The Winter Wonderlab is far from a floating barge, but unlike Google’s project on the water it is actually open. I went to investigate this holiday pop-up store before the holidays are over. It’s good for Google to be known as something more than just a search engine and software company by the general public. The Wonderlab also highlights Google's efforts as a hardware maker to draw attention to their Nexus line and Chromebook products. Lets go inside!
Walking in a Winter Wonderlab:
Across the country, there are six locations: Los Angeles (Westfield Topanga), Sacramento (Westfield Galleria), Chicago (Westfield Fox Valley), New Jersey (Westfield Garden State Plaza), Washington DC (Westfield Annapolis), and New York City (Bryant Park). Most locations are a pop-up store within a Westfield mall, but the NYC location is located outside as its own structure in a park.
The pop-up store has different areas: Games, Browsing, Shop, Music, and Videos. The Games area has a table full of 2013 Nexus 7s attached to white Sony headphones. The Browsing section of the Los Angeles store has a table of the previous generation Samsung Chromebook. Other stores have the newer HP Chromebook 11. At the Videos area, is a Chromebook Pixel connected to an HDTV via Chromecast. There is also a Nexus 5 in that section. You have the ability to purchase either a Nexus 7 or Chromebook and receive a $25 Google Play gift card. However, the main highlight of the Winter Wonderlab is not a laptop or tablet which are now easily found in Best Buys or carrier stores. (The Chromebook Pixel will be new to most people as it has a very limited retail presence outside of select Best Buys.)
The main highlight of Google's winter store is a giant snow globe where your friends can enter and be recorded for 2 seconds by a slow motion camera. The camera at a slow speed captures all the silly things you and your companions do with your faces and the wintery props and garments made available to you. As it records, a machine fills the globe with fake snow. You can see my video below, FYI: I'm Santa!
There is a rather ingenious process to enter the snow globe. You can pick up an NFC-embedded card from each table which you then tap to the back of any Nexus 7. A registration process begins where you enter a group name and an email address or phone number so you can be reached when it is your turn to enter the snowglobe.
The system that activates the snow and slow motion camera are controlled from a specially designed app that runs on the Nexus 7. That same device is also responsible for uploading the video. You are then sent to another Nexus 7 where you add background music to your video. Then you enter an email address where a link to the video will be sent and are given the choice to share it to your social network of choice. The video is uploaded to YouTube where the privacy is set to unlisted. Lastly, the video gets sent to the earlier mentioned HDTV via the Chromebook Pixel.
Throughout the process, my group of six was helped by extremely nice employees that were filled with holiday cheer. As we left, we were given pins of the Android figure adorned in various winter scarves and sweaters.
Google is maturing as a company. As we have seen with Larry Page’s ascension to CEO in 2011, Google is getting into many different fields. If they want to be profitable in the future, they can no longer be a company that makes an overwhelming majority of their revenue from advertisements. Google must diversify their channels of revenue. Luckily, they aren’t known for resting on their laurels and are keen on taking moonshots.
As Google expands into wearable computing with Glass, driverless cars, internet service with Google Fiber, and even possibly robots, Google needs to present a softer image. The general public needs to be comfortable with Google expanding into all aspects of their life. The easiest way to do this is for consumers to try out all this tech for themselves. It helps the public see Google as a company trying to simplify people’s lives through technology. The Winter Wonderlab is a humble first step for Google; it will undoubtedly give them Retail experience, but ultimately, it will pave the way for a Google that’s much less ominous in the public’s eye.
This Original was written by Abner Li, he's probably awake right now.
-You can follow him on Twitter @technacity