Retailers have been driving technological development for some time now, and augmented reality (AR) in retail is on the forefront. While some retailers are focused on providing AR that relies on commonly available technology — ModiFace’s mirror displays and apps are a strong example of how powerful that can be — some brands are taking it to the next level. Lowe’s augmented reality app, Vision, is pioneering the type of AR that other brands are sure to want to emulate.
About the Lowe’s Vision App
Lowe’s Vision app is intended to let users view their home through their smartphone and test a variety of products from the store. Those visualizations could range from flooring and fixtures to furniture and appliances. Similar concepts have been attempted before — Ikea has a catalog app that allows customers to view furniture from a limited library in their home via AR. There’s a critical difference between apps like that and Vision: understanding motion and depth perception.
Vision utilizes Google’s Tango AR computing platform, and only two devices are currently available commercially to support it, the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro (the first) and the Asus ZenFone AR. It relies on three separate rear facing cameras — a high-resolution camera with PDAF fast focus, a depth sensor, and a motion-tracking sensor — to achieve computer vision. This allows the Lowe’s app to measure real-world space. When AR objects are placed on-screen, the app knows the physical dimensions of that object and can treat it as though it’s really in the room. While Vision doesn’t currently offer the ability to make the final purchase in-app, it does allow customers to save product lists for purchase in-store or online.
Despite the fact that Vision has had a full release, hard data about its impact is tough to come by. It can only be used on two devices which are brand new, so the adoption pool is low. (In fact, in the case of the Phab 2, only the high-end Pro version is Tango-enabled.) While statistics show the adoption has been somewhat slow, the benefit to customers is easy to see. They can test drive real products in their home in a meaningful way, all without breaking out the measuring tape and wondering whether or not the image on screen is scaled correctly. Vision can show them if the dishwasher that they’re considering will really fit into the space between the stove and the counter, or whether a new recliner will fit in the corner by the window. Potential shoppers can walk around the space like the appliance or furniture is really there, looking at it from different angles and distances, and they can even test whether or not it would end up obstructing the walkway.
This isn’t just convenient; it also lends authority to Lowe’s and will lift brand perception because it takes out the guesswork and risk so customers will be able to shop with total confidence. It also expedites the shopping cycle; even if customers don’t shop for the products online, they already know exactly which products they want. In combination with its sister app, the recently released Vision: In-Store Navigation, or the OSHbot customer service robot, both being piloted in California, will free up customer service representatives to help those who need more in-depth assistance with their home improvement project.
Augmented reality in retail is undoubtedly part of our future. There are too many smart and useful options that AR provides for shoppers and retailers alike. Lowe’s augmented reality app is the first of its kind, leveraging the technology available to provide a unique and valuable customer experience. Marketers should be keeping an eye on how this version of the technology develops; there’s the potential to advertise products to customers by helping them visualize those products in real spaces they’re familiar with. As more devices capable of supporting Vision and other apps like it are released, it will be interesting to see the full impact of this early adopter.