Lowe’s Home Improvement turns to augmented, virtual reality for DIY training

It turns out that augmented and virtual reality can do much more than just give us a realistic, first-person perspective for blasting space mutants. It can also help us with home improvement. Lowe’s has debuted a new “Holoroom How-To” section for its stores, which lets customers use headsets to practice basic home improvement, like bathroom tiling, without getting their hands dirty.

A number of different companies are beginning to leverage virtual and augmented reality technology to improve the service they offer customers. Lowe’s was one of the first, having announced its intention to use the technologies in 2016, but it’s now bringing those developments to stores around the country.

Its first innovation is a Google Tango-powered navigation app for its stores. Visitors to stores can borrow a Lenovo Phab 2 and use it to find their way to various sections, as well as learn more about the products when they get there.

On the virtual side of the reality-bending spectrum, Lowe’s is also leveraging the HTC Vive VR headset to give shoppers trial runs at certain home improvements they can do themselves. According to Engadget, for instance, customers are given the chance to learn how to tile a bathroom without all the mess and costs involved in giving it a try.

The tutorial takes them through mixing the mortar, laying the pattern and cleaning up after the job — all with step-by-step instructions to help them through the process. According to the store’s own surveying, we’re told that those who practiced the tiling steps inside virtual reality had a 36 percent greater recall of the steps involved, than someone who merely watched a YouTube video of the same process.

Holoroom is currently installed in the Lowe’s outlet in Framingham, Massachusetts, but considering its success so far, it seems likely that the chain will expand its usage to elsewhere around the country, too. It also has plans for Canadian demonstrations of the technology in Burlington, Ontario, and Beloeil, Quebec.

Are there any do-it-yourself tasks that you would like to try out in VR before having a go at the real thing?

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