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iPhone's futuristic AR dream starts with Ikea

Apple wants to go all-in with AR. Ikea's app will be one of the first to help it get there.

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At WWDC, Apple demoed how you can place virtual objects in real life settings using its AR tech.

James Martin/CNET

If there's one think we know about the iPhone 8 (or iPhone X or iPhone Edition, or whatever it'll be called) it's that the phone will be able to use AR, or augmented reality, to place digital objects in the real world. 

Apple made a big deal about that at its WWDC conference earlier this month when it unveiled ARKit, the software to make it happen. And it named Ikea as one of its partners -- that's about all we really knew. Now, thanks to an interview with Ikea digital transformation manager Michael Valdsgaard at Di Digital, we're getting a little more information on the fruits of that partnership.

With Ikea's app, the famous flat-pack furniture manufacturer will let you see how Ikea's furniture could look in your home before you have to buy or assemble anything, helping you avoid hours Allen-wrenching a Dyfjord only to find it doesn't fit in your closet.

According to Valdsgaard, the app will have realistic 3D renders of 500 to 600 pieces of furniture upon its launch, with items added after that. Ikea also hopes to add a feature that lets you buy furniture from the app after you virtually map it out in your house.  

"Augmented reality and virtual reality will be a total game-changer for retail in the same way as the internet," Valdsgaard said in a statement. "Only this time much faster."

Just don't be surprised if the app doesn't have the exact rocking chair you want at launch -- Ikea's full catalog includes tens of thousands of items. 

AR and VR are picking up steam in the tech industry after several years of slow development and growth. Apple CEO Tim Cook called the technology "huge," claimed it has more potential than VR and said that Apple will become the largest AR platform in the world once the AR technology launches on iPhones and iPads. This Ikea furniture app is important because it -- and apps like it that we've seen for Google's Tango AR platform -- are solid, real-world applications that can clearly convey how AR can benefit people's everyday lives.

But in order to get behind Apple's excitement, we'll need to see even more apps emerge. Ikea says its app will be available in "fall 2017", which puts it in the same time frame as iOS 11.

Article updated June 20 at 1:05 p.m. PT with Ikea's comment. Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

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