Swedish company Ikea has taken ready-to-assemble furniture into a new dimension with their 2014 catalog. The catalog offers a virtual “try before you buy” experience with the addition of an augmented reality version.
Augmented Reality (AR) is a live view of a physical environment that is augmented by computer generated sound, graphics, and/or video. Some of the most popular augmented reality appliances around include the often mocked but certainly interesting AR eyewear, Google Glass.
Other technology being developed include head mounted displays, contact lenses, virtual retinal displays and even a somewhat intimidating laser based hardware called EyeTap. Finally, to move the technology a little further away from our eyes, spatial augmented reality (SAR) augments a real world space using digital projectors.
In the case of Ikea, the augmented reality is accessible through a tablet app downloaded from Google Play or Apple’s App Store.
Scan page to see more
To kick off the AR catalog, flip through the catalog and watch for a page with simple “scan page to see more” text running up the side. To make the physical catalog feel like part of the experience, the text resembles a link like you would find in an application or online. It even comes with its own button-like icon.
Ikea has released a video to demonstrate some possible uses for the AR app. They are certainly focusing on the potential fun families could have. The base of the Ikea Furniture application uses your tablet’s camera so the experience is just like taking a picture with extra options displayed on the screen. This lends itself well to the posed picture antics the video showcases.
One nice choice in the app is the way they handle furniture positioning. You set the initial position of the item using the catalog itself. That is, position with the catalog laid where you wait the piece centered. If you want to alter the angle just walk around. You could easily wander the whole house deciding where different items would look best.
The not so cool thing. You technically need a physical copy of the catalog. You can get one direct from Ikea though! Browse to info.ikea-usa.com/Signup/ and fill out the form. But it’s not all bad news.
There is no signup required for the app. Just select your region and language. That’s a nice change. Even cooler, I was able to get the app to recognize a page out of the online Ikea catalog. So perhaps you don’t have to wait for a physical copy to get started.
But wait, the cover of the catalog was used as a marker within the app to place furniture and determine space dimensions. Because the app knows the exact dimensions of the physical catalog, it can calculate how large the placed item should be.
This type of marker was common in augmented reality applications but is losing favor. Early versions of the virtual fitting room software, Webcam Social Shopper. The physical marker for garment placement has since been replaced with facial tracking software.
So, until a physical copy of the Ikea catalog arrives, we’re stuck hoping for the best with a copy we printed from a screenshot of the digital catalog.
Or, maybe I’m not that desperate to see where this end table will look best.
Jon Reid is an IT professional working in Corner Brook. His column appears every other Tuesday in The Western Star.