IKEA teams with Apple to create an AR-based shopping app

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IKEA teams with Apple to create a "game-changing" AR-based shopping app

Two of the most influential brands on the planet, Apple and IKEA have revealed that they are working together on a new AR-based shopping app that is slated to launch in autumn 2017.

Presented at Apple's Worldwide Developer's Conference on 5 June 2017 and at the IKEA Democratic Design Days on 7 June, the new AR-app will help IKEA customers to visualise what products will look like in their own homes, before purchasing.

Michael Valdsgaard, leader of digital transformation at IKEA Systems, told Swedish website Di Digital that the app is set to be the largest AR platform in the world.

"This will be the first augmented reality app that will enable you to make buying decisions," he said.

Valdsgaard also hinted that, in future versions of the app, the purchase could even take place within the platform. "Ideally, you could put a sofa in your home with the help of the app, and then with one click add it in the shopping cart on the e-commerce site."

Upon its launch later this year, IKEA anticipates that between 500-600 of its products will be available in the app and that, in the future, the app will play a key role in the launch of new product lines.

"When we launch new products in the future, they will first appear in the AR app," Valdsgaard said.

Although the app is not IKEA's first foray into the world of AR – in 2014, the Swedish furniture retailer added an augmented reality function to its catalogue, allowing customers to see what products will look like in their homes – Valdsgaard believes that, thanks to Apple's expertise, it will become "the largest AR platform in the world overnight".

"I think that augmented reality and virtual reality will be a total game changer for retail in the same way as the internet," said Valdsgaard. "Only this time much faster."

In the interview with Di Digital, Valdsgaard also stressed that the app is designed to complement and not replace IKEA's network of 400 stores, although tech will become an increasingly important element in its operations.

In a statement, IKEA told Dezeen: "By getting access to Apple's technology and specialist knowledge in the area of augmented reality we can gain speed in the development of new innovative tools for our customers."

"We want to continue to build on the positive experience of augmented reality that we have gained through the IKEA Catalogue app "Place in your room". Apple's hardware and software platforms provide the stability needed to create a great AR experience. And they have solved critical technical hurdles that help make AR a more accessible tool for real-life decision making."

Over the past year, various leading figureheads in the design and technology industries have heralded AR as a game-changing technology. Speaking at Facebook's F8 annual developers conference, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that the growth of augmented reality will make most of the hardware we use today obsolete.

Meanwhile, architect Greg Lynn, who used Microsoft HoloLens to design his contribution to the US Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale, told Dezeen last year that AR will revolutionise the architecture and construction industries. And columnist Owen Hopkins warned that it could lead to a dystopian world where everyone is trapped by their own views.

The introduction of the app is the latest in a series of new product innovation announcements from IKEA. Earlier this month, the brand revealed that it is working alongside NASA and Lund University School of Industrial Design to produce a collection of space-saving furniture that draws on the logistics of space travel, while in March the furniture giant revealed plans for a series of products with joints that snap together "like a jigsaw puzzle".

While both brands rank highly on Dezeen's Hot List, IKEA was revealed to be the most influential design brand.