Ikea deletes your living room furniture so you buy more

Ikea just deleted my dog. Well, I guess I deleted my dog, with Ikea’s help.

My 75-pound golden retriever wears a cone of shame near my front door. My children play Switch on our leather couch. A shoe cabinet—a piece of furniture I don’t really like but has proven indispensable for my family’s clutter—sits in the background, quietly judging the scene.

[Image: Ikea]

And then, with a single tap, they all disappear, leaving me with the same empty room as when I first bought the house. I’ve just scanned my living room with Ikea’s updated app, which relaunches today (alongside a similar experience on the Web). While deleting my family is admittedly a disquieting sensation, it makes a lot of room for my imagination. As I drag new Ikea furniture into the space—positioned through augmented reality—I must admit, This is a pretty helpful way to redecorate a room without all the weight of past decisions!

[Image: Ikea]

Most app updates are forgettable. But Ikea’s is powered by a new AI feature dubbed IKEA Kreativ, which promises to clear out any room in your house, making boxes, planters, and furniture disappear so you can build a picture-perfect room without simply relying on your imagination.

The process of getting here wasn’t instantaneous. First, I had to take several photos of the space, lining up the edges of different ones, like stitching together a panoramic image. Then the app asked me to wave my camera in a strange figure eight—and a larger figure eight—and then to take a few steps to my right to do it all again. With each request Ikea made, I admittedly lost a little confidence that this would even work. And once I was done, I still had to wait another 10 minutes for processing.

[Image: Ikea]

But when that hassle was complete, I’ll admit that Ikea delivered pretty well on its promise. Within the app’s editor, I saw all the objects outlined in my room. I could tap any individual piece of furniture (or discreet canine) to delete it. Then, another few taps ushered me to Ikea’s digital catalog of sofas, dressers, end tables, and more. All of these items are rendered in 3D, allowing you to drag thousands of Ikea products right into your room where they automatically resize with proper perspective.

[Image: Ikea]

The visuals aren’t perfect. Fabrics in particular appear with a bit too much of a digital glow to understand how the colors will look in person. My existing rug melted into my wood flooring rather than disappearing. But as I pulled several new sectionals into my space, I instantly got a sense of their scale. Then a few minutes later, I successfully proved that a desk could fit into a kitchen nook—no tape measure required.

“People often buy [furniture] without context and rely on their imagination,” said Thomas Fenrich, VP, digital product, Ikea Group U.S., via email. “In fact, 87% of our customers say that they want to feel good about their home, but only half of them know how to do it.”

[Image: Ikea]

As Fenrich explains, Ikea wants to offer consumers the same visual experience as shopping in an Ikea store, but without leaving home. To accomplish this, Ikea has been pursuing such AR technology for a while—since 2017 when it launched its Ikea Place app. Place was impressive for its time, but it was still a tech demo more than anything else, testing how someone might put digital objects into their own space. You couldn’t actually buy any Ikea furniture on it.

As the company began consolidating its digital products a few years ago, Place’s technology was rolled into the main Ikea app. In 2020, Ikea parent company, Ingka Investments, acquired Silicon Valley AI startup Geomagical Labs to improve its core AR technologies. As a direct result of this acquisition, you can now erase a dresser in your Ikea app but still have a clean wall when it’s gone instead of a black hole. (The AI is clever enough to not just see walls, flooring, and lighting, but also actually use that information to create new flooring and walls where furniture otherwise stands, generating the illusion of an empty space.) In the future, Ikea says the app will be able to help us update wall colors, mount things on walls and ceilings, and even collaborate with others on designs.

When I ask Fenrich how the new app may impact Ikea’s bottom line—will it eliminate some returns if people have a better idea of how a couch looks in their space before buying it?—he sidesteps the question, insisting that it’ll make Ikea “more affordable, accessible, and truly sustainable.”

In any case, Ikea’s new app is an impressive system, especially since once you place all the new furniture and accessories, you can add these items to checkout, right in the app. In the past, Ikea’s visualization tools were decoupled from its shopping carts. Now, the company is blurring the lines between inspiring a purchase and making one.