How Wayfair and Lowe’s will tap Lenovo’s Tango phone to spruce up your space
The augmented-reality smartphone will let you see how purchases will look in your home before you buy them.
By Derek Walter
TechHiveJun 20, 2016 3:00 am PDT
Home decorating is both an art and a science. You want a new end table, couch, bed, or even a refrigerator to look right and to match your room’s aesthetic. But it also has to fit the space it’s going into, which means taking precise measurements and remembering to take that information with you to the store. Even then, your mind’s eye might not present an accurate picture of how that purchase will look when it’s inside your home.
The online furniture store Wayfair and the home-improvement retailer Lowe’s plan to make all of this easier with Lenovo’s Phab2 Pro smartphone. Powered by Google’s Tango technology, the Phab2 Pro is pitched as being capable of “seeing” the space around you. At the recent Lenovo TechWorld, Wayfair and Lowe’s demonstrated two apps that tap into this cutting-edge concept.
Before you shop for a new couch, refrigerator, or what have you, just point Lenovo’s phone at the space where you want to put it and the apps will show you what the product will look like in that space. You’ll also be able to capture precise measurements of an area and then walk into a Lowe’s store with those dimensions.
The Lenovo Phab2 Pro
With a 6.4-inch screen, Lenovo’s Tango phone is big. Google’s Tango technology will tap its sensors, cameras, and Snapdragon 652 processor without the need to connect to connect to outside resources, such as a GPS satellite.
The phone is able to measure distance, recognize items, map locations, and of course perform indoor measurement and navigation. Lenovo says it’ll be available in September for $499. It sounds like it will be a little unwieldy, but when you consider what it can do, that might change your mind.
Wayfair sees what you need
Mike Festa, head of Wayfair’s research-and-development lab Wayfair Next, says his company’s WayfairView app has the potential to transform the shopping experience. Picking a new end table, bed, or another accessory is something that you can actually “see,” as the phone will overlay the item over a live view of the room you wish to put it in.
“Shoppers will be able to view a particular room in their home through the lens of the Lenovo Phab2 Pro, select one or more Wayfair products, and virtually place the products in the room to see how it fits and looks within the space,” said Festa. “Shoppers can also move and rotate products to visualize various layouts and perspectives. Finally, when ready to make a purchase, shoppers will be seamlessly connected to Wayfair’s shopping app in Google Play. We want to help our customers better visualize our products, to make the online shopping experience even easier.”
We’ve always been able to figure out how something looks. Even looking at a catalog and using your imagination you can get a picture of what that new item will look like when you get it home. Seeing a representation of it in real time will be a game changer.
“WayfairView allows shoppers to check the scale of products before they purchase to facilitate home-improvement planning, from furniture pieces and décor to ceiling lamps and chandeliers,” said Festa. “Shoppers can also see how items match their current décor and can even rearrange virtual furniture to visualize a new design for a particular room. Shoppers can also save and share photos of products in their space for future planning. WayfairView also allows shoppers to quickly and easily compare various products by seeing how they actually look and fit in their homes.”
There’s a lot of functionality packed into WayfairView, which certainly will have a learning curve when it hits the market. But the potential is there to really appeal to those who are enthusiastic about home design.
Lowe’s Vision app
The home-improvement retailer’s custom Phab2 Pro app is called Lowe’s Vision. When I saw it demoed at Lenovo TechWorld, I found myself wishing it had been available when I had to replace my refrigerator earlier this year. Just point your phone at the space where you want to put the appliance, and the app will show you how different models will fit and look.
Executive Director of Lowe’s Innovation Labs Kyle Nel said Lowe’s sees the Tango phone as the kickoff of its larger efforts to use augmented and virtual reality in space planning.
“With Tango, for the first time, we can tap the power of 3D in our customers’ smartphones to solve longstanding challenges to visualizing plans for home improvement,” Nel said. “Phab 2 Pro is significant because it makes Tango accessible to the everyday customer. This technology is an important step forward in our vision for how AR and VR will shape the way our customers design, build, and enjoy their homes.”
Lowe’s plans to sell the phone both online and in its brick-and-mortar stores. A hardware store is an unusual place to buy a smartphone, to be sure, but having the phone on display will be one of the best ways to expose customers to the capabilities of its Tango app. Ideally, Lowe’s employees will be able to demonstrate its features, so that potential customers can get a firm grasp of its unfamiliar capabilities.
Few products positioned as “game changers” live up to the hype, but these demos left me optimistic about this Tango phone’s future.