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Pinterest's new AR feature will let you 'try on' furniture, home decor

Buying a couch could be easier with the help of augmented reality.

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Pinterest's new AR feature will let you virtually place furniture in your space. 
Pinterest

Picking a new piece of furniture for your home can feel like solving a puzzle. Is that couch too big? Will a cow print bar stool clash with a granite countertop?

Retailers and tech companies are boosting their use of augmented reality to help customers decide what products to buy. AR lets people superimpose a virtual image onto a view of the real world through their phone's camera, making it easier to visualize what an item will look like in a particular space.

On Monday, digital pinboard company Pinterest said it's releasing a new feature called Try On for Home Decor. The tool will let you see how products from Crate & Barrel, CB2, Target, Walmart, West Elm, Wayfair and others look in your space before purchasing the items. 

The feature is the latest example of tech companies and brands embracing AR, a development that comes as social networks explore the creation of new virtual worlds

Brands such as CB2 and Target already have ways for their customers to shop using AR. Pinterest allows people to see products from various retailers in one place, said Jeremy King, senior vice president of engineering at Pinterest.

"Retailers are happy to work with us because they know people don't typically buy their entire bedroom set from one company," King said. "They want a chance to mix and match." 

Returning a big piece of furniture can be a pain, so it isn't surprising that more brands have been experimenting with AR. Trying on items virtually can also entice people into clicking the buy button. In 2020, Pinterest rolled out an AR feature that lets people try on makeup. Pinterest found that users are five times more likely to buy makeup when they interact with this AR tool and King said the platform hopes to see the same behavior for home decor. 

Even though the ability to visualize AR items in your space has been around for years, shopping with AR hasn't become mainstream yet. About half of US adults have used or are at least somewhat interested in using AR or virtual reality while shopping, according to an October 2021 survey by Bizrate Insights

"We're seeing that interest rise slowly but steadily," said Jasmine Enberg, a senior analyst for eMarketer. "It's young people primarily who are leading the way for shopping with AR." 

On social media, teenagers are already using AR filters to communicate with one another. Incorporating the technology into shopping is a "natural next step" for these social networks. Snapchat, which also has AR tools to try on luxury clothing and purses, published a report with Foresight Factor last year that projected in 2025 the proportion of US Gen Z shoppers who use AR before buying a product will increase by 37%.

Using Pinterest's new AR tool

Home decor and furniture items Pinterest users can virtually place in their space have a cube icon displayed on the upper left side of a "pin," which are bookmarks used to save content on the platform.

When you click on the pin, there's an option to "try in your space." Users are then prompted to move their phone as the camera's technology figures out how far objects are away from you. Depending on the camera angle, the object can appear bigger or smaller. When the item is in the right spot, you click a check button. 

The AR home decor feature will be available in more than 80,000 shoppable Pins, which includes a link to the retailer's website to buy the product. 

Still, using AR to shop can  "be rather clunky" and that will turn some consumers away from embracing the tool, Enberg said.  "As the technology develops and the experiences improve, that's probably going to bring more users into the fold," she said.