IKEA Takes Kitchens to Virtual Reality

A virtual reality pilot project is taking place inside Swedish megastore chain IKEA. The IKEA VR Experience, currently being trialled inside the IKEA Hasselt store, Belgium, enables customers to try out two different apps meant to help them design and furnish their very own dream kitchens.

In one app, customers can open drawers, cook food and use appliances around the kitchen, and in another, they can change the colors, layout and furniture design of the kitchen. According to DataNews the trial will examine if the application can be used on a larger scale to help customers with their purchases. However, with a ‘shrink’ function enabling the user to experience life as a 3.3ft child along with a ‘grow’ and teleport function, the app seems to be created around play, as well as simply sales.

Virtual Reality Will Play a Major Role in Sales

Range and Supply Manager at IKEA Group, Jesper Brodin says virtual reality will play a major role in the future of shopping. “Virtual reality is developing fast and in five to ten years will be an integrated part of people’s lives,” he said. “For instance, someday, it could be used to enable customers to try out a variety of home furnishing solutions before buying them.”

By using HTC’s virtual reality headset Vive, customers can also access the app via digital distribution service, Steam. To interact with the game, however, users must also own HTC’s hand controllers, available, along with the headset for roughly US$800. Launched in April, last year, the free app, made in collaboration with French company Allegorithmic using Unreal Engine 4 from Epic Games, is not the only one on the market.

VR is the New Social Media

According to Fortune Magazine, virtual reality technology could change the face of advertising and brand awareness as we know it. From trying on clothes to actually buying products inside a virtual store, VR can enable people to shop without ever leaving their homes. Other brands, however, are starting to use VR to build awareness rather than boost sales. Hiking brand, The North Face, for example, has plans to use VR to focus on the lifestyle their brand represents by taking customers to a virtual Yosemite National Park to hike or rock climb.

Director of Digital Marketing at The North Face, Eric Oliver said virtual reality will be like social media was in 2008. Offering entertainment at home will mean the brand will be in the customers mind when they go shopping for a jacket. “We want to elevate [the customers] experience overall and virtual reality is one part of the way we’re doing that,” he said.

Pushing the Boundaries of Interior Design

For interior designers and house hold furnishers like IKEA, VR has an added bonus, ease of communication. According to Globe and Mail, interior designers often have a hard time communicating elaborate concepts to their clients. Using 2D sketches of 3D rooms complete with lighting, furniture, fabric and finishes are often inadequate. New VR tools from start-ups, such as Decorilla and iStaging, and tech giants, such as Google and Facebook’s Oculus Rift, are attempting to combat this.

Clients can be matched with designers from different cities, supplying a floor plan and budget and then designers can create a 3D walk-through plan of their space. IKEA’s Augmented Reality Catalogue, a free app for iOS or Android, enables homeowners to hold up their smart phone or tablet and see a life-size representation of the chosen item in their home.

IKEA in the Forefront of VR Exploration

As part of the ongoing exploration into virtual reality, IKEA’s Etobicoke store in Toronto, Canada is now inviting customers to try out flipping pancakes in their virtual kitchen. “IKEA strives to be an innovative company,” Head of Sales at IKEA Canada, Rob Kelly said. “We know this technology is developing fast and will play a major role in the future for our customers,” he said. The tests are also being offered in the Hasselt store, and several stores in Sweden. Where the company will go after flipping pancakes is anyone’s guess.

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