Today IKEA is launching a new AI-powered interactive design experience called IKEA Kreativ for IKEA.com and the IKEA app. The new feature allows US customers to design and visualize their own living spaces with digitized furniture on their smartphones instead of traveling to the physical store where they are likely to be distracted by the warehouse-shaped labyrinth of showrooms, blue shopping bags and Swedish meatballs.
Currently, the IKEA Kreativ feature is available on iOS devices and desktops. It’s coming to Android devices later this summer. The AI (Artificial Intelligence) experience is expected to launch in other countries in September. However, there are no exact launch dates.
With IKEA Kreativ, the company is taking steps towards digital transformation. According to IKEA, it is the first fully-featured mixed-reality design experience for true-to-life and accurate interior design in the home shopping industry, bridging the gap between e-commerce and in-store customer journeys.
Virtual home design platforms are not new. In fact, the Swedish retailer was one of the first furniture companies to experience the AR wave in 2017 with its IKEA Place app. The app works with Apple’s ARKit so customers can scan a room and place an IKEA chair, bed, etc. in the space. There is also visual search technology that recommends similar furniture when a user scans an item already in their home. Amazon, Wayfair, Target, The Home Depot, Overstock, Houzz and others have implemented AR apps to help customers design a room of buyable products.
But IKEA Place only lets you do so much. It’s essentially similar to Amazon’s “View In Your Room” feature in that it’s designed to see how furniture will appear in a room when you look through your phone’s camera. However, this can still be useful, so IKEA says users can still use the separate IKEA Place app alongside the updated IKEA app.
IKEA Kreativ captures a wide-angle 3D projection and allows the customer to design the entire space from head to toe. It uses spatial computing, machine learning and 3D mixed-reality technologies developed by Silicon Valley AI specialists Geomagical Labs, which Ingka Group acquired in 2020. The feature uses similar AI and computer vision technologies used by self-driving cars, such as AI neural networks trained to recognize the objects and geometry of interior spaces, stereovision algorithms to see in 3D, computational photography algorithms, and mixed- reality 3d graphics.
Customers have the choice to design their own spaces or choose from over 50 3D showrooms that are fully furnished, upholstered or empty. IKEA Kreativ can also erase existing furniture from an image, so you can start from scratch in a space that already exists. There is no technology yet where furniture can disappear into the real world with just one tap. But it would be nice.
After testing the beta feature, we found that the steps to scan a room took about two minutes, and then it took another five minutes to prepare and upload your room image. A traditional AR experience like IKEA Place is faster; however, it will be a less real-life experience.
The first step is the IKEA Kreative Scene Scanner, which requires a user to get the widest view of the room with a smartphone camera. The app instructs you to step back and center your mobile device, then steer the camera side to side by rotating your wrists and keeping your elbows in. By doing this, you need to capture the room in five spots. The second step is to overlap the images by waving the phone in a figure-eight motion. The app will then let you do this a second time after you step to the right or left.
While we found this tedious, it provided accurate results and allowed us to design the room quite simply. Since this was just the beta, there were a few glitches as well. For example, when opening the test catalog, the app kicked us out a few times. Hopefully this will not be the case at launch.
Once existing furniture is cleared, users can start designing the blank canvas of real-scale furniture from the entire IKEA catalog, including the ergonomic home office chairs, reasonably priced rugs, and those LED wall lights you see all over Instagram. Yes, that’s right – you can also digitally attach objects to your walls.
Users can place different items as they can be stacked and moved. Although there are more than 12,000 items in the IKEA catalog, the number of furniture that can be placed in one design is of course limited.
All selected products can then be added to the shopping cart or saved in an IKEA account for later. There’s also the option to share a finished design with friends, family, or even an interior designer at IKEA.
“We are working hard to help people envision a better life at home by combining real technological advancements with fun and magical user experiences,” said Brian Totty, CEO and founder of Geomagical Labs, in a statement. “We are super excited to share our first products and look forward to making these capabilities even more useful and awesome in the years to come.”
Parag Parekh, global chief technology officer at IKEA and co-acting chief digital officer at Ingka Group, added: “Ingka Group is passionate about helping people create better lives at home, and we are constantly looking to add value. add to the experience of our customers, both online and offline. Through Geomagical Labs’ innovative, intuitive technology and a simple digital experience, we believe IKEA Kreativ will break down barriers to home furnishing shopping, empowering people to move from inspiration to reality and design their perfect home.”
IKEA Kreativ was first tested in April 2021 by one million customers and received “phenomenal” feedback from customers, Parekh told TechCrunch. He also said there was a lot more in the pipeline for the feature, including working on a way to change the paint colors on the wall without, you know, picking up a brush.
Updated June 22, 2022, 1:30 p.m. ET with editing of “lidar-powered iPhones.” The feature works for all iOS devices and desktops.