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Lowe’s continues building toward visual future


Trying to picture how home improvements will look in your mind’s eye can be tough, and Lowe’s is using emerging technology to expand the view.

Kyle Nel, executive director of Lowe’s Innovation Labs, recently told Chain Store Age how retailer’s proprietary technology development center is developing an app for the new Project Tango virtual reality (VR) mobile platform. Jointly created by Google and computer technology company Lenovo, Project Tango provides mobile devices with spatial capabilities.

“We’re eager to bring new solutions like Tango that can help solve common problems facing our customers,” said Nel. “For example, it can be challenging to visualize how products will fit or appear in a space, but with this technology customers can see how an appliance virtually fits in their kitchen.”

Using a mobile device’s camera, Project Tango can perform tasks such as measuring physical spaces, detecting objects in physical space, and creating realistic 3-D models of physical environments from scratch.

“These capabilities present interesting opportunities for the home improvement space,” commented Nel.

Lowe’s Innovation Labs uses a modified version of a development process known as “Science Fiction Prototyping,” which provides science fiction writers with market research and data and asks them to create narratives of how technology might impact people’s lives. The narratives are turned into comic books used as strategic resources. The Project Tango app fits squarely into this development model.

“Everything we do is grounded in narrative, and Project Tango gets us even closer to the original comic book we created to explain our view for how emerging visualization technologies will be a part of our customers’ and employees’ futures,” said Nel.

Project Tango is not Lowe’s first foray into consumer-facing VR tools. In October, Lowe’s released an upgraded version of its Holoroom VR design and visualization tool. The latest iteration of Holoroom leverages Oculus Rift optic technology in stores and Google Cardboard viewers that consumers can take home. Lowe’s Innovation Labs and Google collaborated to create a shareable Holoroom experience that combines YouTube’s 360-degree video capabilities with Google Cardboard to enable customers to view and share their design ideas at will.

“The Holoroom is an evolving concept for design and visualization tools made possible by emerging technologies, and Project Tango helps us advance that vision,” said Nel. “We have seen that across various augmented and virtual reality technologies, the overall benefit is helping our customers to visualize their home improvement plans and act on them with confidence.”

Nel concluded by saying Lowe’s is exploring a number of possibilities for Tango and will evolve its Tango offering based on how consumers and employees respond to it.

“Project Tango lends itself to exciting possibilities for the future in helping our customers use augmented and virtual reality to customize their homes and translate their visions into reality,” Nel stated.

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