The future of furniture shopping? A closer look at IKEA Place.

Lara Williams

Lara Williams, Editor-at-large

IKEA Place was one of the first ARKit apps to hit the app store with the release of iOS 11. But is this the future of furniture shopping?

We all know the pains of buying furniture. Will the bookcase fit in that corner? How much room will that sofa really take up? Trips to IKEA have long been amusingly referred to as the greatest test of a relationship’s strength – can you survive the kitchen section?

But the IKEA Place app is here to help – by physically bringing the furniture catalogue into your own home. Virtually physically that is.

Using Apple’s new ARKit engine – it scans your room, taking measurements and analysing depth using the iPhone’s camera.

Then, the magic happens. Users can pick from a selection of 2000 items from the IKEA catalogue. The 3D furniture pops up with 98% accuracy and, picks up the lighting and the shadows in the room too – making it as realistic as possible.

A Vast Improvement

IKEA first started experimenting with this kind of AR shopping experience back in 2012.

Back then however, users had to flick through the chunky paper catalogue and spend time calibrating the app. Even after that – furniture might turn up in miniature or become gigantic, then proceed to float around above the users head. It was, in other words, unreliable.

The UX in IKEA Place is far better. More choice, more reliable and less work for the user – this could feasibly change the way users shop for furniture.

Still some hiccups

Ikea place AR app

Source: The Verge IKEA Place doesn’t do so well in cramped spaces yet.

While the app works remarkably well – allowing you to walk around your new virtual coffee table to examine it from all angles – FastCompany’s Jesus Diaz found some some bugs.

You can’t yet ‘hang’ items on the wall – the app relies on floor tracking. There’s also no search: “Browsing the catalog is really tedious, requiring you to scroll through seemingly infinite rows of tiles to find what you want. I’m not exaggerating: It took me almost a minute to scroll all the way down to the Eket bookshelf modules, which is absurd.”

These bugs are little tweaks that’ll make a huge difference to the UX, but Diaz suspects that: “These features don’t depend on IKEA but Apple’s ARKit current capabilities.”

The Future of Furniture Shopping?

So is this the future? In a word, yes. While hardly as exciting as some of the AR game prospects, the app functions well enough to improve the experience of buying furniture. There’s less measuring stress, less arguing over what will and won’t work in our living spaces.

iPhone X Ikea Place ar app

Source: IKEA

IKEA may be the first, but many other interior businesses have followed suite already – including Wayfair and Houzz – proving that this is a technology retailers need to adopt.

In an era where e-commerce is on a steady rise, apps like these only improve the experience and increase the likelihood of a sale. AR is one way of bringing the benefits of shopping in-store to home.

As Wired points out, retailers are the natural first adopters of AR: “While developers figure out exactly how to incorporate augmented reality into every facet of people’s lives, retailers will be steps ahead with tools that have a huge impact on the buying experience.”

The opportunities are endless – virtual dressing rooms could help us to see if our bum would look big in that, and art galleries could let us try out pieces of art on our walls before we invest.

Michael Valdsgaard, Leader of Digital Transformation at IKEA, told Wired that: “This is going to change how we interact with computers, and it’s also going to change how we shop.”

I don’t think he’s wrong.

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