Lowe's launches latest VR experience

The program immerses users in a DIY project with step-by-step instructions and offers feedback similar to a real-life experience.

Lowe's is introducing the latest technology out of its Innovation Labs, the Holoroom How To. The most recent iteration of its Holoroom, the new platform uses an immersive VR experience to help customers learn the skills to complete challenging home improvement projects.

The technology was designed to help with learning and training, as DIY mentalities are changing from generation to generation. Millennials especially cite a lack of confidence and a lack of time for undertaking DIY projects. 

The Holoroom How To uses Lowe's branded "applied neuroscience" technique, which evaluates real-time cognitive responses to technologies in order to analyze true neurological activity. 

Lowe's Holoroom experience began in 2014 as a way to solve design challenges after discovering that homeowners can feel overwhelmed when trying to visualize their home improvement projects. This first iteration was progressed with Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard into 19 stores across the country in 2015. Other visualization projects include AR/VR mixed reality pilots with Microsoft's HoloLens and Lowe's Vision app. 

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In this latest version of Holoroom, debuting in Lowe's Framingham, Massachusetts, store, the Lab is reimagining the how-to learning experience with mixed reality applications. The company plans to expand into Lowe's in Burlington, Canada and Rona Big Box in Beloeil, Quebec. 

How does it work? A shopper puts on a virtual reality headset and holds a controller in each hand. Then they are immersed in a DIY project with step-by-step instructions. The program offers feedback similar to a real-life experience. Since the initial testing of the new application, Lowe's says it has seen results in how Holoroom How To can boost consumer confidence and motivation to take on DIY projects. 

Thus far, Holoroom How To participants demonstrated a 36% increase in recall of the steps to tile a shower, compared to watching it done on a video alone. In addition, the memory performance of someone using the VR tool is comparable to someone's real-life DIY experience, suggesting the platform presents a productive learning environment. 

Lowe's will continue to study the results of the Holoroom How To experience to help answer questions about how customers actively engage with VR and what kinds of project training modules will be most useful. Eventually, Lowe's hopes to introduce other training modules such as repairing drywall, installing a kitchen faucet, hanging pictures and installing pebble tile. 

Lowe's launched its Innovation Labs in 2014 with the mission to apply existing technology to solve everyday problems, but also to build these solutions. The idea: stay ahead of the curve and build disruptive solutions for employees, customers and the retail industry. 

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Kyle Nel

Kyle Nel, executive director of Lowe's Innovation Labs, stresses that the Lab first and foremost takes on a narrative-driven approach to innovation, which uses a story as a strategic tool to map out the future. From there, neuroscientists like himself work backward to build and test technology to solve problems. His team actually looks at applying behavioral science, marketing research and data to build scenarios. In fact, the team turns ideas into comic books and once a quarter, they sit down with the company executives who then decide which of these comic-book scenarios to actually build into real technology for consumer testing. 

"We bring technology down to earth," Nel told FierceRetail in an interview. The group studies how people make decisions with the hopes that eventually, the applied behavioral science can be used in a profit-driven way. 

Before the VR experience, Nel said that one of the best ways for consumers to learn how to do a DIY project was on YouTube. And while Lowe's continue to produce videos and offer DIY clinics in stores, this new VR experience offers customers another way to learn. 

"We measure the success in our project by how much you can recall and remember the steps. And how much confidence it builds," said Nel. 

Lowe's joins a growing group of retailers exploring the use of VR in an effort to elevate the customer experience and eliminate customer pain points. 

Nel explains that Lowe's Labs and Holoroom are an ongoing process that will continue to scale and change as the team learns more about consumer behaviors.

"There's more coming," he said. "And it's all driven, once again, on trying to help consumers see the future so when it's here, they are not caught off guard."