This story is part of, CNET’s exploration of the next stage in the internet’s evolution.
At Meta’s first store, I enter a well-decorated room to try out a portable video chat device known as the Portal Go.
On the device’s screen, a friendly worker — he calls himself Casey, a name many of the store attendants have used — walks me through everything you can do with a Portal Go. He describes the device’s smart camera, which pans and zooms as you move. He reads an augmented reality-enhanced version of a Dr. Seuss book as if he’s a traveling parent saying goodnight to his children.
I pull out my phone to record a video of my video call with him. He flashes me the peace sign.
It was all very meta.
Portal Go is just one of the devices you can try out at the Meta Store. Located at Meta’s campus in Burlingame, California, the shop also displays virtual reality headsets and smart glasses. The campus is where Meta employees are working on the company’s vision for the metaverse, the virtual worlds in which people will be able to work, play and socialize. Meta, formerly known as Facebook, gave reporters a peek this week before the store opens to the public on Monday.
The 1,550-square-foot space underscores that Meta is getting increasingly serious about creating consumer hardware. The company is following a path of opening physical stores that Apple has made a success. Google and Samsung are also trying the approach, as have other companies.
Still, Meta has an uphill battle when it comes to turning its vision of the metaverse into reality. Products such as smart glasses and VR headsets aren’t as popular as smartphones and laptops. Facebook is well known for creating the world’s largest social network, but some people don’t even know the company also makes consumer hardware.
Meta hopes that as more people try out these gadgets in the store, they’ll understand why CEO Mark Zuckerberg thinks the metaverse is the successor to the mobile internet.
“Once people experience the technology, they can gain a better appreciation for it,” Martin Gilliard, head of the Meta Store, said in a statement. “If we did our job right, people should leave and tell their friends, ‘You’ve got to go check out the Meta Store.'”
The way it’s tucked away between reflective buildings, you might pass right by the Meta Store if you aren’t paying attention. It doesn’t look like a traditional storefront, and it isn’t in a shopping center. A blue-and-white sign for the Meta Store sticks out among the futuristic-looking vertical fins that line the building. Inside, the space is filled with earthy tones, beige pottery, plants and tranquil music. The industrial ceiling looks intentionally unfinished. Crane your neck up, and you can see white pipes.
Lining the wall on one side of the store is a shelf of Ray-Ban Stories, smart glasses that allow you to snap photos, record video and listen to music. You can try out different pairs, but you won’t be able to buy any at the store. They’re only available for purchase directly from Ray-Ban.com. A worker pulls out the charging case and a pair of glasses, showing me how to use the smart glasses.
Meta’s Portal video chat devices and Quest 2 headsets are available to buy in the store.
On another side, a wall-to-wall curved LED screen displays what you’re seeing in virtual reality when you place the VR headset Quest 2 over your head. You can play games such as Beat Saber, Golf Plus, Real VR Fishing and Supernatural on the device.
Retail workers, dressed in dark blue shirts with Meta’s infinity sign logo, also seemed ready to answer questions customers could throw at them. Worried about privacy? Portal’s video chat device has a camera cover as well as a way to switch off the microphone and camera. Too expensive? There are different options for different budgets.
The Meta Store will be open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.