COME CLOSE, BUT NOT TOO CLOSE

Ap­ple’s new $108 mil­lion Vis­i­tor Cen­ter at­tempts to daz­zle the pub­lic while try­ing to bal­ance the com­pany’s strong pen­chant for se­crecy

The Mercury News Weekend - - BUSINESS - By Se­ung Lee slee@ba­yare­anews­group.com DE­BUT

CU­PER­TINO » In more ways than one, Ap­ple’s Vis­i­tor Cen­ter looks a lot like the Steve Jobs Theater, which was un­veiled for the first time this week.

Like the theater, the Vis­i­tor Cen­ter is sur­rounded with tall glass walls and a roof with rounded edges. But un­like any part of Ap­ple’s new cam­pus, the Vis­i­tor Cen­ter is ac­tu­ally built for the pub­lic, to wow and en­ter­tain while keep­ing them at arm’s length.

De­spite its ob­ses­sion with se­crecy, Ap­ple’s new “space­ship” cam­pus is an ar­chi­tec­tural mon­u­ment that is spark­ing in­ter­est among its world­wide fans and is ex­pected to be a tourist draw. As the world’s most valu­able pub­lic com­pany jug­gles its de­sire for pri­vacy with the de­mands of the pub­lic, its new Vis­i­tor Cen­ter ap­pears to be the com­pro­mise.

The Vis­i­tor Cen­ter did not come cheap, how­ever. The build­ing cost $108 mil­lion to con­struct and is equipped with a retail store, a cafe and a rooftop deck pro­vid­ing a good look at the cam­pus across the street.

While the Vis­i­tor Cen­ter was open to the gag­gle of me­dia and Ap­ple em­ploy­ees on Tues­day for the big iPhone

re­veal, it will not of­fi­cially open un­til later this year, Ap­ple CEO Tim Cook said dur­ing his open­ing re­marks at the event.

The Vis­i­tor Cen­ter is di­vided into three parts: the retail store, the cafe and a space for an aug­mented re­al­ity ex­pe­ri­ence.

The retail store in the mid­dle looks like any Ap­ple Store around the world with some spe­cial­ized mer­chan­dise. Vis­i­tors can buy tote bags, t-shirts and post­cards.

Next to the retail store lies a topo­graph­i­cal scale model of Ap­ple Park, which comes to life through an in- house aug­mented re­al­ity iPad app. Em­ploy­ees hand vis­i­tors spe­cial iPads with the app, and once they point the iPad cam­era to­ward the map, the map comes alive with in­for­ma­tion de­tail­ing Ap­ple Park and its struc­tures.

The app al­lows vis­i­tors to cus­tom­ize their view­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, ad­just­ing what Ap­ple Park looks like in dif­fer­ent hours of the day and see­ing the en­ergy ex­pen­di­ture and air­flow com­ing in and out of each Ap­ple Park struc­ture.

“In­side the Vis­i­tor Cen­ter, you’ll find an in­cred­i­ble aug­mented re­al­ity ex­pe­ri­ence where you can learn more about Ap­ple Park, its de­sign and its in­no­va­tions,” said Cook.

PHO­TOS: MAR­CIO JOSE SANCHEZ — AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

An ex­te­rior view of the Vis­i­tor Cen­ter dur­ing an an­nounce­ment of Ap­ple’s new prod­ucts Tues­day in Cu­per­tino.

At the Ap­ple event Tues­day, CEO Tim Cook an­nounced the Vis­i­tor Cen­ter will not of­fi­cially open un­til later this year.

MAR­CIO JOSE SANCHEZ — AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The Vis­i­tor Cen­ter in­cludes a store, cafe and a space for an aug­mented re­al­ity ex­pe­ri­ence.

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