IKEA store operator buys startup to boost virtual home decorating tools

STOCKHOLM, April 2 (Reuters) - Ingka Group, the owner of most IKEA stores worldwide, has bought Geomagical Labs so it can use the U.S. startup’s technology to give customers more options when trying out furniture in a virtual version of their homes.

Ingka Group, which operates in 30 markets around the world, said it would integrate the U.S. firm’s artificial intelligence (AI) technology into its website and an app it began rolling out in 2019.

“The company’s AI applications make it easy for consumers to capture and decorate photorealistic 3D representations of their home spaces in minutes, anywhere they are, with everyday smartphones,” Ingka said.

IKEA launched an augmented reality app in 2017 in which customers can already try out IKEA furniture in their home setting.

Using Geomagical Lab’s technology, the new shopping app will also allow users to move around or even throw out their own furniture in the virtual setting.

Ingka, which declined to say what it paid for the U.S. company, bought odd-jobs online platform TaskRabbit in 2017.

The latest acquisition is part of a broader shift towards more digital services and to more smaller inner-city stores in an effort to adapt to rapidly changing shopping habits.

Reporting by Anna Ringstrom; Editing by Edmund Blair