Lowe's leverages Nvidia Omniverse for digital twins of stores

SEP 21, 2022

For those who still find the whole metaverse concept to be confusing and intangible, Nvidia this week showcased how digital twins, a metaverse application bridging real and virtual worlds, can make it more tangible and more valuable to enterprise partners.

At Nvidia’s GTC Fall Conference, the company discussed how home improvement retailer Lowe’s, which is a new Nvidia partner, and other previously announced partners are using Nvidia’s Omniverse platform to create new digital twins and applications for those virtual environments.

Lowe's, which is not only a new Nvidia partner but might also be the first home improvement retailer to publicize its work with digital twin technology, has created its first interactive digital twin of a Lowe’s store through the Lowe’s Innovation Labs division using Nvidia’s Omniverse Enterprise platform. The retailer used the platform to fuse spatial data with other Lowe's data regarding product location, historical order information, and more.

The digital twin, which is now available in two stores, can allow store associates, accessing it from desktop computers to Magic Leap 2 augmented reality (AR) headsets, to gain “super powers” to do a variety of things–optimize restocking strategies by envisioning how store shelves will look after restocking; find items within the store that might be otherwise obscured; and virtually suggest changes to store plans that can later be implemented in stores at the physical level, among other possibilities. All of these applications involve the ability to use the digital twin to test different strategies and changes to stores, displays and product arrangement on a virtual basis before implementing them in real store environments.

The retailer also said it will soon make part of its 3D product catalog, which was used to populate its digital twin, available to other Omniverse developers who can start to pursue other new retail applications that could improve store experiences for Lowe’s customers.

"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."

Lowe’s provided detailed notes on the digital twin applications it is currently exploring:

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.

Eventually, Lowe's store associates will be able to use Omniverse streaming data APIs and IoT sensors, to infuse store digital twins with even more data to enable other applications, the retailer said.

Richard Kerris, vice president of the Omniverse platform at Nvidia, said during a GTC Fall briefing this week that Omniverse’s capabilities to create increasingly immersive digital twins will now be backed by the company’s second-generation OVX computing system, which leverages the Nvidia L40 GPU, which itself is based on the company’s Ada Lovelace GPU architecture.

“This brings about more power and performance for building complex industrial digital twins and creating more accurate simulations,” he said.

The OVX system also is supported by Nvidia’s ConnectX-7 SmartNIC, which provides enhanced network and storage performance and the precision timing synchronization required for true-to-life digital twins, the company said.

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