and get an incremental bump and the textures still look like crap after all these years.

RE: Holodeck?
By hartleyb on 6/19/2014 1:55:01 PM , Rating: 2
If Occulus rift ever gets out of the gate we are in for a lot of trouble if it becomes a popular item. VR technology is very dangerous if not used properly, just ask the U.S. Military. Pilots are not allowed to drive or fly for 24 hours after being in a simulator becuase it throws of their depth perception to a point it's dangerous to operate a vehicle. I could also name a few other dangers, but I think it will all come out in the end. I would love to use Augmented reality in my bedroom...imagine you could sleep outdoors everynight without going outside. You could make the walls different land scapes, add art, use them to see outside of your house, the possibilities are endless. With new free form displays making a display the size of a wall is nothing, except cost of course.

Sounds great
By DiscoWade on 6/13/2014 12:39:55 PM , Rating: 2
So long as it doesn't malfunction and the holograms become real. (And if you don't know what I am talking, just watch Futurama.)

RE: Sounds great
By blppt on 6/15/2014 12:33:16 PM , Rating: 2
They said "holodeck"....not "holoshed"!!!! ;)

Kif: The Holo-shed's on the fritz again! The characters turned real!
Zapp: Damn! The last time that happened, I got slapped with three paternity suits!

Potential Hazard?
By EricMartello on 6/13/2014 11:54:56 PM , Rating: 2
That floor looks like it will get kinda slippery after the nerds get done fapping to holograms of counselor troi...or preferably, t'pol. Maybe lowes should apply some of that stick-on tread to avoid possible lawsuits.

RE: Potential Hazard?
By marvdmartian on 6/16/2014 7:58:09 AM , Rating: 2
Being in NC, it's just as likely that the rednecks would want this sort of capability built into it. LOL

By Motoman on 6/13/2014 9:54:54 AM , Rating: 1
Give me Quark's Holographic House of Hoochies or GTFO.

"I'd be pissed too, but you didn't have to go all Minority Report on his ass!" -- Jon Stewart on police raiding Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's home

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