Facebook said Monday that it’s opening its first physical retail space — its latest gambit to transform itself from a social media platform into a hardware giant inventing the ‘’metaverse.’’

In the store, customers will be able to test out Facebook’s growing line of smart hardware devices including its virtual reality headset Quest 2, its smart glasses Ray-Ban Stories, and its video-calling device Portal. The company will also sell some of the devices directly in the store.

The new physical space is the latest development in Facebook’s long-term plan to build out immersive virtual worlds it calls the metaverse. Facebook has been spending billions on its Reality Labs, the division tasked with developing virtual and augmented reality hardware and software, to create the underlying technology. The company envisions users will eventually want to adopt avatars to work with colleagues in virtual board rooms, attend digital events with friends, and shop in virtual stores accessed through virtual and augmented reality-powered services.

‘’The best way to understand virtual reality is to experience it,’’ CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a statement. ‘’At the new Meta Store, anyone can demo popular apps on Quest 2 and project what you’re experiencing onto a big wall for your friends to see.’’

Facebook changed its corporate name to Meta in October in an effort shift its brand from a social media focused business embroiled in controversy to a company that was again on the cusp of reinventing the way people communicate.

The name change followed a political crisis after a whistleblower turned over reams of internal documents to Congress and the US Securities and Exchange Commission, prompting lawmakers and advocates to call for the tech giant to reform its business practices. Critics said the documents revealed the company made design and policy decisions that exacerbated mental health issues among some young users, amplified political polarization, and exposed vulnerable regions to harmful content.

But the promotion of the metaverse, which was supposed to help the company move away from its past controversies, is already proving problematic in some ways. The Washington Post has reported that lax moderation is already arising as an issue when it comes to protecting children.

Facebook also sees its investment in hardware as a chance to diversify its business model at a time when it faces several threats in the marketplace including new rules imposed by Apple that aim to limit the social media giant’s ability to collect information on iPhone users to target them with advertising campaigns. If Facebook sells its own hardware devices, it won’t have to rely on other companies to get its services into the hands of users.

Facebook is fighting to grow its userbase at time when newer social media apps such as Snapchat and TikTok are growing in popularity, particularly among younger people. Facebook reported in February that for the first time it in its 18-year history the platform lost daily users, falling by about half a million users in the last three months of 2021.

The Meta Store, which will open next month, is roughly 1,550 square feet and is located near the headquarters of its Reality Labs division in California.


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