The new augmented reality system, set to launch in 2022, will create 3D models of shoppers' rooms to help preview flooring choices within the Lowe's iOS app.

Lowe’s Cos. Inc. plans to launch a beta test in early 2022 of its augmented reality system, Measure Your Space, which uses sensors found on top-end Apple smartphones to measure full rooms so that shoppers can plan a full redesign of their spaces within the app.

The new feature, to be available on the hardware retailer’s iOS app, generates a floor plan of a consumer’s room so shoppers can easily estimate flooring costs, provide a virtual view of the new flooring option and take those estimates and measurements with them to stores to make the final purchase.

“Home improvement has always been hard for consumers to buy for,” says Josh Shabtai, a senior director at Lowe’s Innovation Lab. “There’s specialized domain experience for every aisle in our store. With tools like [Measure Your Space] we hope to unlock that expertise.”

Lowe’s, No. 12 in the 2021 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000, started with flooring in part because it is a frequent pain point that can be solved by augmented reality, Shabtai said. Traditionally, flooring shoppers would have to move furniture out of the way, break out the tape measure and then do some addition to get a square footage number to bring to the store for an estimate.

But with Measure Your Room, Shabtai says it eliminates a lot of room for error. Consumers don’t have to move furniture or remember how to calculate square footage to get an estimate right in the app. The feature can also measure rooms that may not be perfectly rectangular or that have bump-outs that can be hard to measure.

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The app uses Apple iPhone and iPad models equipped with a LiDAR sensor, which project points of light and calculate dimensions based on how long it takes those dots to make it back to the camera. The sensors are standard across its “Pro” iPhone and iPad models. making the development of the tool more straightforward for Lowe’s and its AR technology partner Streem. At the moment, there aren’t plans to launch the tool on Google’s Android operating system, as the LiDAR sensor is not as regularly available across the wide array of Android smartphones.

Spatial Commerce: An Introduction from Lowe’s Innovation Labs on Vimeo.

To measure a room, shoppers will see a Measure Your Space button on compatible products on the product detail page in the app. After launching the tool within the Lowe’s app, shoppers are guided to point their device at floating virtual icons around the room. These let the tool see all the significant dimensions of the space. After finding all icons, it creates an initial measurement. Consumers then “paint” in any areas the camera didn’t initially see.

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What consumers end up with is a full 3D model of their room. Because the Measure Your Space tool understands three dimensions, it is able to apply a preview of various flooring options on just the floor, including under desks, tables and chairs, without painting the virtual flooring onto other surfaces.

However, the LiDAR sensors are currently only so accurate. The technology works for flooring, where shoppers are usually encouraged to overestimate their needs as material is lost in cuts. However, Shabtai says it wouldn’t currently work to measure something like a door, where a quarter-inch error can ruin a project.

“Flooring still makes customers nervous, because once you put it in you’re stuck with it,” Shabtai says. “With this start, we can learn a lot about people’s homes and how we can work with them in improving what they want to make great.”

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Once shoppers have their room dimensions, they can take those figures into a Lowe’s store where they can see flooring options in person. With the dimensions in hand, they can then place an order with a store associate.

Lowe’s stores those room dimensions in the app for as long as a consumer wants, so consumers can refer back late. They can also use the app’s measurements for other purchases where knowing room dimensions is vital, like furniture, wall art or window coverings. While Lowe’s hasn’t officially announced any other features for its AR app, the promo video shows consumers previewing wall colors in a 3D model of the rooms.

This isn’t Lowes’ first foray into augmented reality. Back in 2017, it added the ability to virtually view items from Lowe’s in a customer’s home. It also added augmented reality wayfinding to the in-store app experience.

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The projects launched using Google’s Tango technology, which aimed to standardize AR capabilities on Android-powered hardware. However, it ended support for the camera-based system in 2018, transitioning to ARCore that used more traditional smartphone cameras.

Lowe’s relaunched its AR tool on that and has been adding product categories to its View in Your Space tool since and subsequently launching it on Apple’s iOS devices.

Lowe’s will launch the Measure Your Space tool as a beta for flooring projects in early 2022 on iOS devices including the iPhone 12 Pro/Pro Max, iPhone 13 Pro/Pro Max and iPad Pro.

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