The first app turns a smartphone into a tape measure. Coming next week is an app that will allow iPhone users to visualize furniture in a room.

Retailers are moving quickly to take advantage of Apple Inc.’s new technology that enables a consumer with an iPhone to visualize what a sofa would look like in her living room or a ring on her finger.

Lowe’s Cos. Inc., No. 25 in the Internet Retailer 2017 Top 1000 ranking of North America’s leading online retailers, this month launched an iPhone app called Measured By Lowe’s that turns a phone into a virtual tape measure. A consumer can hold the phone up to see an area he is trying to measure, tap at the beginning point, walk to the end point, tap again and see the distance between the two points.

“It can help you figure out if a sofa is going to fit in the available space,” says Gihad Jawhar, vice president of digital at Lowe’s.

Coming next week is another iOS app from a Lowe’s subsidiary, The Mine, that also uses the new ARKit augmented reality technology Apple (No. 2 in the Top 1000) recently released. Called Envision, the app will enable consumers shopping at the home furnishings site to visualize furniture and décor in rooms in their homes.

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The Mine, a site formerly known as ATGStores that specializes in higher-end home goods, scanned its catalog to create three-dimensional images of products, Jawhar says. With the new app, called Envision, consumers will be able to hold up the phone to see a room, then place the 3D product images in the room to imagine how they would look in that space.

Jawhar says Lowe’s will continue to work on augmented reality and virtual reality—technology that lets a person wearing a helmet, glasses or other device interact with a computer-generated image. “One of the up-and-coming technologies we have a high amount of interest in is AR and VR, because there is a significant amount of business left on the table because customers are unable to visualize and place products in a room to understand if they are going to look good or fit,” he says.

The ARKit software development tools behind these apps are compatible with iPhone models 6s and later. There were 56.6 million U.S. consumers who owned a compatible iPhone as of August, says comScore Inc., a market research firm focused on digital commerce and marketing. The augmented reality apps built with ARKit will also work with the new iPhone 8 series released last month and the iPhone X due out next month.

Other retailers also have rushed out apps using the Apple product-visualization technology.

Overstock.com Inc. (No. 30), for example, last month updated its iOS app with a feature built with ARKit that lets a consumer visualize items such as furniture in rooms in her home.

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1800Flowers.com Inc. (No. 59) also is excited about the potential of the new Apple AR system. “Some of the early things we’ve seen with ARKit are very compelling,” says Amit Shah, chief marketing officer at 1800Flowers.com. Shah says the flower and gift retailer is working internally on projects involving augmented reality.

In June 2016, online home furnishings retailer Wayfair Inc. (No. 16) launched WayfairView, an augmented reality Android app that lets shoppers view products in their homes. In August of this year, Wayfair enabled the technology for consumers who own the new ASUS ZenFone AR smartphone and the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro smartphone, and it folded the WayfairView app into its Android and iOS shopping apps. The retailer’s AR capability is now available on Apple devices running iOS 11.

Wayfair has 40,000 of its 8 million SKUs available in 3-D. If the product the shopper is looking at is available in augmented reality, she taps the 3D View in Room button on the product detail page and the app then launches her smartphone camera. The shopper points her phone in the are of her home where she might place the product, and a few seconds after tapping the button, the product image downloads to her smartphone screen. She can then move the image around her smartphone screen with her finger to place the product image in various locations. If she wants to buy the product, she can tap an Add-to-Cart button and check out within the app.

 

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