Thinking about buying a home robot but really want to give it a spin before you decide? Your worries are over, Austinites. On Saturday, tech retailer b8ta came to your rescue, opening a storefront in the Domain Northside.
Office and retail giant Gensler designed the space, which is (accurately) described as a cross between an Apple store and a more with-it Sharper Image. But the concept has a whiff of Etsy to it, as well. The store will offer demo models and sell innovative, consumer-tech products—think bluetooth smart pens, sound-designed art, intelligent ovens, and other smart-home devices—for customers to demo, but it also solicits a variety of makers to sell in its stores.
That means the companies that come up with all that new stuff can have products displayed in stores on a subscription basis, rather than having to get a big retailer to buy a ton of them, and get them displayed in manner that doesn’t privilege particular products over others.
Founded in 2015 by former Nest executives and calling itself “data powered,” b8ta rotates its inventory according to month-to-month performance, meaning customers could be drawn back frequently to see what’s new.
b8ta is based in San Francisco and already had stores in Palo Alto, Santa Monica, and Seattle, it chose to open its Austin store—the largest to date—before it puts a storefront in its home city.
Since its products are make by both “engineers and artisans,” b8ta co-founder and CEO Vibhu Norby explained in a written statement, “You couldn’t pick a better city than Austin for b8ta to open, the perfect melting pot of technology, arts, and culture.”