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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