How would you like to see how a new sofa, wallpaper or paint scheme looks in your home before you go out and buy? With augmented reality (AR) and your smartphone it’s perfectly possible, and these sorts of apps are becoming more popular by the day.
Augmented reality works by overlaying things into the world around you through a camera, typically the one on your smartphone. If you remember the Pokemon Go phenomenon that gripped the world earlier this year then you’ll understand the basics. Point your phone anywhere you like and the app will overlay images into the environment – making it look like they’re actually there.
You can often interact with these objects too, making them larger or smaller, changing colours, or changing where they are in the space, and it’s this functionality that makes augmented reality so useful.
Apple and Google have put their considerable weight behind AR and huge retailers, including Ikea and Amazon, have jumped on the idea too, creating apps that let you preview how furniture, rugs and even paint will look in your home, so you don’t buy a new sofa that doesn’t fit your space or match your decor.
Top smartphones for 2017 – choose a great phone to begin your AR journey
Amazon’s new AR app
Amazon has recently launched ‘AR view’ on its Amazon shopping app. For now it’s only available for customers with an iPhone 6S and higher, using iOS 11, but the concept could well be the future of online shopping. The idea is simple – choose a product you’re interested in from Amazon’s website – from small appliances and cookware to tables and tech, and you can hold up your phone to see how it will look in the home.
This may not be as useful as checking the size of a sofa, but it will help you decide if the walnut or oak finish on the 2nd generation Amazon Echo looks best on your book shelf, or whether you want a 55 or 60-inch TV.
Take a look at how it works below – and be sure to check out our guide to Black Friday deals on home products to narrow down your shopping list.
Ikea Catalogue – sofas, tables and more
For some, a trip to Ikea is a fun day out. Grab some Swedish meatballs, sit on a few sofas and end up buying a spatula. Great fun. But for others, it’s a hellish, one-way trip around crowded aisles desperately trying to find that one rug that will really tie the room together.
The Ikea Catalogue app is great if you fall into the latter camp, but even if you love visiting the big blue warehouse, the app is a great way to get your fix between visits.
Unsurprisingly, it lets you browse the entire Ikea range, but that’s the boring bit, it also lets you see how all that Swedish furniture will look in your house.
The app will overlay rugs, tables, sofas, lamps and more into any room of your house. The products are to scale, so you’ll know whether a new arm chair will fit in your nook without getting your tape measure out.
If fitted kitchens are on your radar, be sure to check out our list of best and words kitchen brands.
Dulux Visualizer – painting and decorating
Before you pop out for some testing pots, you might want to give the Dulux Visualizer app a try to narrow things down.
You can choose any colour from Dulux’s enormous range and a quick tap on your phone screen will instantly paint the wall in your chosen colour.
There’s the option to take a picture too, so you can easily compare different colours and, once you’ve made you choice, you can buy the paint from within the app.
All things are not equal when it comes to DIY supplies, as our guide to best DIY shops and websites explains.
What do you need to use AR?
The beauty of AR is it’s really easy to give it a try – all you need is a smartphone. Many AR apps will work whether you’ve got the latest software from Apple and Google, but you may find some of the more advanced ones don’t work if you’ve got an older phone.
iPhone users should update their devices to iOS 11 to get access to ARKit, as Apple is calling it, and a whole host of AR apps.
Android’s software is called ARCore. It’s currently available on Pixel 2 handsets and the Galaxy S8, but Google is planning to roll it out to as many handsets as possible by the end of the year.
What’s next for augmented reality?
Much like virtual reality, the sky’s the limit. The fact that Apple and Google are getting involved by creating a platform for people to build more AR apps means they clearly see potential for future growth.
Useful apps like Google Translate – which allows you to hold a phone up to a street sign or menu written in a foreign language and see it in English, and Layar, which brings magazines and landmarks to life when you hold your phone up to them, are just two examples of a wealth of content around today, and plenty more is expected in the future.
Keen to get involved in more virtual worlds? Find out how to get started with virtual reality.