IKEA launches virtual reality shopping experience

IKEA has announced the launch of the IKEA VR Experience, a new app for the HTC Vive that will act as a pilot test to explore new ways to transform the retail experience in home furnishings.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

Swedish retail giant IKEA has taken the leap into the world of virtual reality (VR), launching its Virtual Reality Kitchen, IKEA VR Experience in a bid to transform the way people shop.

Released on Valve's game distribution platform Steam, in partnership with HTC, the pilot allows customers to try new kitchen solutions before purchasing.

"Australians are known for embracing the latest technology and innovations, so virtual reality has the potential to transform the way people interact with our products in the home", Tim Prevade, range manager for IKEA Australia said. "We look forward to hearing our customers' feedback on the experience as we continue to explore this space in the future."

The Swedish giant has taken immersive VR one step further, with viewers able to change the colour of furnishings, and to shrink themselves down in order to move around the space.

IKEA said it had been exploring various new technologies for the last few years, trialling different digital tools before identifying VR as one of the ways to move forward.


Virtual Reality Kitchen, IKEA VR Experience.

Image: Supplied

Also on Wednesday, the Australian Museum in Sydney, in conjunction with Samsung, launched two VR documentaries showcasing the technology of London-based Alchemy VR and the distinguishable voice of David Attenborough.

In a first outside of the UK, David Attenborough's First Life VR and David Attenborough's Great Barrier Reef Dive VR gives Samsung Gear VR wearers a 360 degree tour of the first creatures to inhabit the earth and a tour of Australia's Great Barrier Reef respectively.

Kim McKay Australian Museum CEO, described the experience as an "out-of-body" one.

"You turn around and you're literally sitting on David Attenborough's knee, it really is just fantastic," she said. "I hope these [documentaries] will take visitors to a new place and a new level of understanding."

Officially launching the screening at the museum, Deputy Premier of New South Wales, Minister for Justice and Police, Minister for Racing, and Minister for the Arts Troy Grant called the experience a unique opportunity.

"What's really special is that this is the first place outside of the UK where we will be experiencing a living treasure of the world, and David Attenborough taking us to our natural future," he said. "Using technology to showcase the natural wonders to make us appreciate and immerse us in that environment, in a unique opportunity that is being delivered ahead of the curve."

The immersive experience comes courtesy of London-based Alchemy VR technology, which was formed in mid-2014 as the result of a collaboration between Atlantic Productions and its visual effects studio ZOO VFX.

At the time, Atlantic said Alchemy would focus on educational, non-fiction storytelling via VR, and announced plans to work with Attenborough to bring viewers face to face with the extraordinary creatures that first inhabited the planet.

"It's an incredibly exciting time -- VR has all the potential to give audiences an experience they have never had before. There's no grammar in place on how stories should be told in an immersive VR environment, so each new project that comes up presents its own unique challenge. It's an amazing problem to try and crack creatively," Atlantic's creative director Phil Harper said.

"We've already had a lot of input and support from the worldwide VR community, and we hope this collaborative environment will continue -- it's vital to create good VR at this critical early phase of development."

In March, Telsyte predicted the popularity of VR in Australia to accelerate this year, predicting the sale of 110,000 units in 2016 to kick off annual growth of more than 500,000 headsets per annum by 2020, with video game enthusiasts expected to lead the trend.

"Strong market growth will come in 2017 and 2018 as manufacturers ramp up production and more 'must have' use cases emerge," Telsyte managing director Foad Fadaghi said at the time. "The strongest pent-up demand is coming from gamers, who clearly see VR as the next frontier in immersive entertainment."

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