Lowe’s is optimizing its operations by allowing store associates to interact with its store’s digital data through a digital twin: a completely virtual replica of the physical home improvement store.
The technology runs on NVIDIA’s Omniverse Enterprise platform, fusing spatial data with Lowe’s other data — like product location and historical order information — to pull together a complete digital picture accessible via a range of devices like desktop computers, augmented reality headsets, and more.
"We're thrilled to pioneer retail digital twins and elevate experiences for both our associates and customers," said Seemantini Godbole, Lowe's executive vice president, chief digital and information officer, in a statement. "Through emerging technology, we are always imagining and testing ways to improve store operations and remove friction for our customers."
What This Means
While the technology is still new, Lowe’s is exploring several ways to implement its digital twin, including across restocking, obtaining valuable shelf insights, and optimizing the customer experience.
AR Reset and Restocking Support: By wearing an augmented reality headset, Lowe's associates can see a hologram of the digital twin overlaid atop the physical store. Through this, they can ensure shelves are stocked with the right products and in the right configuration. They can see what a store shelf should look like compared to what it actually looks like.
AR "X-Ray Vision": Using this technology, associates can gather and view information for items on hard to reach shelves. Instead of requiring associates to climb a ladder to see a cardboard-enclosed product on the top shelf, they can use an AR headset and computer vision to view and analyze its content.
AR Collaboration: With an AR headset, associates can update the digital twin and collaborate with centralized store planners. For example, they could suggest changes to a planned planogram for their store via an AR "sticky note."
Store Visualization and Optimization: Associates can also view sales performance and track customer traffic using 3D heatmaps and distance measurements for items that are frequently purchased together.
Historical Data: By leveraging Omniverse and Lowe’s Inovation-Labs created AI avatars, Lowe’s can simulate how far customers or associates will need to walk to pick up items that are often purchased together. This will also help associates test changes to placement for products across the store to improve the overall customer experience.
Looking at even more opportunities in the future, Lowe’s is searching to connect additional data sources such as traditional and specially developed Omniverse streaming data APIs and internet of things (IoT) sensors.
"AI and digital twins are reinventing the retail experience for associates and customers, in person and online," said Jensen Huang, founder and CEO of NVIDIA. "Lowe's, with Omniverse and AI, is at the forefront of shaping this future retail experience."
Looking at the Immediate Future
In the next few weeks, Lowe’s will be making a selection of photorealistic 3D product assets (the same used to populate its digital twin) available to Omniverse developers. This will assist virtual reality and AR builders to create new 3D representations of the items it sells. Builders will be able to access this update from Lowe’s Open Builder Library.
This is Lowe’s latest endeavor to bolster its digital efforts. In 2014, the company zoned in on virtual reality and then in-store retail robotics. The company is opening a tech hub in Charlotte, North Carolina, this month that will help it develop these solutions and more.
“As Lowe's continues to shape the future of home improvement retail, the Tech Hub nurtures our development of solutions to complex problems," said Godbole. "Lowe's digital twin is a profound example of how our teams are building this future."