For this post I decided to do explore something radically different and pay a visit to Google's pop-up shop in SoHo. One could argue that this basically serves as a gallery space as it doesn't check the boxes of a typical ‘store’ or retail establishment; you can't buy any products here. It’s sole purpose is to exhibit Google’s tech innovations and products that they have been developing over the past couple years. It’s essentially an exhibition-style compendium of Google products.
Google’s pop-up is all about the experience. It certainly features a bunch intriguing ways to show off its products. It's as much visual spectacle as it is a space for product demos. An example of this is the "Pixel wall" that greets you when you walk in. It's a giant mechanical wall with dozens of rotating colored blocks (or pixels) that displays various images in succession.
The pop-up is an amphitheater-like space with wooden steps and white cushions near the entrance. Natural wood, white walls, and bright pops of color set off the majority of the room. In the center of the store there is a wooden structure in the with the Google logo and colorful G in the center. The wood spans out across the ceiling.
The focus of the 'Made by Google' pop-up is Google's new phone, the Pixel. On the open floor below the wooden column, there are several round tables with Pixel phones for the viewer to demo. There is also a separate partially enclosed space beyond the phones, that where you can test out Google’s Daydream View VR headset. This for me was hands-down the prime highlight of the exhibit. As a design student I can really appreciate the time and effort it took to develop such an complex product, as virtual reality is an incredible feat of incredible feat of engineering and precision. What you see while wearing the headset is so astoundingly vivid and lifelike. Aside from the VR headset, which you can wear while relaxing in the space, they also hand you a handheld remote which allows the whole experience to then become interactive. With Google’s VR, you can explore new worlds, kick back in your personal VR cinema, and play games that put you at the center of action. It most definitely is a memorable experience.
When you're not busy trying out VR, there's this spheroid object made of tablets to look at. The wall by the object reads ‘Smart Gallery’ - Puts search right where you want it, in your own library. The idea is that you would search for something on a master tablet thats on a stand by the sphere, and the tablets would display images instantly in tandem, cycling through various searches in the app (bridges, graffiti, selfies, and so forth). In that way, Google employees working the store can talk about the intelligence of the Google Photos app that lets you search for images without tagging them.
Another highlight of the pop-up was the Pixel Forest - a small, curtained room off to the side of the photo sphere which is filled with fibre-optic cables hanging from the ceiling that create dazzling visual patterns. To me, it was reminiscent of Pippilotti Rist's Pixel Forest. Naturally, there's a Google employee in the room with a Pixel, ready to snap your picture standing amongst the lights so you can see just how well the camera works in dark conditions. Here are two photos they took of us, admittedly, the quality is pretty remarkable: