Ikea’s Augmented Reality Catalog Will Let You Peek Inside Furniture


Ikea prints 211 million copies of its product catalog every year. That’s more than 20 times the population of Sweden, the home of the build-it-yourself furniture empire. These are impressive numbers for a print catalog in a digital world, but Ikea is now changing with the times with a head-first dive into augmented reality.

“A lot of digital stuff becomes very interesting when you mash it up with the tangible items of the real world,” said Andreas Dahlqvist, Global Deputy Chief Creative Officer of McCann, the creative agency behind the catalogue.

Augmented reality features will roll out in the 2013 edition of the print catalog, which will arrive in customers’ mailboxes later this month. Amid pictures of Expedit bookshelves and Boksel tables, Ikea fans will see special printed symbols, each an invite to launch new iPhone and Android smartphone apps for an augmented reality experience.

When you wave your smartphone over pages with digital content, a variety of features appear. We haven’t yet seen them in action, but McCann says an “X-ray” feature looks inside the compartments of furniture. The printed catalog pages also interact with 3-D models of products, videos about products, and digital how-to content. McCann says Ikea isn’t jumping on the AR bandwagon in response to Google’s Glass project. Rather, the updated catalog is something Ikea and McCann have been working on for a while.

In early 2011, Ikea enlisted McCann to help bridge the gap between paper and digital. Replacing the paper catalog with an entirely digital catalog made little sense, Linus Karlsson, Global Chief Creative Officer of McCann, told Wired. “If you had a magazine that had 211 million copies in circulation, you just wouldn’t end it. That would be crazy,” he said.

Instead, Ikea decided to pepper the catalog with a digital layer — a much more intriguing proposition than scrapping print entirely, and going straight to mobile. “It became a really interesting exercise, and opened a whole world of opportunities,” Dahlqvist said. “We realized we could tap into a whole new way of digital innovation.”

McCann says it worked very closely with Ikea during the entire project, and realized that Ikea itself — the company, its world view and its product development — could be a source for interesting content opportunities. This led to a series of videos that spawn when you wave your smartphone over a catalog page (see above for an example). “The more you interact with Ikea, you realize they have this amazing knowledge about life at home and home furnishing,” Dahlqvist said.

No words on if any of the videos instruct customers on how to prepare the company’s famous Swedish meatballs. The catalog and the companion apps for iOS and Android will be available on July 31.

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