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Sony Square NYC is a gadget playpen, and a peek into the future

Usually a peek into the future involves a trip to Cape Canaveral, conversations in an MIT classroom, or a TED Talk. Yesterday I got a glimpse of the future just by walking down the street. And you can, too.

Sony relocated its New York City headquarters in February to a new location opposite Madison Square Park in the 20s (where the burger barons first opened up the Shake Shack – drool). On Thursday, the consumer electronics powerhouse will open the doors on a new feature of the building called Sony Square NYC: It’s a ground-level look at Sony’s latest arsenal of gadgets, and a window into some things the company is planning for the future.

Sony calls it a “brand experience showroom,” but it’s really more than that, explains Steven Fuld, senior VP of marketing for Sony.

We’re frankly looking for a lot of consumer feedback on what we’re doing, what they think, and how we can improve things

“There are definitely products that are on the market today, and there are plenty of products that are in innovation mode that are not quite ready to release,” he told me. “And we’re frankly looking for a lot of consumer feedback on what we’re doing, what they think, and how we can improve things.”

The facility is designed to be easily transformable, Fuld says. Movable panels at the back are currently holding an exhibit of artwork shot on Sony cameras, meant to inspire consumers with what they might do. Hidden beneath the panels, an array of flat screen monitors display upcoming Sony movies, video games, music videos, or other media.

At present, the front of the space holds a neat exhibit bridging concept gear, learning, and innovation. For example, a voice-activated, neck-wearable music player from Sony’s Future Lab Program dubbed Concept N projects a cone of audio around the head when worn and includes a voice-activated camera. Sony introduced it at Wearable World Congress in May. You can’t buy it yet, but you can walk into the store and try it for yourself.

A second installation is meant to showcase the potential of the Internet of Things. A series of tags can be connected via a simple drag-and-drop interface on a tablet to do stuff. Simple stuff: Take a picture, control a light, play a sound, connect a device, and so on. But the ease with which it can be reassembled and reprogrammed is quite impressive. Sony calls the project Mesh.

The Square is meant to showcase current stuff too, of course. The art is meant as a reminder that it’s what you can do with any gadget that really counts. Photographers can even rent a drool-worthy collection of cameras and lenses for day use. Given what the artists are capable of, and given the best lenses Sony has to offer, what can you do?

“We wanted to give customers a chance to … play with products, to sometimes take products out into beautiful Madison Square Park across the street and try them out,” Fuld told us.

Gamers can test out the forthcoming PlayStation VR as well; I played The London Heist for a few minutes and was blown away by the immersive experience (and so were the evil doers I took out).

With gadgets for dads, grads, and everyone in between, the Sony Square is sure to impress. Check it out at 25 Madison Avenue in New York City.