Inside Meta’s first retail store, now open in the Bay Area

The first physical retail outpost of the company formerly known as Facebook likely won’t attract much traffic from customers who don’t wear Meta employee badges. That’s because it’s not located in Union Square or Westfield San Francisco Center but rather in Burlingame, tucked into the tech giant’s waterfront campus just yards from an on-site Equator cafe. The showroom, now open to the public, is about the size of a large three-bedroom apartment, like a miniature Apple Store where chrome has been swapped for blond wood and speckled marble.

The most striking part of the showroom is the demo area of ​​the Quest 2, a virtual reality headset from Oculus (which Meta bought in 2014 for $2 billion), where users can play games virtual reality games like “Beat Saber”, “Golf Plus”, “Supernatural” fitness game or, if you’re angling, “Real VR Fishing”. A wall-sized video screen shows what’s happening inside the headset, while a team of Meta employees stand by your side with gameplay tips and gentle reminders to remove the headset if you feel sick. Jokes about the best place to vomit were met with awkward silence.

Besides the Quest, the showroom also serves as a place to test two other technologies. Portal is a video conferencing tablet that was launched in 2018 and had a moment at the start of the pandemic. The second gadget, Ray-Ban Stories, does a lot less than you’d expect, for better or worse. They’re basically slick sunglasses with a hidden camera and tiny speakers. Last year, SFGATE columnist Drew Magary gave a pair a test, calling them dystopian and predicting we’d all end up owning a pair.

Inside the new Meta Store in Burlingame, California on May 4, 2022.Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATE

Nice to Meta you

The real reason most people end up in a Meta store is to test out the Quest headset.


As someone who was asked by his employer to watch Mark Zuckerberg’s entire metaverse presentation, I was particularly curious to see the future of Facebook through the lens of a brand new Quest 2, which the sleek, white design is $299.

I signed up for the demo and waited for a text message telling me it was my turn, a feature clearly intended for locations near other businesses. During this time, I browsed through a list of games on the store’s so-called “wonder wall”. The vertical touchscreen showed demos of big-budget VR titles like “Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond” and “Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge,” plus oddities like a nightclub emulator and their platform. -open-universe metaverse form called “Horizon Worlds”. .” Unfortunately, none of these titles were available to try – true to the display screen’s catchy name, when it came to the quality of these marquee titles, all I could do was wonder.

SFGATE Culture Editor Dan Gentile tries the game

SFGATE Culture Editor Dan Gentile tries out the game “Supernatural” on the Oculus Quest 2 virtual reality headset at the new Meta Store in Burlingame, California on May 4, 2022. The game premiered on the big screen in the Meta Store.

Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATE

For my personal Quest demo, I chose to try “Supernatural” on the recommendation of the staff, who said it was the most intense game. Once I put my helmet on, the workout app transported me to an immersive Icelandic setting where boxing instructor Leanne Pedante gave me a quick tutorial on hooks, jabs and uppercuts so that I was standing in front of a mountain.

Then the game started and a series of floating orbs started flying towards my face. The format should be familiar to anyone who has played “Dance Dance Revolution” or “Guitar Hero” – just hit the orbs, then hit some more. There were also incoming limbo sticks to dodge and weave, adding a basic element to the workout. After five minutes I felt a little out of breath, then for the last five I was transported to a volcano in Ethiopia where the pace actually got quite intense. I certainly wouldn’t want to be forced to do an hour-long session with strangers.

Those looking for an interactive home workout experience could do a lot worse; however, the demo showed me nothing new. The four titles available to try were basically VR ports of Nintendo Wii games. This may be due to licensing issues or the unpredictability of an open-world environment like “Horizon Worlds”, but players interested in testing the limits of this next-gen technology will still have to wait.

SFGATE Culture Editor Dan Gentile tries the game

SFGATE Culture Editor Dan Gentile tries out the game “Supernatural” on the Oculus Quest 2 virtual reality headset at the new Meta Store in Burlingame, California on May 4, 2022. The game premiered on the big screen in the Meta Store.

Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATE

Metamorphosis

A Meta representative said there are currently no officially announced plans to expand the retail concept beyond the company’s campus, but the expansion seems like a natural next step from the point of view. sales and marketing. The opportunity to turn users into customers who pay with more than their data is obviously huge, but after spending an hour in the store, what struck me the most is that selling VR headsets isn’t not the real value of Facebook coming off screens and into stores.

Mark Zuckerberg has always been and will continue to be a figurehead, but aside from him, Facebook as an entity has always been a bit, well, faceless. Despite the thousands of employees and the small army of contractors who moderate content, most users of Meta products never see or speak with a human who works for the company.

Meta Store employee Katie Contreras explains how Dan Gentile, SFGATE Culture Editor, how to wear the Oculus Quest 2 virtual reality headset at the new Meta Store in Burlingame, California on May 4, 2022.
Meta Store employee Katie Contreras explains how Dan Gentile, SFGATE Culture Editor, how to wear the Oculus Quest 2 virtual reality headset at the new Meta Store in Burlingame, California on May 4, 2022.Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATE

Currently, the only public moments associated with the brand take place in the courts of Congress or on a foilboard. A retail store, wedged between a few high-end clothing boutiques, gives Meta a physical presence. The company doesn’t have the product line to position itself as an Apple-style lifestyle brand, but it seems inevitable that it will use its own version of Genius Bar-tenders (Meta-ristas?) as marketing. frontline in an attempt to soften an image hardened by scandal.

Is this store really something consumers need? At the moment the answer seems to be no, but if they upped the wow factor on the Quest demo and put it in a mall, it could actually be a fun way to kill a few minutes while shopping.




The exterior of the new Meta Store in Burlingame, California on May 4, 2022.

The exterior of the new Meta Store in Burlingame, California on May 4, 2022.

Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATE

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