Augmented reality ‘will be a total game changer’, says Ikea executive

Ikea chief executive Torbjörn Lööf demoing the augmented reality app. Picture: Johan Nilsson

Ikea’s leader of digital transformation has spoken about the company’s partnership with Apple in developing an augmented reality app to help customers visualise what its products will look like in their homes, before buying. “This technology makes it easier to make buying decisions in your own home, get inspired and try many different products, styles and colours in real-life settings with the swipe of your finger,” said Michael Valdsgaard. “I think that augmented reality and virtual reality will be a total game changer for retail in the same way as the Internet. Only this time much faster.”

The collaboration was announced at Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference earlier this month, and in an interview yesterday with Swedish technology site Di Digital, Valdsgaard added: ““The technology makes it easier for our customers to envision Ikea products in their homes before buying them – beyond what is already accessible. And that makes it easier for them to choose the right style, size and color. By getting access to Apple’s technology and specialist knowledge in the area of [AR] we can gain speed in the development of new innovative tools for our customers.”

At the developers’ conference, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi performed a demo of its new augmented reality platform, ARKit, while mentioning Ikea as an upcoming partner in the technology. Similarly, Apple CEO Tim Cook referenced an Ikea partnership in a recent interview with Bloomberg Businessweek.

Many people are working on the technology behind the app, according to  MacRumors, including an ‘innovation team’ of 150 in Älmhult, Sweden, where the first Ikea opened, as well as a 21-person team responsible for the 3D modelling of furniture. The ARKit-powered Ikea app is expected to launch this autumn, following the release of an update to Apple’s mobile operating system iOS 11.