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IKEA’s augmented reality app just got a whole lot more clever

When you step inside an IKEA store, you do so in the full knowledge that it might be half a day — perhaps longer — before you’ll be reemerging into the daylight. And when you do finally make it to the exit, it’s likely to be with a wallet far lighter than when you arrived. That’s just the way it goes with IKEA.

When your purchases get delivered, the final step is to discover whether they actually fit the rooms they were intended for. While most of your judgments may be on the mark, there’ll always be a couch that looks out of place or a dining table that doesn’t quite fit. And situations like that can cause all kinds of hassle.

To reduce the chances of such mishaps, IKEA launched an augmented reality (AR) app a couple of years ago that lets you virtually place pieces of furniture inside different rooms in your home to give you a clearer idea of how they might look.

This week the Swedish furniture giant rolled out a major update for the iOS app (Android update coming soon) that includes a feature called “Multi-placement,” which lets you place several pieces of furniture in a room instead of just one — ideal if you’re moving into a new home and want to see how different pieces of furniture might look together, or if you’re simply redecorating a single room and starting over with all of the furniture.

Along similar lines, another new feature, called “Room Sets,” offers entire collections of furniture for quick placement in a room. All you do is map out a space, select a theme (e.g., home office, dining area, relaxing) and let the app do the rest. If a piece of furniture doesn’t match your taste, you can swap it out by scrolling through various alternatives.

The update also includes the “For You Feed,” offering what IKEA describes as “a daily stream of inspiration, curated collections, and product announcements” that all can be experienced in AR.

“Sometimes we all need that little bit of inspiration that sparks new ideas,” IKEA’s Gerry Rogers said in a release. “That’s exactly what we want to achieve with IKEA Place.”

The app includes a “visual search” function, too, that lets you point your smartphone camera at a piece of furniture that catches your eye when you’re out and about, prompting it to search IKEA’s database for a similar-looking product.

There’s a lot to like about IKEA Place, though its inability to offer any online shopping functionality is bound to frustrate some users. Hopefully, the next update will address this matter.

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