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?

Mobile

From the road to your wrist, see how Android has evolved over the past 10 years

Android started out as just a mobile operating system, but 10 years in it's pretty much everywhere. Check out our round-up of all the different Android variations that have cropped up so far, and what might be coming in the future.
Mobile

Apple's iOS 12.1.1 makes it easier to switch cameras in FaceTime

After months of betas, the final version of iOS 12 is here to download. The latest OS comes along with tons of new capabilities, from grouped notifications to Siri Shortcuts. Here are all the features you'll find in iOS 12.
Mobile

5G’s arrival is transforming tech. Here’s everything you need to know to keep up

It has been years in the making, but 5G is finally becoming a reality. While 5G coverage is still extremely limited, expect to see it expand in 2019. Not sure what 5G even is? Here's everything you need to know.
Computing

Hololens 2 could give the Always Connected PC a new, ‘aggressive’ form

Microsoft is said to be leaning on Qualcomm to power its Hololens 2 headset. Instead of Intel CPUs, the next Hololens could use a Snapdragon 850 processor, allowing it to benefit from the always-connected features.
Emerging Tech

The 20 best tech toys for kids will make you wish you were 10 again

Looking for the perfect toy or gadget for your child? Thankfully, we've rounded up some of our personal favorite tech toys, including microscopes, computer kits, and a spherical droid from a galaxy far, far away.
Computing

Following the Portal, augmented reality glasses may be Facebook’s next step

Following the launch of its Portal smart display, Facebook says it is working on AR glasses, possibly in a move at challenging both Apple and Google and perhaps to rise up in the hardware scene. 
Computing

Oculus VR could upgrade the Rift with a new display in 2019

Oculus could be set to release a new version of its Rift headset in 2019, but it will be more of a modest upgrade than a true sequel. The Rift S, as its purportedly called, will have a new display, and inside-out tracking.
Mobile

Google awarded patent for using eye tracking to detect expressions in VR

Google was awarded a patent that involves using eye tracking to infer facial expressions using machine learning in virtual reality. The tech could help make virtual reality a whole lot more immersive than it already is.
Gaming

Immerse yourself in a new universe with these incredible PSVR games

The PSVR has surpassed expectations and along with it comes an incredible catalog of games. There's plenty of amazing experiences to be had so we've put together a list of the best PSVR games available today.
Virtual Reality

Prototype Valve VR headset leaked: HTC Vive challenger confirmed?

Leaked images revealed that a Valve VR headset is in development, even amid Valve's partnership with HTC for the HTC Vive. Sources confirmed the device, which may be bundled with a Half-Life VR game.
Virtual Reality

Is the Vive Pro better than the original Vive? Our answer might surprise you

HTC Vive vs. Vive Pro, which comes out on top? That's the subject of our latest comparison, which looks at everything from tracking solutions, to controllers, and the brand new headset that could set a new standard for VR.
Gaming

The best HTC Vive games available today

So you’re considering an HTC Vive, but don't know which games to get? Our list of 25 of the best HTC Vive games will help you out, whether you're into rhythm-based gaming, interstellar dogfights, or something else entirely.
Computing

A Google patent shows a way to make VR even more immersive

Virtual reality can be a really immersive experience, but it does sometimes it does have boundaries. Google has addressed this problem by patenting shoes with a flexible region on the bottom.
Virtual Reality

Think virtual reality is just for games? These awesome apps will change your mind

Virtual reality isn't all about gaming. Swim with turtles, paint in 3D, and immerse yourself in some unique experiences the platform has to offer with our curated list of the best VR apps.