Facebook owner Meta Platforms opened its first physical store on Monday, giving customers and staff members an opportunity to see and experience its games on its virtual reality headsets and its video calling devices.
The store is located at the main campus for Meta’s Reality Labs unit, in the Silicon Valley town of Burlingame, California.
The unit is developing the hardware products the company aims to sell there, including Ray-Ban smart glasses, Portal video-calling devices and Oculus VR headsets.
Thomas Kobayashi, 29, a software founder who works on virtual reality technology in San Francisco, was among the first in line. “Yeah, this building will be the first like Apple Store. This is history. And we are the first customers. I am so excited about it. I am so proud of it,” said Kobayashi, who bought a Meta Quest 2 headset.
The opening began with a ribbon cutting outside the front door in front of a line of more than 25 people.
Organisers let in around 20 people at a time while the line remained close to 20 to 25 people for the hour that Reuters was there.
Some of those in line were Meta employees. Inside customers had the opportunity to try out some of the technology.
Frank Saunders, 81, a church organist and psychologist in nearby Foster City, was trying the Meta Quest 2 headset for a virtual fishing trip. “I was very impressed. First visually, just with the visual experience. The interactivity of it was absolutely comfortable. And I was getting sound. I was using a fishing demo and it was delightful,” he said, adding that he sees potential for virtual reality.
The opening of the Meta store makes tangible what is largely a theoretical future business for the world’s largest social media company, which has invested heavily in virtual and augmented reality in a push to build the “metaverse,” a term used to describe immersive, shared virtual spaces.
Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg says the metaverse could be the world’s next big computing platform, but he has warned that it may take about a decade for the company’s bets to pay off.
In the meantime, with growth slowing and the company still almost entirely reliant on digital ads for revenue, Meta is cutting back on some of its long-term investments. Martin Gilliard, head of the Meta Store, didn’t comment on any revenue projections but said they were happy with how their products were being adopted.
He didn’t comment on the future of stores but said they were focused on this original location so their developers could learn directly from the customers.
It was important for us to keep the customer experience core to how we build our products, so it made a lot of sense to put it where we’re building our product so we can get that feedback from our customers,” Gilliard said.
When asked where the store fits with the company’s long history as a social media company and its recent rebranding from Facebook to Meta, Gilliard said the store represents a move forward.
“I see this as an evolution of what we are kind of continuing to become. If we think about the Internet moving from a desktop to a mobile experience, what we see now is Web 3 and Metaverse experience being created, and we’ve built products to be part of helping people connect with that,” he said.
In addition to promoting its hardware devices to consumers, Meta is increasingly pitching them to businesses.
It gave a demonstration at the store of conference calls that can feature a mix of virtual reality avatars and traditional video calling.