Inside the new King’s Cross playground
“Welcome to Samsung KX. Please leave your limitations at the entrance. This is not a shop. It’s a sort of tech playground, game arcade, lecture hall, cooking school, yoga studio, music venue, photography class, art gallery, launchpad, film club, workshop, cafe, school trip, a place to think, to watch, to learn, to dream, to get on stage, to be in the crowd, to see things and surprise yourself. Not a shop.”
This is how Samsung describes its new flagship building in central London. On first reading, it doesn’t make much sense. But working at an office that’s just a 10-minute walk from Samsung KX (an abbreviation for its location in King’s Cross) meant I had a chance to go and look around for myself. What I found was impressive.
So what’s #SamsungKX? Well @Samsung say ‘it’s not a shop’. It’s a place for people to get hands on with tech – but it’s also a cafe, workspace, theatre, an event venue… If that sounds a bit mad, that’s because it is. But it’s actually fun to visit and a pretty stunning space pic.twitter.com/9vPTw9KtOg
— Leo Gebbie (@LeoGebbie) August 1, 2019
To begin with, I can confirm that Samsung KX isn’t a shop. I’d describe it as an experience. It’s a place to spend time getting hands-on with Samsung’s latest and greatest tech — as well as some futuristic concepts that aren’t available yet — and just enjoy playing around with it, without the pressure of buying anything. It feels like Samsung has taken the concept of an Apple Store (whatever your views, you can’t deny the popularity of these stores), expanded it in every conceivable direction, and removed the price tags. You’re more than welcome to window-shop, even though, of course, it’s not a shop.
This isn’t Samsung’s first foray into opening a more experiential venue for customers. Back in April, to promote the launch of its Galaxy S10 family of devices, the company ran a pop-up space in London’s Westfield shopping centre, which we thought to be hugely impressive in its scale and ambition (see Samsung’s Galaxy S10 Playground). The company clearly believes that the hands-on, come-and-try-it approach is the way forward, and after my visit to the new Samsung KX building I’m inclined to agree. It comes hot on the heels of Microsoft’s opening of a flagship store at London’s Oxford Circus; more evidence that this sort of “temple to technology” is very much in vogue right now.
1/5 Having visited the preview of the new flagship @Microsoft store in London it was great to see it on the opening day and be able to take pictures. It’s a beautiful space architecturally and a huge investment for the company. #MicrosoftLDN pic.twitter.com/HnqY7TPKWs
— Ben Wood (@benwood) July 12, 2019
From the moment you arrive, helpful and friendly Samsung staff guide you around the room, and there’s a vast array of things to do. I started off by checking out some of Samsung’s latest consumer technology; the first station I visited was a demonstration of an 8K TV, along with a powerful surround-sound speaker set-up. The capabilities of the screen and speakers were demonstrated through a range of clips from hot shows and films including Game of Thrones and The Greatest Showman, as well as some football highlights and even a remastered video of the Apollo 11 launch.
I was then pointed in the direction of the smart kitchen area, where staff walked through all sorts of products, from smart washing machines to ovens and fridges. Everything is interactive, and demonstrations are extremely thorough. Instead of leaving you to try and work out how a device works, helpful staff are constantly on hand to show you the best features, and encourage you to think about how this could make your everyday life easier.
This is where everything starts to make sense. Lots of people have heard of smart fridges, but how many have had the opportunity to test one out? Time and time again, we find that people are far more likely to buy a new type of technology if they’ve tried it first, and Samsung has clearly decided to take that power into its own hands. Its demonstration of the smart fridge was a slick, well-delivered showcase of the capabilities of the device. It could mean that a visitor who had perhaps been sceptical of smart fridges leaves with a far better understanding of its advantages, and more inclined to buy one in the future.
Beyond this, Samsung has gone a bit wild and included all sorts of other futuristic technology. There’s a car exhibit with a fully digital touch-screen dashboard and cameras in place of wing mirrors, and pop-out tablets in the back of the vehicle to keep passengers entertained. There’s a giant digital graffiti wall, which also doubles as a presentation space; while I was present there was a short masterclass tutorial on getting the best out of the camera on the Galaxy S10 device. There’s a virtual reality racing game inviting visitors to sit in an arcade-style driver’s seat and strap on Samsung’s Odyssey headset. There are DJ booths where people can mix and record samples of house or hip-hop music and enjoy it on premium headphones. It’s a melting pot of the weird and wonderful, and it’s really good fun.
Finally, Samsung wants the venue to be useful and usable for all sorts of people. There’s a cafe in the corner with flexible working space for those who want to drop in and fire off a few e-mails. The graffiti wall and presentation area has seating and could easily double as a cinema or stage. It’s not hard to envisage the entire floor space being cleared away to host a massive party or launch event. And there’s even a tech-support corner, just in case. To cap it off, all of this is within a stunning architectural space, complete with swooping wooden ceilings and huge windows.
This must be a hugely expensive venture for Samsung, but I believe it’s a smart investment for several reasons. It’s a great way to get people to try new technology, and this could well convince people to make a purchase in the future. If devices like smart fridges are to take off in the mass market, I think this sort of showcase will be vital in articulating the benefits to buyers.
The entire experience is also genuinely fun. I enjoyed the chance to play with cool new gadgets and noticed there were plenty of kids and teenagers having a blast as well. This can only help Samsung to generate higher brand strength and awareness, soft power, and goodwill from consumers. And finally, it’s an interesting place to visit, and as a promotional tool, I can see Samsung KX being a location for all manner of events. It’s a slightly surreal experience, but a fun one, and well worth a visit.
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