Augmenting reality with Android…and Ivar

If you’re in one of Canada’s bigger centers, you may havehad an Android accessory delivered right to your front door this past week…forfree, no less. The accessory in question? The Ikea catalogue, of course.

Wait, what?

It’s no surprise that a lot of companies are starting tophase out paper catalogues – after all, people just tend to jump online andfind what they’re looking for on company websites. On the other hand, the papercatalogue is such a traditional part of some retail businesses that it’s hardto imagine a company scrapping it altogether.

Despite being printed entirely on paper, the new Ikeacatalogue has a multimedia component to it. Just inside the front page are alist of instructions for getting the Ikea catalogue app, for Android and iOS. Onceyou download it onto your device, it asks you where you are, and which languageyou’d like to use. It’ll download a full digital version of the catalogue ontoyour smartphone. But that’s not the magical part.

While you’re flipping through the paper version of Ikeacatalogue, when you spot a smartphone icon in the upper right-hand corner ofthe page, you can unlock extra content by firing up the Ikea Catalogue app, clicking theScan button, and pointing your smartphone camera at the page. Sometimes it willpop up a video with more information on the products. Sometimes you’ll get aphoto gallery with ideas on how to use the products.

On some pages, though, you’ll get a dose of augmentedreality. For example, if you point your camera at pages 172 and 173 of the newcatalogue, a 3D set of tables will be overlaid on top of the image of thecatalogue – tilt your camera down, and the tables will reposition themselves,all while doing a stacking dance to indicate one of their features(stackability).

It’s a neat little trick, and it’s actually a trick youcan’t do with the digital version of the catalogue: although most of the restof the multimedia features are available in the digital-only version byclicking an icon on the same pages, the augmented reality portion really doesneed the paper version in your camera’s sights to really come alive.

It’s worth noting that for all of the advantages thatdigital can have, there’s still something more familiar and comfortable aboutcurling up with the paper version of the catalogue and browsing…when doing thisdigitally it feels more cold and detached.  

On the other hand, the digital version of the catalogue letsyou tap on your screen to get more information on the products – they’ll appearin a pane below, and you can tap on individual items to get more info, and thenyou can even tap through to the Ikea website for additional information or toorder the item. Of course, it’s impossible to do that with the paper version.

In a way, the paper version of the Ikea catalogue is a bitof a Trojan Horse (or, to celebrate the company’s Nordic heritage, perhaps Ishould say a “Trojan Reindeer”). It’s landed on our doorsteps just the way italways has. But by adding in this additional digital “bonus” content, it’s notonly getting people ready for a time when the digital version is the only version that’s out there, it’sactually giving them a compelling reason to look forward to it.

As for the augmented reality content? That’s just catnip forthe geeks in the audience…whether they know what a lingonberry is or not.


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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Sean Carruthers
Sean Carruthers
Sean Carruthers is a freelance writer, video producer and host based in Toronto, Canada. Most recently, he was a Senior Producer at, where he was responsible for the conception, writing, production and editing of a number of web video shows, including Lab Rats, How Do I?, Status Update, The Noob, and more.

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