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Google pop-up ‘Hardware Store’ opens in Bucktown

Google first challenged Apple’s iPhone with its own Pixel smartphone in 2016, and announced plans last week to launch Pixel Slate, the tech company’s answer to the iPad, in November 2018.

On Thursday, the Mountain View, California-based tech giant opened its first pop-up Hardware Store in Chicago at 1704 N. Damen Ave. The two-floor store is deeply Apple-esque, with Google’s tech products perched on long, blonde wood tables for shoppers to test.

Google opened the company’s first-ever hardware popup store for trying and buying new products at 1704 N. Damen Ave., Thursday morning, Oct. 18, 2018. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Google’s product list is much shorter than Apple’s: all three of its hardware products — the Pixel phone and tablet, and its Google Home Hub smart speaker — are on display at the temporary storefront’s first floor.

The second floor of the pop-up is more interactive and features immersive gimmicks that showcase each product in action.

Google opened the company’s first pop-up hardware store for trying and buying new products at 1704 N. Damen Ave., Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

A prop kitchen is outfitted with a Google Home Hub that opens drawers when asked for a snack. Pressing the Nest doorbell outside a faux “treehouse” opens the front door, switches on the lights and adjusts the blinds and temperature. An Instagram-friendly photo station invites guests to test Pixel’s Top Shot feature, which takes a series of photos and flags the “best” ones, Google’s Julie Van Vliet explained Thursday morning at the pop-up shop.

“Our Pixel phone is able to take a series of photos and then suggest to you which of those photos is the best,” Van Vliet said. “It is machine learning, and it is just able to pull up that photo that has a big smile on it, and everyone’s eyes open,” Van Vliet said.

The tech giant announced in February that it planned to grow its presence in Chicago, but has kept specific details about its expansion plans under wraps. The tech giant employs about 800 people at its Fulton Market offices in the West Loop, mostly in sales.

Google’s pop-up Hardware Store is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 31.

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Google opened the company’s first-ever hardware popup store for trying and buying new products at 1704 N. Damen Ave., Thursday morning, Oct. 18, 2018. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times