News • 10.10.2022

Giving associates 'superpowers' to better serve customers

Lowe's digital twin showcases a future in which AI, 3D and AR collaboration are part of retail associates' daily lives

Building upon its history of innovation, Lowe's unveiled the home improvement retail industry's first interactive store digital twin at NVIDIA GTC. Leveraging NVIDIA Omniverse Enterprise, this digital twin showcases a future in which store associates can visualize and interact with nearly all of a store's digital data, giving them superpowers to optimize operations and localize plans to better serve customer needs.

A store planner wearing a Magic Leap 2 AR headset
Source: Lowe's

"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. "Through emerging technology, we are always imagining and testing ways to improve store operations and remove friction for our customers."

Built by its Lowe's Innovation Labs team, Lowe's digital twin is currently live in two stores. The digital twin is a completely virtual replica of a physical home improvement store, created in NVIDIA's Omniverse environment. It fuses spatial data with other Lowe's data, including product location and historical order information, and pulls all of these sources together into a visual package that can be accessed on a range of devices. From desktop computers to Magic Leap 2 augmented reality (AR) headsets, this interactivity opens up numerous possibilities for Lowe's associates.

"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."

A retail associate wearing a Magic Leap 2 AR headset...
Source: Lowe's

A few of the areas that Lowe's is currently exploring with its digital twin include:

  • AR Reset and Restocking Support: Wearing a Magic Leap 2 AR headset, Lowe's associates can see a hologram of the digital twin overlaid atop the physical store in augmented reality. This can help an associate compare what a store shelf should look like versus what it actually looks like, and make sure it's stocked with the right products in the right configurations.
  • AR "X-Ray Vision": Another exploratory use case is associate "X-ray vision," the ability to gather and view information on obscured items on hard-to-reach shelves. For example, under normal circumstances, an associate might need to climb a ladder to gather information on a cardboard-enclosed product held in a store's top stock. With an AR headset and the digital twin, the associate could look up at a partially obscured cardboard box from ground level, and, thanks to computer vision and Lowe's inventory application programming interfaces (APIs), determine and view its contents via an AR overlay.
  • AR Collaboration: With access to a Magic Leap 2 AR headset, store associates can do more than just view the digital twin – they can also update it and collaborate with centralized store planners in new ways. If a store associate notices an improvement that could be made to a proposed planogram for their store, they could notate that on the digital twin with an AR "sticky note."
  • Store Visualization and Optimization: Just as e-commerce sites gather analytics to optimize the customer shopping experience online, the digital twin enables new ways of viewing sales performance and customer traffic data to optimize the in-store experience using 3D heatmaps and distance measurements of items frequently bought together.

Using historical order and product location data, Lowe's can also leverage Omniverse and Lowe's Innovation Labs-created AI avatars to simulate how far customers or associates might need to walk to pick up items often bought together. Associates can also test changes to product placements within Omniverse to find optimal placements for products to enhance customer and associate experiences.

In the future, Lowe's associates will be able to connect to both traditional and specially developed Omniverse streaming data APIs and intelligent internet of things (IoT) sensors, bringing more data into the store digital twin and creating even more possibilities.

A digital concept render of a future store
Source: Lowe's

Help builders to create new possibilities

As part of today's news, Lowe's announced that it will make a selection of photorealistic 3D product assets available to Omniverse developers in the coming weeks – the same assets that are used to populate its digital twin. Just as it has supported builders of the real world for more than 100 years, Lowe's wants to help builders of virtual and augmented worlds create new possibilities with 3D representations of the items it sells. Developers will be able to access the Lowe's Open Builder library in an upcoming Omniverse update.

From being one of the first retailers to introduce virtual reality to mainstream shoppers back in 2014, to pioneering the use of in-store retail robotics, Lowe's regularly invests in emerging technology to make the home improvement experience simpler and more intuitive. Earlier this year, Lowe's released an intuitive LiDAR-based experience called Measure Your Space, which helps customers scan, measure and estimate their projects through the Lowe's app.

Lowe's new Tech Hub in Charlotte's South End, which officially opens next month, focuses on technology solutions like these that accelerate Lowe's commitment to becoming a best-in-class, omnichannel retailer. "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."

Source: Lowe's

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