IKEA’s new Updatables furniture concept combines AR, AI and machine learning technologies to have the pieces themselves “suggest” updates and improvements through additions of new IKEA parts.
Developed by IKEA’s independent research and design lab SPACE10 through its Everyday Experiments initiative and creative studio oio, Updatables are designed to extend the lifecycle of furniture. When a piece of furniture must be discarded, its individual components could enter the circular ecosystem that would present them as solutions for other customers to use in their own modifications.
Consumers would begin the process by using the application to scan a room, which would create a connection to a piece of furniture. The application would rely on AI to give the piece a voice to communicate and share its specific needs with the customer. Consumers would use the application’s AR technology to visualize the design potential to update their furniture.
In an example, IKEA noted that “a neglected armchair might ask for additional storage or a reading lamp to encourage you to sit down with a book more often.” The Updatables technology would encourage playful connections between consumers and household items while promoting circular living.
Updatables are a comprehensive evolution of existing IKEA furniture. The application’s evolutionary algorithm, which relies on machine learning code inspired by biological evolution, yields new elements that illustrate refreshed design options achieved by adding or changing different IKEA parts to create novel combinations. Furniture would develop over time through modifications that would create a new ‘generation’ providing a unique Updatable product that features its own name and lineage.
“Unfortunately, many objects today are more easily disposed of and replaced than upgraded or downcycled,” said Matteo Loglio, Co-Founder of oio in a statement. “We feel Updatables can help inspire people to reduce this waste by giving objects a renewed purpose. By also giving agency to the object, it can share its point of view and unlock a new relationship with us — one where nurturing it can allow it to become something else and grow with us.”
“By connecting with people in this way and increasing the circularity of items, we think sustainability would only increase,” said Georgina Macdonald, Lead Design Producer at SPACE10 in a statement. “Updatables imagines a future where furniture evolves together with other members of the household. This in turn creates emotional connections with objects and encourages a more thoughtful approach toward disposal and waste.”
IKEA has been at the forefront of the furniture segment’s push toward sustainability with its reuse initiatives, use of innovative technology and product offerings, and other brands are catching on. In October 2021, Lovesac debuted its Sactionals StealthTech Sound + Charge, which embeds immersive surround sound by Harman Kardon and wireless device charging technology within its sectional couches, which can be rearranged in different designs in order to evolve with customer taste and changing requirements.