Lowe’s Companies Inc. recently launched an augmented reality app to help shoppers navigate its large warehouse-like stores.
The app is meant to help shoppers find products faster and easier in Lowe’s home improvement stores, which on average are 112,000 square feet.
The app, called The Lowe’s Vision: In-Store Navigation app, is separate from its normal shopping app and requires a special sensor, Google Tango, to work. The Lenovo Phab 2 Pro is the only consumer-facing device that has Tango, so Lowe’s is allowing shoppers to borrow the device from store associates to use in stores.
Here’s how it works: A consumer at Lowe’s opens the app on the store smartphone. The shopper searches for products and adds the products to a shopping list in the app. Once she has all the items in her virtual cart she hits a “begin navigation” button.
The app factors in the consumer’s location and where the products are located in the store, down to the shelf level. A consumer holds the smartphone, which uses the camera lens to get the visual out in front of her and a yellow line will appear on-screen on the ground in front of her. Following the yellow line will lead her to the first product on her list. An image of the product hangs in the distance so the consumer knows which product she is walking toward.
“Our app finds the shortest path possible from the user’s starting position to the items on [her] list, which means the items will be visited in the optimal order to prevent the user from having to backtrack,” says Kyle Nel, executive director at Lowe’s Innovation Labs. “Currently, if a user wanted to start at a specific item, [she] could do so by only adding one item to [her] list.”
If a shopper deviates from the walking path to look at products not on her shopping list, the app will recalculate the path. The app does not rely on Wi-Fi or data cell service for location, as those technologies are not accurate enough to place a shopper into a Lowe’s aisle, Nel says. Instead, Google Tango uses computer vision algorithms to calculate the directions, Nel says.
“The Tango technology enables motion tracking, area learning and depth perception for smartphones, leveraging a fisheye camera on the back which has an angle of view of 180 degrees,” Nel says. “For best results, the user should hold the phone in front of him or her and not angle it down too much.”
A shopper also can tap on the product to find out more details, such as consumer reviews and product dimensions. The app uses the same product database as Lowes.com, which means prices and products are updated in real time.
The app is still in active development, Nel says. Two team members created a prototype and after that, about 10-15 Lowe’s developers worked with the Tango team over the course of the year to develop the app.
Lowe’s is testing the app in two stores: one in Sunnyvale, Calif., which is where Lowe’s pilots many new technologies because it’s close to its technology partners in Silicon Valley, and one in Lynnwood, Wash., where Lowe’s has an office. The pilot will last six months, and Lowe’s hopes to roll out the technology to more stores after making any changes from the pilot and more smartphones have Google Tango.
Lowe’s also recently deployed another in-store virtual reality experience that allows shoppers to tile a
shower in VR. A shopper wears a VR headset provided by Lowe’s in store, holds a controller in each hand and receives step-by-step instructions on how to complete the task, such as mixing the mortar and laying the pattern.
The 10- to 20-minute experience aims to motivate consumers to take on do-it-yourself projects, and Lowe’s claims that using virtual reality will enhance recall of the task more than simply watching a YouTube video. Lowe’s is piloting this experience in a store in Boston and two stores in Canada. Consumers can try it without an appointment.
Lowe’s is No. 27 in the Internet Retailer 2016 Top 500 Guide.Favorite