Lowe’s tests ‘digital twin’ of two physical stores

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Lowe’s is partnering with Nvidia to create digital twins of its stores.

Lowe's Cos. has unveiled an interactive virtual model, or “digital twin,” of two of its stores.

The home improvement giant is leveraging technology from Nvidia to create photorealistic digital replicas of the stores to enable store employees to visualize and interact with nearly all of a store's digital data. Built by Lowes Innovation Labs team and leveraging Nvidia’s Omniverse metaverse environment, Lowe’s digital twin is currently live in two stores (in Mill Creek, Wash,. and Charlotte, N.C.).

Lowe’s digital twin solution is a completely virtual replica of the physical home improvement store. It fuses spatial data with other Lowe's data, including product location and historical order information, and unites it all into a visual package that associates can gain access to on a range of devices, including desktop computers and Magic Leap 2 augmented reality (AR) headsets.

“We're thrilled to pioneer retail digital twins and elevate experiences for both our associates and customers," said Seemantini Godbole, Lowe's executive VP, 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."

The retailer is currently piloting several features with its digital twin solution, including:

  • 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’: Associate "X-ray vision" is the AR-supported 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 leveraging computer vision and Lowe's inventory application programming interfaces (APIs), determine and view its contents via an AR overlay.
  • AR collaboration: Utilizing a Magic Leap 2 AR headset, store associates can update a digital twin and notate proposed improvements or corrections on the digital twin with an AR "sticky note."
  • Store visualization and optimization: Using 3D heat maps and distance measurements of items frequently bought together, Lowe’s can virtually view sales performance and customer traffic data. In addition, using historical order and product location data, Lowe's can also leverage Nvidia 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 the Omniverse environment 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.

Lowe's will also make a selection of photorealistic 3D product assets it uses to populate its digital twin available to Omniverse developers in the coming weeks. Developers will have access to the Lowe's Open Builder library in an upcoming Omniverse update.

[Read more: Lowe’s releases free metaverse assets]

"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."

Lowe’s builds metaverse presence on AR offerings
Lowe’s is entering the metaverse space following a couple of years of developing offerings that leverage augmented reality (AR) technology. These include the beta version of an end-to-end room scanning, measurement and estimate tool called “Measure Your Space” in its iOS app.

According to Lowe’s, Measure Your Space is an example of it broader vision for “spatial commerce,” a future metaverse shopping environment where emerging technologies will put home data at customers' fingertips, making home improvement more accessible.

Measure Your Space follows the June 2020 release of Lowe’s for Pros JobSight, an augmented video chat service based on Streem technology that allows plumbers, contractors and other professionals to conduct virtual home visits with customers.

Lowe’s opens tech hub
Lowe's new tech hub in Charlotte, S.C., which officially opens in October 2022, focuses on leading-edge technology solutions.

"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."

Based in Mooresville, N.C., Lowe's Companies Inc. and its related businesses operate or service nearly 2,200 home improvement and hardware stores.