Virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) seem like magic. The technology that was once mysterious and novel has emerged from computer labs and research facilities to become part of everyday life.

While VR places you in a virtual world, AR places virtual objects onto the real world and lets you interact with them. You may have downloaded a few apps onto your smartphone that use the technology, most notably Snapchat, which pioneered AR in the social media space with its popular puppy, deer and flower crown selfie filters, which it calls lenses. Earlier this year the company introduced a set of rear-camera lenses that place virtual objects, like Bitmoji avatars, in the real world using the app’s camera.

But VR and AR aren’t all fun and games; they are remarkable tools for the flooring space. Not only are project specifiers and consumers able to visualize spaces and try out different materials, colors and textures, they can immerse themselves and get a feel for how the space changes with modifications to the flooring.

That’s priceless on many accounts. From the manufacturer’s perspective, it is allowing them to create more room scenes and marketing tools without the time and expense of building live sets to photograph. For consumers and architecture and design specifiers, who are doing more research on their own before ever stepping foot into a store or showroom, VR and AR technology are game changers. A retailer or manufacturer can present a lot of options to clients in a short amount of time, giving them a sense of ownership. It also allows the retailer or manufacturer the chance to connect with their client on another level; they are providing tools that the client can’t get anywhere else, and they will learn to rely on them to help their decision making.

Home furnishings retailer Ikea has been experimenting with how virtual reality experiences will help their customers make more informed choices. In September, the retailer introduced Ikea Place, an AR app that lets consumers experience, experiment and share popping Ikea products into any space. Everything is 3D and true to scale so you can see if it’ll fit.

“Augmented reality and virtual reality will be a total game changer for retail in the same way as the internet. Only this time, much faster,” said Michael Valdsgaard, leader digital transformation at Inter Ikea Systems.

In this month’s issue, Managing Editor Danielle Clair Simpson explores the AR and VR technologies being explored in the flooring space. It’s a new reality, and we have a front-row seat.