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January 21, 2015

Today, The Home Depot unveiled its latest community development: The Home Depot Technology Center at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech). Through this new facility, the company will collaborate with students at the Atlanta-based university in their cutting-edge research center.

A select group of 20 students work alongside three Home Depot associates in the 6,500 square foot facility. The Technology Center focuses on major areas for innovation, such as virtual reality, 3D printing and 3D scanning.

“Our working with Georgia Tech in this capacity provides a unique opportunity for the Georgia Tech community to learn more about The Home Depot, and it builds a strong partnership for students to consider us for future employment upon graduation,” said Martin Key, director of IT and site leader at the Technology Center.

Preston Turner is a Georgia Tech undergraduate studying computer science. His team at the Technology Center is focused on designing, building and programming new tools that maintain everyday tasks to allow associates to spend more time providing customer service.  The third-year student enjoys working at the Center and feels that students can bring bold new ideas to the table. “Students have a different way of thinking about things. While in college, you’re still brewing ideas, and you have less knowledge of traditional restrictions in a space.

Erin Sapp, a fourth year Computational Media candidate, agrees with Preston. “To me, this partnership is exactly what needs to happen. Innovation doesn’t easily come in an environment where there are strict guidelines. What’s different about this program is that we don’t have specific thoughts and ideas about how things should be. It allows us to think in a radically different way.”

Erin’s team is working on virtual reality at the Center. “I like experimenting with technology that affects how things look and feel in an environment,” says Erin. The 3D technology allows a user to virtually walk through different aisles of a store and even interact with products.

What may be the most exciting aspect for both the students and the associates is where they will eventually take this technology in retail. “I think there is a lot of up-and-coming location-based technology that will be useful in stores,” says Preston. “I also believe there’s a lot of room for advances in the check-out process.”

To Erin, the future looks promising, “If Home Depot keeps doing what they are doing, I could definitely see myself working in this field, looking at new technology and seeing how we can apply them in places we haven’t applied them before.”