- Ikea is piloting a virtual reality application that enables consumers equipped with HTC Vive headsets to explore virtual kitchen environments.
- The Ikea VR Experience app, developed in collaboration with French company Allegorithmic, lets consumers explore three life-size kitchen settings, giving them the flexibility to change cabinet and drawer colors. Users also may stretch or shrink themselves to approximate the perspective of an adult or child.
- The app, launching on the Steam gaming platform, is designed to solicit consumer feedback on the possible implications of VR technology for the home, according to an Ikea press release.
With virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) devices projected to become a $4 billion business by 2018, a growing number of retailers are embracing the technology’s potential to revolutionize the customer experience.
Just last month, Lowe’s home improvement stores partnered with Microsoft to test a design tool that uses the software giant’s HoloLens VR technology to display kitchen remodeling options. AT&T previously enabled store shoppers to use Samsung GearVR by Oculus headsets to “experience” a Carnival Cruise, and in October, Tommy Hilfiger employed the same SamsungVR devices to allow customers to “sit” in the front row at a fashion event and view backstage activity.
Ikea now joins the ranks of retailers using VR, but it's no newcomer to AR technology. The Swedish home furnishing giant in 2013 rolled out AR capabilities to its mobile app, allowing shoppers to virtually "place" furniture in their home to determine how an item might fit.
Ikea's VR and AR efforts are somewhat out of character for the company. Only last fall, Ikea Group CEO Peter Agnefjäll admitted to CNBC that the retailer has been slow to capitalize on the possibilities of digital commerce. “We could have been faster, I could agree to that," Agnefjäll said. "But by being late we can skip a step in the technology development, straight to mobile and tablet."
While Ikea's experiential retail stores remain a huge draw, giving customers the opportunity to stroll through fully decorated bedrooms, living rooms, kitchens and bathrooms, the Ikea VR Experience app serves notice that the company is making technological innovation a larger focus.
“Virtual reality is developing quickly, and in five to ten years it will be an integrated part of people’s lives,” Jesper Brodin, managing director at IKEA of Sweden and Range & Supply Manager at IKEA Group, said in a press release. “We see that virtual reality will play a major role in the future of our customers. For instance, someday, it could be used to enable customers to try out a variety of home furnishing solutions before buying them.”