Augmented reality offers new way to shop, by Jennifer Van Grove

Close your eyes. Can you picture that sofa you’re coveting in your living room? Now, open your eyes and pull out your phone — because edgy furniture stores are giving you a tool that’s more accurate than imagination.

It’s called augmented reality. And all you need is a smartphone or tablet.

Take Jerome’s augmented reality experience, which launched at the end of the June. The San Diego-based furniture chain now lets customers click a “see it in your home” button listed alongside products on its website. That action will launch a mobile app that allows people to virtually place true-to-size desks, dining sets and beds in their own home — up to three different items at any given time — and get a better idea of whether or not the pieces are a good fit.

“With furniture buying, visualization is a big aspect of it,” said Scott Perry, the vice president of digital for the family-operated Jerome’s. “The last couple of years, I’ve witnessed customers bringing in paint samples, pillows from a chair, a little piece of carpet. They’ll bring this stuff into the showroom.

So I had this wild idea: what if we had augmented reality so customers could see our furniture in their home with their tablet or phone?”

Actually, the ability to visualize furniture with the help of augmented reality, or AR for short, isn’t that wild of an idea. Early-adopter retailers like Ikea are already experimenting with a similar-but-different tech, virtually reality, to create immersive visualizations such as a life-size, walk-in kitchen where colors and styles are interchangeable.

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