Ikea is planning to make its Ikea Place augmented reality application, built on Apple’s new ARKit AR development platform, available before the end this month in the Apple app store, according to a Sept. 12 press release.
The app will be usable on Apple devices running iOS 11, the latest software update, and will allows users at launch to choose from a range of more than 2,000 Ikea products to view and move around virtually in any room. The app automatically scales products based on room dimensions, with 98% accuracy, according to the company.
The products viewable in the first release of the app will focus on larger furniture pieces for living rooms: all sofas, all armchairs, all footstools, all coffee tables and top-selling storage solutions that can be placed on the floor. Some of the most recognized Ikea products will be available on Ikea Place, including the Vimle sofa, the Strandmon winged chair and the Lisabo side table.
Ikea is not the first home decor retailer to create an augmented reality app, as Wayfair has had an AR app built on Google Tango available since last year, and recently expanded it to become usable on a second smartphone running Tango.
That being said, a TechCrunch report about Ikea Place noted that Ikea has actually worked with 3D technology for a while, and in fact was among the first large retail customers of Metaio, a small AR technology firm that helped it develop 3D and AR capabilities for the Ikea catalog that were available way back in 2014. Guess who acquired Metaio the following year? Apple. In a way, Ikea was on the ground floor of Apple's ARKit developments, so it seems like a natural for Ikea Place to become one of the first AR apps built on ARKit.
Ikea Place will also have a much larger base of mobile devices to run on at its launch than the two that Wayfair had. The iOS 11 software update is capable of being downloaded on any iPhone model from the iPhone 5's and beyond. That means this app will be usable on at least eight different versions of iPhones, as well as several iPad models. That could help Ikea make an impact with AR on a larger scale than was previously available.
What it also means is that it shouldn't be long before other retailers start leveraging Apple's ARKit to create their own AR apps. AR as a technology has been around for a while, and would appear to be especially useful for home decor retailers and their customers, but up to this point there just haven't been many devices or software capable of presenting AR vividly and accurately. The availability of ARKit, which Apple just rolled out within the last few months, and now iOS 11, should open the door for more retailer AR activity.
In addition to the 98% accuracy claim, Ikea touts its app as being "so precise that you will be able to see the texture of the fabric, as well as how light and shadows are rendered on your furnishings." So far, we haven't had much to compare AR apps on, and it still may be a while before shoppers become so accustomed to them that they compare the virtues of one to another, but it will be interesting to see how quickly other retailers that are developing AR apps make similar or bigger claims.