India: The $56-billion home improvement company Lowe’s Companies has opened Lowe’s Innovation Labs (LIL) in Bengaluru, its third one globally after Mooresville in North Carolina and Seattle in the US underscoring the interest of global retailers in setting up innovation labs leveraging the city’s tech talent pool.

The Bengaluru lab will not only collaborate with tech startups, large corporates and academia, but it plans to bring on board science-fiction writers who can shape up the narrative as to how technology may play a role in the lives of customers. These technologies provide an immersive experience to users to stay in their own space and see it magically transform before customers start the projects.

The innovation lab with complement Lowe’s global inhouse centre that already has over 400 employees in its Bengaluru working on technology and analytics solutions.

In a global first, Lowe’s lab will incubate Indian tech startups through a 16-week acceleration programme to drive retail innovation in areas such as augmented and virtual reality, robotics, 3D scanning and printing technologies. Shortlisted startups may receive funds in the form of a grant as part of the programme.

“One of the reasons for us to start in Bengaluru is there’s a whole plethora of uncommon partners that we don’t know yet while part of the narrative is we know what the customer outcome desires to be, we truly don’t know how to get there. And the opportunity to be involved in a vibrant and kinetic environment and the opportunity to find uncommon partners it is one of the core reasons to have the lab in Bengaluru,” said Richard Maltsbarger, chief development officer and president-international in Lowe’s Companies.

┬áSince launching the first lab in 2014 in the US, Lowe’s has launched the Holoroom, an augmented an virtual reality home improvement design and visualisation tool, retail service robot Oshbot and it will soon be sending the first commercial 3D printer to the International Space Station in partnership with US startup Made in Space.

Lowe’s is betting big on what it calls science fiction prototyping to build futuristic home improvement solutions and counts science fiction writers as uncommon partners in its prototyping journey that lends itself to diversity of ideas. “Uncommon partners to help us build out this vision faster. We want to iterate very fast and we want to bring it in front of people,” said Kyle Nel, executive director of LIL.

Maltsbarger believes that story telling that wraps itself around futuristic technology and in way which people can connect and understand is a rare skill. “Almost every code name with in the labs is something to do with Startrek, Star Wars and those were the stories that the vast majority of us in the labs grew up with,” he added.
Lowe’s has more than 1,845 home improvement and hardware stores and 2.65 lakh employees.

Posted by innohacks