If the recent news of Ikea's foray into hydroponic gardens and  bicycles has you confused about what the Swedish-based home company has cooking, don't worry. Ikea doesn't intend to relinquish its position as the world's top furniture retailer anytime soon. The company is building technology to bring its signature in-store experience to life -- virtual reality style.

Ikea just launched an app that allows you to step inside and explore a decked-out Ikea kitchen. By exploring the realm of virtual reality, Ikea is making it possible for customers to virtually interact with their products as if they stepping foot in a brick-and-mortar maze of a store.

The Ikea VR Experience is available for free on Steam, an online game platform. The not-so-great news? You'll need a HTC Vive headset to "play" and explore the 3D kitchen. If you don't have an $800 VR headset handy, here are three of coolest things about Ikea's virtual reality kitchen.

1. Shrink or increase your height. The app gives players a child's eye view of the kitchen. You explore from the perspective of a 3.3-foot child or a 6.4-foot adult. "This could be useful for the user, since walking around the room in someone else's shoes enables you to discover hidden dangers or possible design solutions," the company said in a  press release.

2. Move about the kitchen as if in real life. The app offers a real feel for the space with drawers that open and close. You can even grab a frying pan from a shelf and cook up a meal. And responsibly toss your vegetable scraps in the compost bin.

3. Try out different colors. With the click of a button, players can swap the color of the cabinets from tan to white to brown to grey. See how different finishes look by changing the material of the cabinets and counters.

Simone de Rochefort and Griffin McElroy from gaming site Polygon gave it a whirl and recorded a video so you can get a feel for the app.

The app was made in collaboration with developers at the French company Allegorithmic. It will be available until August 2016, and Ikea is soliciting feedback from players to improve it until then.

Redecorating and renovating your home in virtual reality

Is there a virtual reality shopping app in Ikea's future? Will you soon be able to design your kitchen and try it out virtually to make purchasing decisions?

Ikea hasn't yet shared specific plans for the evolution of their virtual reality app. For now, the goal behind Ikea's VR Experience seems to get customers comfortable and familiar with exploring Ikea products in a virtual environment. It's a fun, novel way to poke around an Ikea kitchen -- almost the same way you would in a real Ikea store.

But Jesper Brodin, Ikea Sweden's managing director and the Ikea group's range and supply manager, made it clear that investing in VR technology is vital for the company to continue to reach customers in the not-so-distant future.

"Virtual reality is developing quickly and in five to 10 years it will be an integrated part of people's lives," Brodin said in a press release. "We see that virtual reality will play a major role in the future of our customers. For instance, someday, it could be used to enable customers to try out a variety of home furnishing solutions before buying them."

Published on: Apr 25, 2016
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