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Lowe’s sees real future in holograms

BY Dan Berthiaume

Lowe’s Companies Inc. is expanding its use of augmented and virtual reality to help customers truly “visualize” home improvement projects.

Lowe’s is partnering with Microsoft to let shoppers use Microsoft HoloLens  augmented reality headsets to view 3-D representations of kitchen remodel design elements in empty in-store showrooms. In select pilot stores, HoloLens lets customers visualize realistic, scale-size, interactive holograms of options for kitchen cabinetry, countertops, appliances and features like backsplashes. Customers can also instantly adjust finishes and options, as well as share design ideas online. A miniature hologram kitchen allows for a bird’s eye perspective of the project.

As a result, Lowe’s can easily show an array of options that can be digitally refreshed. In-store designers, spouses or friends can view what the customer is seeing and changing in real time through a hand-held Surface tablet.

Lowe’s piloted the solution in-store in the greater Seattle area in March. Next, Lowe’s will begin piloting Hololens in-store in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The home improvement retailer has been busy expanding the concept of in-store reality in recent months. In January, the company’s Lowe’s Innovation Labs in-house development center announced it was developing an app for the new Project Tango virtual reality (VR) mobile platform.

Jointly created by Google and Lenovo, Project Tango provides mobile devices with spatial capabilities. Using a mobile device’s camera, Project Tango can perform tasks such as measuring physical spaces, detecting objects in physical space, and creating realistic 3-D models of physical environments from scratch.

And in October 2015, Lowe’s released an upgraded version of its Holoroom VR design and visualization tool that leverages Oculus Rift optic technology in stores and Google Cardboard viewers that consumers can take home. Lowe’s Innovation Labs and Google collaborated to create a shareable Holoroom experience that combines YouTube’s 360-degree video capabilities with Google Cardboard to enable customers to view and share their design ideas at will.

Lowe’s latest holographic project with Microsoft shows the retailer is interested in discovering the best possible way or ways to deliver augmented and virtual reality experiences to customers, and is happy to use whatever in-house or third-party resources deliver results. Rival home improvement chain The Home Depot is also offering augmented reality features in its mobile app.

The home improvement vertical is not typically thought of as flashy or innovative, and its youngest core customers are the oldest members of the millennial generation. Home improvement’s focus on leading-edge, consumer-facing technology is a clear signal that retail as a whole is going digital, even for shoppers who are not “digital natives.”

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New board member at One Coat Stucco Association

BY HBSDealer Staff

The National One Coat Stucco Association (NOCSA) recently named The Quikrete Companies Stucco Sales Manager-West, Dale Nehls to its board of directors.

A 20-year industry veteran, Nehls joins nine other board members with responsibilities for steering the NOSCA’s efforts to elevate the quality of one-coat stucco manufacturing and installation through the organization’s education and awareness programs targeted at members, building departments, architects and specifiers, builders, lath and plaster contractors.

Prior to joining The Quikrete Companies in 2007, Nehls spent 13 years in various segments of the construction industry including roles in project management, distribution and sales before transitioning exclusively into building and repair with stucco and stone. Based in Denver, Nehls is responsible for commercial sales of stucco products in the Western and Mountain regions of the U.S. with a focus on pre-blended stucco for The Quikrete Companies.

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Final call for Hardware Store All Star submissions!

BY HBSDealer Staff

HBSDealer is gearing up for its sixth annual Hardware Store All Star season.

But first, we need nominations. For those of you who aren't familiar with the process, our Hardware Store All Star special report will recognize one store from each state in the May issue of HBSDealer.

The editors of HBSDealer will recognize hardware stores, lumberyards and farm-and-ranch retailers that excel at some aspect of the retail business. The honorees aren’t always the biggest stores in their market, but they all connect with their communities in interesting ways and show a willingness to innovate and adapt.

Please send your nominations to [email protected] by the end of the day today to ensure consideration.

Check out the 2015 class of All Stars here.

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