IKEA's Place app for iOS previews furniture in your home

Augmented reality could spare you from returning a couch.

Now that Apple's augmented reality platform is nearly here, developers are ready to show off what it can do... and one of the first examples will be particularly handy if you're updating your living room. IKEA has unveiled IKEA Place, an iOS app that uses ARKit to preview how furniture will look at home. As hinted at back in June, the software is smart enough to not only show off furniture at the proper scale (98 percent accuracy, IKEA says), but with the right kind of lighting and shadows. You'll know if that couch is too large for your apartment, or whether or not that reading chair would be too gauche for the room. Naturally, you can share images to ask for your friends' advice and jump straight to the IKEA website to buy your selections.

The app is free, but the dependence on ARKit logically means you'll need to wait for iOS 11 (IKEA didn't say whether or not there will be an Android version using ARCore). It won't include absolutely every piece of furniture that IKEA sells, it should cover the bases: there will be over 2,000 products on launch, including every armchair, coffee table, footstool and sofa that the Swedish firm sells. You'll also see "top-selling" storage units. Don't expect to preview your home office on day one as a result, but it might be an option: IKEA is promising that Place will have a "key role" in product launches.

The concept of augmented reality furniture previews certainly isn't new. However, the most accurate apps have required specialized hardware. Are you really going to buy a Phab2 Pro just to make sure a table is a good fit? IKEA Place theoretically eliminates that hurdle: you can use an off-the-shelf smartphone or tablet and get a reasonably accurate preview.