Wired’s pop-up store in Soho (583 Broadway) may be every parents’ shopping dream. When your kiddo begs, “Can we buy this, pleeeaasse?” You can confidently say, “No. Nothing’s for sale here.” (Well, almost nothing — see below.)
The shop positions itself as a gallery where you can touch (and play with) the art, rather than a retail experience. The store even keeps the same hours as the Met. “All museums are closed on Mondays,” a staffer explained to my son and me through a locked door on that day of rest for artistically-inclined institutions.
The exhibit, “What’s Inside,” displays the gear, gizmos, and gadgets that are stamped with Wired’s “this is cool” seal of approval. And what turns on savvy geeks sometimes turns on savvy New York kids too. And sometimes not.
At the store’s DIY workshop last Saturday, the littleBits work station was swamped. LittleBits are like a souped-up Lego set. They are tiny circuit-boards, which snap together with magnets. Each module has a unique function: light, power, switches, or motor. The kids snapped the bits together, creating their own mini-engineering miracles. Some creations included a twirling snowman and a lit-up city building.
The workshop was a onetime event, but littleBits (the only item for sale) can still be purchased for $49.
The adults, meanwhile, were more fascinated with Cubify, a 3-D printer that transforms a digital image into a three-dimensional object. Amid the grownups’ oohs and ahhs, I pointed out the final replica (an orange, plastic chess piece) to my son. He shrugged his shoulders, said “Oh,” and picked up a tablet to play Angry Birds Star Wars.
Tablets and laptops are scattered throughout the shop, sort of like the Apple store, where kids can play video games or use programs to compose their own music. While mom or dad is test driving an LG Optimus G, kids can play a Kinect video-game where you try to complete driving challenges as fast as you can. Or at the hugely popular “Draw a Stickman: EPIC” tablet station, where you draw weapons and tools for your stickman to win his quest. Store “ambassadors” wander the shop and offer friendly guidance for kids who need extra tech know-how.
You never forgot that this is an “exhibit,” however. Many gadgets and items (including Ferby and Clump-o-Lumps) are encased under glass (just like the artifacts at the Museum of Natural History). How cruel to put stuffed animals out of reach from those of us who are tactile-addicted! Like any visit to a museum, your visual stimuli will be satisfied. You can play, and so can your kids. And you won’t have to spend a dime.
Wired’s pop-up store runs through Sunday, December 23 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
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