One of the trickiest parts of renovating or decorating your home can be envisioning how various pieces of furniture or appliances will look together in a room. Now, furniture-retail giant Ikea has unveiled a virtual reality experience that could make decorating decisions easy, at least when it comes to outfitting your kitchen.
The Ikea VR Experience is a pilot program launched yesterday (April 5) on the game platform Steam. The app allows users to experiment with different kitchen settings, enabling people to try an assortment of counter or cabinet configurations, switch out furnishings and appliances, and test which colors look best for cupboards and drawers — all without making multiple trips to a store or cracking open a can of paint.
This virtual reality experience will help Ikea evaluate how the technology can be used to better serve the retailer's customers, company officials said. [VR Headset Mega Guide: Features and Release Dates]
"Virtual reality is developing quickly, and in five to 10 years, it will be an integrated part of people's lives," Jesper Brodin, managing director at Ikea of Sweden and Range & Supply Manager at the Ikea Group, said in a statement.
The company, founded in Sweden in 1943, invited customers to provide feedback on the virtual kitchen experience, which Brodin said could spur other innovative ideas for how to incorporate virtual reality into Ikea's retail model.
"We see that virtual reality will play a major role in the future of our customers," he said in the statement. "For instance, someday, it could be used to enable customers to try out a variety of home-furnishing solutions before buying them."
The Ikea VR Experience currently features three different kitchen settings that users can customize to their liking. The virtual kitchens can also be viewed from different perspectives, such as from the vantage point of a child or that of a 6-foot-tall (1.8 meters) adult. This feature could help people visualize a space in three dimensions and solve design issues that might otherwise be difficult to tackle, Ikea said.
But the company is also envisioning how virtual reality could foster a new community among Ikea customers, the retailer said.
"We also see [the] Ikea VR Experience as an opportunity to co-create with people all around the world. We hope that users will contribute to our virtual reality development by submitting ideas on how to use virtual reality and how to improve the virtual kitchen," Martin Enthed, IT manager for IKEA Communications, the in-house communication agency at IKEA of Sweden, said in a statement.
The app has been developed for the HTC Vive virtual reality headset. Ikea encouraged users to send feedback and suggestions to VRDevelopment@IKEA.com. The app will be updated continuously until August, when the pilot program is scheduled to end.
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Denise Chow was the assistant managing editor at Live Science before moving to NBC News as a science reporter, where she focuses on general science and climate change. Before joining the Live Science team in 2013, she spent two years as a staff writer for Space.com, writing about rocket launches and covering NASA's final three space shuttle missions. A Canadian transplant, Denise has a bachelor's degree from the University of Toronto, and a master's degree in journalism from New York University.