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Meta physical: Facebook parent to open its first real-world store

To truly understand virtual reality, first you need to go outside, interact with actual people...

In a move sure to reassure those pushing for an all-virtual future, Facebook-owner Meta has announced it's opening its first physical store.

Opening May 9 at Meta's campus in Burlingame, California, near its Menlo Park headquarters, the Meta Store will be an interactive demo space where visitors can experiment with the US giant's Portal smart home devices and Quest 2 VR headsets as well as Ray-Ban Stories. Unlike the Portal and Quest 2 kit, the Ray-Ban-branded gear won't be sold at the Meta Store, though, and users will be directed online to purchase them. Meta also announced the addition of a Shop tab on its website. 

The Meta Store, and its showcasing of VR equipment, follows the Facebook parent blowing billions of dollars on developing metaverse-related virtual-reality technology. Its red-ink-stained Reality Labs unit helped fuel an early-February stock slump that erased nearly two years of growth, and from which Meta has yet to recover. Meta Store head Martin Gilliard's announcement this week indicates the internet goliath is unperturbed. 

Meta isn't selling the metaverse at the store, Gilliard said. Rather, Meta sees the retail space as a way to spread the word and get people excited about Meta supremo Mark Zuckerberg's vision for a future of interconnected custom-created virtual realities in which people communicate, shop, work, and play – his concept of the metaverse, in other words.

"The Meta Store is going to help people make that connection to how our products can be the gateway to the metaverse in the future," Gilliard said. 

The Meta Store is starting small: it will be 1,550 square feet in floor area, and feature a variety of devices that the company said it "wants you to interact with ... We want you to pick stuff up. We want you to feel it." That said this is more of a demo store than an attempt to take on, say, Apple's retail empire since the location is not exactly on a main street with a lot of traffic.

The metaverse, and similar fads like NFTs, may have already seen peak interest come and go. Web searches for metaverse and NFT have apparently fallen since the beginning of 2022, and NFT sale prices and average daily sales have dropped considerably.

As Forrester said recently, there isn't a metaverse yet. Meta said its retail store has the goal of showing people what its tech can do right now, as well as sell the metaverse concept, which it sorely needs to do: enthusiasm isn't there.  ®

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