What's the biggest problem with buying furniture? In short, that the furniture is in the showroom and not in your house. Will that sofa fit it your living room? Will those drapes look good with your rug? Do the colors of that new piece jibe with the living room paint?

Unless you have professional designer-level visualization abilities, these questions are hard to answer from the stage managed environs of a showroom. The result, as I am sure you know from hard experience, is that you sometimes buy something that looked great in the store and instantly regret it as soon as you get it home.

No more regret or returns.

But Ikea may have just solved this problem. The tech-friendly furniture giant has released a new, free augmented reality app for iPhone that lets you see exactly what that new chair or bookcase will look like in your home before you even set foot in a store.

"Tap through the app's catalogue of over 2,000 products--nearly the company's full collection of umlauted sofas, armchairs, coffee tables, and storage units--then hold up your phone and use the camera to place the digital furniture anywhere in a room," explains Wired's Arielle Pardas.

Thanks to the iPhone's technical advances, the new app, with its responsiveness and true-to-life furniture that registers the room's shadow and light, is a vast improvement on Ikea's earlier attempts at similar tools. (Pardas' piece has more technical info on the app if you're looking for details.)

The future of retail.

This is fun news for consumers fearful of furniture-buying regret, but the app and its reception will also be of interest to other retailers as companies begin to explore the possible uses of AR.

"Interest in AR for e-commerce purchases is rising -- 58 percent of consumers want to use AR to see how products will look before purchasing them -- and the furniture and home improvement markets are quickly moving on this trend," notes Business Insider.

With it's huge size and massive customer base, Ikea is well positioned to get the ball rolling on these applications for AR, illustrating the possibilities for the tech, raising customer expectations, and setting off a fight among competitors to provide similar or better tools.

"This is going to change how we interact with computers, and it's also going to change how we shop," Michael Valdsgaard, the Leader of Digital Transformation at Ikea, told Wired. He's probably right.

Looking for a demo? Here's a quick promo video from Ikea to give you an idea:

Published on: Sep 21, 2017