Apple reveals itself in subtle ways, like a mysterious gauze sliding away to show what’s behind more clearly. When it put a fingerprint sensor on the iPhone, Apple knew, as we did not, that Apple Pay was coming.
Now, in a press preview of its latest Apple Store in central London, the company has quietly reaffirmed its interest in Augmented Reality (AR). More of that in a moment, but first, the store itself, which is the 39th in the U.K.
It’s gorgeous. The familiar light colors and appealing surfaces, attractive wooden tables mounted with every Apple product. It has trees, along the windows and through the store, adding an outside-in feel to the whole thing. The 12 Sicilian ficus trees at the front look inviting and welcoming, and touch on how Apple is evoking a sense of location here.
After all, Brompton Road is a hop, skip and a jump from London’s Hyde Park (though please be careful crossing the road to get there). So, the theme of horticultural excellence is everywhere.
Look no further than the flowers, shrubs and fauna decorating the windows. Look more closely, and you’ll see they are visual puns: the bluebells are AirTags, the roses have Apple Watches buried in them—read more about this here. It’s pretty cute.
The store is on the exact site of the Brompton Arcade, an avenue of highly variable shops which was demolished in 2018. The entrance preserves the stone front elevations of the original, and the vaulted, curved 23-feet-high timber ceilings echo the entrance.
At the back of the store is another Apple specialty, the Forum, for Today at Apple events. This is the first Forum to have a mirrored ceiling, which adds to the brightness and lightness of the store.
There’s another first, the floor. This is the first Apple Store, anywhere in the world, to have a new kind of terrazzo flooring, designed to be sustainable: it’s made of a plant-based bio resin. It looks great, cool without being offputtingly cold, slick without being slippery. Apple says that like all its facilities, this store is powered by 100% renewable energy.
On Saturday, July 30, Apple’s VP of fitness technologies, Jay Blahnik will be instore, and he’s always worth a trip just to catch some of his highly infectious energy. Then, four of the Apple Fitness+ trainers (all from in and around London) will be leading a 5K run in Hyde Park—that’s already booked out but don’t worry, you’d really have struggled to keep up. Well, I would have, at least.
Back to AR. The huge video wall at the back of the store will be running full pelt for the global launch of “United Visions,” an augmented reality experience based around the second most famous poem by William Blake, The Tyger. The most famous, since you ask, is Jerusalem.
This is an app created for Getty Museum by artists and creative technologists Tin Nguyen and Ed Cutting (Tin&Ed) with a soundtrack by Grammy Award-winning record producer Just Blaze. The app has just gone live on the App Store.
I saw it in action at Apple Brompton Road, though, of course, you can look at it anywhere on an iPhone or iPad, and it’s pretty awesome.
Take a look at the screen; right in front of you, remarkable creatures appear, dancing and writhing on the floor and even on the walls in front of you. For a moment, I wondered if those creatures were really there, just invisible unless you use the lens of an iPad. We’ll never know.
It reaffirms the emphasis Apple is putting on AR, supporting it through ARKit. AR is appearing in more and more apps and Apple clearly sees it as a big part of the future.
The immediate future, however, is all about the opening of Apple Brompton Road, which is definitely worth checking out if you happen to be in London. It opens this Thursday, July 28.