Virtual reality waded deeper into the mainstream this week with the launch of the IKEA VR Experience, a pilot app that lets consumers create a kitchen space that they can become fully "immersed" in with the help of a special headset. It follows Lowe’s Holoroom, a similar design tool that launched in six stores last November and has since expanded to 19, with more possibly on the way.
“Virtual reality is developing quickly and in five to 10 years it will be an integrated part of people’s lives," said Jesper Brodin, managing director at IKEA of Sweden and Range & Supply Manager at IKEA Group, in the news release.
No matter how thorough the design is on a home remodel, until you’re actually standing in your renovated space, you can’t know for sure how it will feel. Maybe the sight line from the kitchen into the family room won’t be quite what you pictured. Or the sunlight streaming in from a window will be less than you expected.
Of course, by that time it’s too late—which is why VR really does have the potential to transform the way homes are built and remodeled. The technology, which combines 3D renderings with a VR headset, lets you design a space and then walk through it.
With the IKEA VR Experience, consumers use the app to explore one of three kitchen room settings via an HTC Vive headset. With a simple click, you can change the color of the cabinets or even stretch yourself from a 3-foot-3 child to a 6-foot-4 adult. That could result in far more functional spaces.
The Lowe’s Holoroom lets customers design a kitchen or bathroom using products in the store. Their design is then turned into a YouTube360 video that can be experienced with a Google Cardboard headset.
You don't have to visit IKEA or Lowe's to experience VR. As we reported earlier this year during our coverage of the 2016 Design & Construction Week in Las Vegas, the Canadian software company Cadsoft has a $100 VR product called Personal Architect that's available today for home remodelers anywhere. Through basic point-and-click action, you build a 3D model of your space, say a kitchen, and then drop in the various components, including appliances, cabinets, counters, and floors.
It’s all done with compressed digital images, called jpegs, meaning you can populate the model with any digital image. For the countertop, you might use a picture snapped with your smartphone at the showroom, while the appliances could come from SketchUp’s 3D Warehouse, an open source library which includes products from most major manufacturers.
The Cadsoft technology will be compatible with Oculus Rift headset, which ships to consumers this summer for $600. If you have a Samsung smartphone, the software also works with Gear VR, a headset available now for $100.
“VR is even bigger than the switch from 2D to 3D,” says Jack Zimmer, who uses the Cadsoft products in his architectural design firm in Colgate, Wi. “For the client to be able to walk up to the sink and know they need a few more feet to the left for when they’re doing the dishes, that’s a major game changer.”
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