To Build the Metaverse, Meta First Wants to Build Stores

The social networking company has discussed opening physical stores to showcase its virtual reality and augmented reality devices.

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By Mike Isaac

SAN FRANCISCO — One of Mark Zuckerberg’s first steps toward building the metaverse may be physical instead of virtual.

Meta, the social media company formerly known as Facebook, has discussed opening retail stores that will eventually span the world, said people with knowledge of the project and company documents viewed by The New York Times. The stores would be used to introduce people to devices made by the company’s Reality Labs division, such as virtual reality headsets and, eventually, augmented reality glasses, they said.

These devices are gateways to the metaverse, a futuristic digital world where people move from virtual to augmented versions of reality almost seamlessly. Mr. Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and chief executive, last week renamed his company Meta and laid out a vision for pursuing the metaverse as the next social platform. The stores would help show people that virtual reality and augmented reality can be fun and exciting, exactly the way Mr. Zuckerberg sees it.

The aim of the stores is to make the world “more open and connected,” according to the company documents viewed by The Times. They are also intended to spark emotions like “curiosity, closeness,” as well as a sense of feeling “welcomed” while experimenting with headsets in a “judgment free journey,” according to the documents.

Discussions about physical stores predated Facebook’s rebranding by many months, with serious work on the initiative having started last year, the people said. And the project, which is still in development, may not proceed, they said. But if Meta moves forward with stores, it would be a first for a tech giant that has existed largely digitally, with more than 3.5 billion people using its apps such as Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger.

A Meta spokeswoman declined to comment.

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