I recently visited b8ta in Palo Alto, California for the first time. b8ta is a traditional brick-and-mortar retail outlet that lets consumer’s tryout IoT (Internet of Things) products before making a purchase. The store believes that IoT devices are best experienced in-person as opposed to online and I tend to agree. Technology should be hands-on. It’s the reason why thousands of people flock to Maker Faire (the greatest show and tell on Earth) each year.
The store features a clean, modern layout and is comprised of 4 categories / sections:
1: Sense (wearables, VR and AR)
2: Home (connected home devices)
3: Play (robots, games and toys)
4: Move (electric bikes, drones and skateboards)
Some of the more popular products included: Automatic, BB-8 by Sphere, Click and Grow and of course the suite of Nest products. The products are mounted on stations that are equipped with dedicated tablets that display interactive product demos. Interactive retail is not a new concept. In fact, Apple built its retail strategy around this very premise and many brands have followed suit. However, it’s b8ta’s partner program that is the differentiating factor.
If you have created a product in the IoT space, b8ta will carry the device on consignment and make it available in the showroom for consumers to play with. b8ta also indicates on its website that they record real-time analytics collected by beacon technology, which is provided back to its partners.
After spending 45 minutes in the store with my 10-year old daughter, we decided to purchase Dash, a robot created by Wonder Workshop. Not only is Dash a sophisticated piece of technology, it’s super cute. You can write and compile code in Blockly (or other apps) then send it to the robot to execute. Dash can sing, dance, navigate obstacles and more. I’ll provide a detailed analysis of the product in the near future.
In the meantime, here are some additional photos of b8ta: