I visited Meta’s first retail store that sells virtual reality and augmented reality devices.
Inside, the store was bright and welcoming and had loads of wearable tech products.
But overall, I was underwhelmed and felt the store didn’t live up to the online hype.
Meta — the corporate parent company of Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Oculus, formerly known as Facebook, Inc. — has made it clear it believes virtual and augmented realities are the future of the human experience.
The tech company currently has three product lines (Meta Quest, Meta Portal, and most recently Ray-Ban Stories) to help customers explore what the company’s homepage says is “the next evolution of digital connection.”
Now, Meta is debuting its first flagship retail store in Burlingame, California, about 13 miles away from the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park. The store will open to the public on May 9, and I visited the store in person for a preview. Here’s what it was like.
Getting to the retail location by car takes about 24 minutes from downtown San Francisco, but once you arrive, locating the store can prove a tad cumbersome.
The Meta store sits in a sprawling industrial park with offices and outdoor spaces that have mostly have the same modern, cookie-cutter design.
Outside, you’ll see a sign that includes Meta’s blue infinity logo splayed simply above the word ‘store.’
Passing through the tinted glass door, I entered the relatively small retail space and was greeted by an ocean of wearable tech.
The company’s Portal products — Meta’s family of video-calling devices — are displayed on a series of tables.
The most interesting showcase is reserved for Meta’s series of smart glasses, and I asked to try out a pair.
An “experience expert,” which is the title given to the Meta store’s on-floor employees, handed me an oblong tray that contained the Ray-Ban Stories smart glasses.
Of all the products available, these smart glasses were the main item I’d consider purchasing. They allow you to take pictures and video without opening your smartphone, and can also play music and take calls via a set of built-in microphones and open-ear speakers.
Toward the back of the store, there’s a wall of accessories like charging docks and headphones that pair with other Meta products.
Also in the back of the store is a massive, wrap-around monitor screen that can mirror VR games being played by customers demoing the Oculus headsets.
There’s also a small, soundproof room in the middle of the store with a single chair where customers can sit down and test out interactive devices.
This room felt a bit zoo-like, however — the entire left side of the room is made up of thick, clear glass that looks into the main retail space, allowing passersby to ogle while you fumble through a myriad of AR filters.
The Meta store’s ambiance had brief echoes of the Apple Store locations we’ve all come to synonymize with quality and consumer-product fit.
But in the end, after perusing the interactive gadgets for about 30 minutes and chatting with a few more employees, I left the store feeling rather ambivalent and underwhelmed — a classic case of something that didn’t quite live up in-person to the online hype. Redecorating the store to not make it feel like it was pulled from a 2019 Ikea catalog would add a touch of true uniqueness.
Overall, Meta’s first retail location felt more like a glorified Best Buy display counter than anything else, and I don’t feel the need for another visit anytime soon.
Matt Charnock is editor-in-chief of The Bold Italic and weekend editor for SFist and Hoodline. When he’s not buried deep in his Google Drive, you can find him exploring any one of San Francisco’s many parks and iconic staircases.
Read the original article on Business Insider