If augmented reality is the future, this is a glimpse of what’s coming.
IKEA and its external research lab SPACE10 have curated 18 different digital experiences from design and technology studios as part of a new web-based platform called Everyday Experiments. Each uses technologies including augmented reality, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, machine learning and spatial intelligence to help people think about the space in their homes in a different way.
Bas Van De Poel, creative director of SPACE10, says that technology has been influencing and shaping our life at home now more than ever before. “For us, it’s important to keep a close eye on these developments and investigate how they can redefine the way we live at home,” says Van De Poel. This is where the inspiration for IKEA’s everyday experiments came from.
Many of the SPACE10 experiments include uses of augmented reality – a technology garnering both good and bad press right now but undoubtedly a focus for the likes of Apple, Google and Magic Leap. IKEA was actually one of the first brands to roll out an AR app with Apple in 2017, letting people plop down virtual sofas and armchairs in their own living rooms.
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The first Everyday Experiment is a design prototype, Point and Repair. Developed by Amsterdam-based studio Random it lets you gesture at a piece of worn or damaged furniture and see a variety of personalised solutions on how to upcycle it depending on the damage. This could include tutorials on how to repair it yourself or send you over to a page where you can order parts. Then there’s Extreme Measures, which is a speculative design prototype that uses LiDAR to help you visualise and measure the space in your home by filling nooks and crannies with inflatable elephants. Why? To force you to think about the available space in your home.
One of the most interesting of these experiments, from design studio Bakken & Back, is called the Technocarpenter. It uses a combination of AR and VR to help you fashion your own chair – move your palm and finger around the virtual environment and watch as it’s translated into a machine learning-generated seat, all based on how you want it to look.
While these experiments are certainly diverting, you won’t be creating your own chair at your local IKEA, or figuring out how to repair your furniture from home any time soon. All of these are prototypes, and some – like Extreme Measures or Optical Sound System, an experiment that lets you visualise music or sound in the space around you – are entirely speculative.
Like many augmented reality-based projects, IKEA’s is something of a technological chimera – exciting, but nowhere near being at the stage of coming to a home near you in the next few months.
Still, what IKEA and SPACE10’s experiments do hint at is a possible future use of AR. “IKEA is very much interested in the potential of AR. And I guess it’s also no secret that Apple is gearing up for a future where augmented reality glasses are ubiquitous,” says Van De Poel. “We could definitely see some or more than one experiments live on these AR glasses at some point when they are readily available and working.”
But, ultimately, Van De Poel says that the intention behind the experiments isn’t to bring them into the everyday world, but to show the potential of technology such as artificial intelligence and machine learning in relation to the home. “It might turn out that some of these will become more concrete and will be adapted into the larger IKEA ecosystem,” says Van De Poel, “But first and foremost, it’s really about inspiring people, designers and technologists.”
Alex Lee is a writer for WIRED. He tweets from @1AlexL
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