1. How Virtual Reality has turned into an empowering agent, even at home

How Virtual Reality has turned into an empowering agent, even at home

Sweden furniture retailer Ikea AB is using virtual reality (VR) as its primary strategy for innovating new products and manage safety for the future of its customers.

By: | Updated: June 13, 2016 7:22 AM
IKEA, cotton sourcing, swedish furniture makers, IKEA furnitures Ikea has been exploring various new technologies for the last few years, trialling different digital tools before identifying Virtual Reality as one of the ways to move forward.(Reuters)

Sweden furniture retailer Ikea AB is using virtual reality (VR) as its primary strategy for innovating new products and manage safety for the future of its customers. VR is aimed to enable customers try out a variety of home furnishing solutions before buying them. “Democratic design” is the term used by Ikea to denote this. Home furnishing solutions start from the design concept which eventually leads to manufacturing, expressing better functionality and sustainability.

Can we make home products smarter? For instance, to fulfill the everyday issue of where to charge our smartphones, Ikea is introducing induction charging as part of furniture products such as bedside tables and lamps, that can also be USB enabled. “Democratic design is a model having five pillars which include form, function, sustainability, quality and affordability,” says Marcus Engman, design manager, Ikea of Sweden.

“We can see big changes in how the space in our homes is becoming more fluid and we are exploring what this means for both the design and production of furniture,” says Marcus Engman. Design is about exploring materials and challenging traditional ways of production to redefine the concept of comfort. Designs can be supplemented closer to reality by projecting imagery and enhance the object’s appearance with materials of a simple unit—a projector, camera, and sensor. Ikea VR experience is an opportunity to co-create with people all around the world.

Many manufacturers now leverage 3D printing to create prototypes overnight rather than spending days retooling. “We use 3D a lot internally to create images and have been working with this since 2005. The goal of this particular project was to test and try to see if we could make an interactive VR-world with a good image quality. The VR Experience is just in its cradle,” Martin Enthed, development & operations IT manager, Ikea Communications AB, said.

“The first goal is to see if we could create an interactive VR-world with good image quality, has been reached. Knowing that VR will play a major role in the future of our customers, we strive to be at the forefront of the virtual reality development. Therefore, we will continue to work with the technique because we think that this will be used a lot by our consumers 5-10 years from now,” he explains. Martin says, “We see that virtual reality will play a major role in the future of our customers, for instance it could be used to enable customers to try out a variety of home furnishing solutions before buying them. One of the features of the Ikea VR experience is the possibility to change the colour of cabinets and drawers with a click which will help in safety perspective and discover hidden dangers.”

Ikea has 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. Through VR, one can have a virtually realistic kitchen and also offer users the ability to make changes to the interior designs, like changing colours or view the set-up from a different perspective. For instance, users will be able to make changes to how they view the kitchen by either shrinking to a 3.3-foot sized child or by stretching to a 6.4-foot sized adult. The VR pilot test is slated to go on until August, during which Ikea will be gathering consumer experience information in order to enhance the service further in the future.

Manufacturers are making the most robotics, 3D printing and artificial intelligence in an attempt to make the most of limited overall market growth, says a KPMG report. Taking advantage of advances in robotics, 3D printing and AI is critical to driving greater efficiency, lowering costs and improving safety for many sectors and particularly niche suppliers. But it is not just about performance and efficiency; investments into new manufacturing technologies are also a way to enhance agility, flexibility and speed to market when designing and launching new products and services.

Ikea is a Swedish home furnishings company founded by Ingvar Kamprad in 1943 in Smaland in southern Sweden. At the age of five, Ingvar Kamprad started his journey as an entrepreneur selling matches to his nearby neighbours. The name Ikea was formed from the his initials (IK) plus the first letters of Elmtaryd (E) and Agunnaryd (A), the farm and village where he grew up. Ikea originally sold pens, wallets, picture frames, table runners, watches, jewellery and nylon stockings. Furniture was introduced into the Ikea range in 1948.

In India, Ikea plans to open 25 stores in India investing about R10,500 crore over 15 to 20 years. The company is planning to set up its largest Indian retail store in Mumbai expecting at least five million annual visitors with its first store in Hyderabad during the later part of 2017. The company is also evaluating suitable sites in the cities of Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi and at the national capital region to set up retail stores.

 

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