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19 June 2017

IKEA and Apple will use AR to demo furniture at home before you buy

Ikea is getting in on the AR game.
Ikea is getting in on the AR game.

Image: Gombert/Epa/REX/Shutterstock

Apple’s new ARKit will help to bring an onslaught of new AR games and apps to your iPhone, and at least one of them might wind up saving you some headaches on your trips to IKEA.

The Swedish home goods behemoth was mentioned as a potential AR partner at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) earlier this month, and Tim Cook himself name-dropped IKEA directly in a recent interview. He said Apple had “talked” to IKEA about an app that would inject 3D models of its goods onto an iOS device’s screen, which could take most of the guesswork out of the furniture shopping experience.   

IKEA’s digital transformation manager Michael Valdsgaard shared some new details about the progress the company is making on the AR app in an interview with Swedish tech site Digital.di, which was spotted by 9to5Mac

He called the effort “the first augmented reality app that allows you to make reliable buying decisions,” according to a rough translation of the interview, and said that in the future, IKEA products will launch on the app as they’re rolled out into the company’s stores.  

The concept behind the app is simple. Just point your phone at the spot in your room where you’d like to put your new POÄNG, and you’ll see it right there on your screen in AR to see how well it fits in your space.

Valdsgaard said there will be between 500 and 600 IKEA products available on the app at launch, which he hopes will be later this year alongside the release of iOS 11. There’s no official name yet, but he floated an appropriately Swedish idea: PLATSA, which means “to belong” or “to place.”  

The app presents new potentials for e-commerce, but Valdsgaard made it clear that IKEA’s massive warehouse/meatball emporiums will remain to be a major focus for the company, calling them “our greatest asset.” He doesn’t expect the app will launch with a built-in purchase option, claiming a “tight deadline” might leave that functionality for future versions. 

IKEA’s app could be big for the company, but it might not be the first on the AR block. Google showed off a similar functionality at its I/O conference back in May, using Chrome’s new mobile AR features through a partnership with Wayfair. There’s no word on when that will be available, but when it is it’ll come to phones that support Google Tango.

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