- Lowe's, the second-biggest home improvement chain with 2,370 U.S. stores, announced two mobile applications that use augmented reality (AR) to help people plan their decorating projects and shop for home furnishings, per a press release. AR is a technology that overlays digital images onto the real world via smartphone camera technology.
- The first app, called Envisioned by The Mine, lets people use their smartphones to search through a catalog of luxury furnishings sold by The Mine, a home decorating subsidiary of Lowe's. After selecting a catalog item, a consumer can immediately place a 3-D version into a room seen through the smartphone's camera. The app's photo mode lets users capture images, share and purchase. Envisioned by The Mine will be available next month in Apple's App Store, according to the release.
- The second app, Measured, lets people use their smartphone camera to measure objects and share them on social media. Not only does the app measure the dimensions of an object, such as a piece of furniture, it can also measure things like the growth of a child to then share with other family members. The app is now available to download from the App Store.
Lowe's new apps offer another example of how marketers are quickly jumping at the opportunity to use Apple's recently-launched ARKit, a set of AR developer tools that will potentially radically transform the commercial capabilities of smartphones. Lowe's isn't the only company that's harnessing the technology to help people envision how furniture will look in a home before making a purchase. Ikea and Houzz also have AR-enabled apps that provide similar functionality to showcase their catalogs.
However, in rolling out two separate apps with distinct functions, Lowes is looking to deliver on the practical applications of AR above all else and in a way that might help distinguish it from the competition. The strategy is also a risky one, as some users will likely want to avoid having to download two individual apps, which adds a layer of friction to the mobile experience.
Lowe's apps are the latest effort by a company that has embraced bleeding edge technologies to help people plan their home improvement projects and navigate their way through nearby stores. It first introduced the Holoroom three years ago to test out how virtual reality could be used to immerse customers in a home design experience. Last fall, the retailer introduced Lowe's Vision to experiment with Google's Tango technology for AR apps. Lowe's Vision added in-store navigation in March, the press release said.
Google in August started rolling back its focus on Tango, an experimental platform that didn't gain much traction with other marketers and mobile developers. The Alphabet-owned tech giant is now focusing on another, more scalable platform called ARCore to compete with Apple's ARKit.