A 75-pound golden retriever wears a cone of shame near my door. My kids play Switch on our leather sofa. A shoe cabinet – a piece of furniture I don’t really like but which has proven indispensable to my family’s clutter – sits in the background, quietly judging the scene.
And then, with one click, they all disappear, leaving me the same empty room as when I first bought the house. I just scanned my living room with the updated Ikea app, which is relaunching today (along with a similar experience on the web). While deleting my family is annoying, it frees up a lot of room for my imagination. As I drag new Ikea furniture into the space – positioned through augmented reality – I have to admit, this is a very useful way to freshen up a room’s décor without the burden of previous decisions!
Most of the app updates are forgettable. But Ikea’s is powered by a new AI feature called IKEA Kreativ, which promises to clear out any room in your home, making boxes, planters, and furniture disappear so you can build a picture-perfect room without simply relying on your imagination.
The process of getting here was not instant. First, I had to take several photos of the space, aligning the edges of different edges, like stitching together a panoramic photo. Then the app asked me to wave the camera into a weird shape eight – and a bigger shape eight – and then took a few steps to my right to do it again. With every order I made, I lost faith that this might work. Once that was done, I still had to wait another 10 minutes to process.
But when this issue has been completed, I will admit that IKEA has very well fulfilled its promise. Inside the app editor, I saw all the items shown in my room. I can click on any individual piece of furniture (or secret dogs) to delete it. Then, a few more clicks led me to the IKEA digital catalog of sofas, wardrobes, end tables, and more. All of these elements are rendered in 3D, allowing you to drag thousands of Ikea products right into your room where they are automatically resized with appropriate perspective.
Pictures are not perfect. Fabrics in particular appear with too much digital glow to understand what the colors would look like in person. My wood flooring has melted rather than disappeared. But when I pulled out several new partitions in my space, I immediately sensed their size. Then, after a few minutes, I successfully demonstrated that the desk could fit in the corner of the kitchen – no tape measure required.
“People often buy [furniture] “Without context and relying on their imaginations,” Thomas Weinrich, Vice President of Digital Product, IKEA Group USA, said via email. “In fact, 87% of our customers say they want to feel good about their home, but only half know how to do it.”
As Fenrich explains, Ikea wants to offer consumers the same visual experience as shopping at an Ikea store, but without leaving home. To achieve this, Ikea has been following this augmented reality technology for a while – since 2017 when it launched the Ikea Place app. The venue was impressive for its time, but more than anything else, it was a tech show, testing how someone could fit digital stuff into their own space. You can’t actually buy any IKEA furniture on it.
When the company began integrating its digital products a few years ago, Place technology was introduced into the main Ikea app. In 2020, Ikea’s parent company, Ingka Investments, acquired Silicon Valley AI startup Geomagical Labs to improve core AR technologies. As a direct result of this acquisition, you can now wipe the wardrobe in your Ikea app but still have a clean wall when it disappears instead of the black hole. (Artificial intelligence is smart enough to not only see walls, floors and lighting, but also actually uses this information to create new floors and walls where furniture would otherwise stand, generating the illusion of an empty space.) In the future, Ikea says the app will be able to help us update Wall colors, mounting things to walls and ceilings, and even collaborating with others on designs.
When I asked Fenrich how the new app might affect Ikea’s bottom line — would it wipe out some revenue if people had a better idea of what a sofa would look like in their space before buying it? — avoids the question, insisting that it will make Ikea “more affordable, accessible, and truly sustainable.”
In any case, the new Ikea app is an impressive system, especially since once you have all the new furniture and accessories in place, you can add these items to the checkout, right in the app. In the past, Ikea’s visualization tools were separated from its shopping carts. Now, the company is blurring the lines between inspiring a purchase and making a purchase.