You b8ta believe it

10 futuristic products you can buy today in this Galleria store that's flipping the script on retail

B8ta has all the perks of a digital marketplace — but customers are able to physically test all the products. Photo by Natalie Harms

Retail is in a transformative phase, as more and more consumers are shopping online. According to United States Census data, over 9 percent of this year's first-quarter retail sales were e-commerce transactions — that's more than doubled in less than 10 years. But one brick-and-mortar retailer has a new approach to sales for new, innovative products entering the marketplace.

San Francisco-based b8ta opened its first store in 2015, and now has 13 flagship stores nationwide — in addition to having setups in Lowe's stores across the country. Houston's first and only location opened in October of 2017 in the Galleria.

The store acts as a general marketplace, where companies can rent shelf space at the store to feature their products — everything from home accessories to tech gadgets and even items like electric skateboards. Consumers can come into the store and test products, and the developers can see — in real time — how customers are interacting with their products.

"If you look at our store, nothing's in a box. Everything is out on display," says Jalal Bsaiso, b8ta Houston's general manager. "Everything has a tablet with information on the product, and that data is controlled by the maker — they can swap photos, change pricing, all on the fly. They also can see analytics in real time. They can see how many people walk by their product and how long they are engaging. Sales associates log demos we do with the customer, so the partner can see that too."

Bsaiso says that innovators have trouble entering brick-and-mortar sales because consumers need to take the products out of the box to experience them and have a sales associate educate and demonstrate how to use the product. The company's three founders — Phillip Raub, Vibhu Norby, and William Mintun — worked at Nest, a smart home technology product, prior to launching b8ta. They saw Nest struggle to get into brick-and-mortar stores and started envisioning a concept that would be right for products like Nest.

"Online it's easy to sell something," Bsaiso says. "You post it on your website, you have analytics, and you can see how people got to your website and what they purchased. There's nothing like that in physical retail."

Product makers can apply online to become b8ta partners. Usually, each partner has products in at least half of the 13 stores, and every product has an inventory of six to 10 products in the store.

"Retail is evolving," Bsaiso says. "I think everything is moving toward experience. You don't want to spend $200 online on a product that might not even work for you from a company you're not really familiar with."

The store will stock any types of products in its stores, as long as it fits the bill as an innovative product. Here are 10 that seem like are from the future.

A self-caring herb garden

Photo by Natalie Harms

The Véritable Indoor Garden has lights that mimics the sun and a tank of water that together lets your plants be all set for up to 3 weeks.

A camera with 16 lenses

Photo by Natalie Harms

The Light L16 camera would make a spider jealous. With 16 lenses, the camera captures all the different types of lighting and focus to ensure you capture the best picture.

A gadget to make you fluent in every language

Photo by Natalie Harms

Here's one for the world traveler. Pocketalk Two-Way Voice Translator allows you to translate what someone is trying to tell you, and vice versa.

A collar that tells you everything you need to know about Fido

Photo by Natalie Harms

The LINK AKC™ Smart Dog Classic Collar tells you everything from location and body temperature to even recording activity.

A device that swims for you

Photo by Natalie Harms

Going on an underwater adventure? The WHITESHARK MIX Underwater Scooter is the smallest underwater scooter and takes you 3.35 miles per hour with its two propellers.

A shark-preventing ankle band

Photo by Natalie Harms

The Sharbanz technology prevents any nefarious sharks from coming anywhere close to you.

A robot to talk to your child

Photo by Natalie Harms

Tyche AI Learning Robot for Kids learns your child's facial expression, name, and voice to communicate, educate, and interact with him or her.

A next-gen speaker that features the song's lyrics

Photo by Natalie Harms

Ever wonder what that one lyric is in your favorite song? COTODAMA Lyric Speaker will tell you. In addition to featuring the lyrics of most popular songs, the speaker will visualize any tune you queue.

A deep tissue massager the size of headphones

Photo by Natalie Harms

The UGYM mini Deep Tissue Massager vows to relieve back pain and help you sleep better. And, it's on sale.

A handheld smart safety device

Photo by Natalie Harms

Much like your actual father, D.A.D.® 2 (Defense Alert Device), is here to keep you safe. It tracks your location and can send an emergency alert on your behalf. Plus, there's also the military-grade pepper spray to also keep an attacker at bay.

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Building Houston

 
 

Vanessa Wyche, director of the Johnson Space Center, gave the keynote address at this year's State of Space event. Screenshot via houston.org

Is the Space City poised to continue its reign as an innovative hub for space exploration? All signs point to yes, according to a group of experts.

The Greater Houston Partnership hosted its annual State of Space this week. The virtual event featured a keynote address from Vanessa Wyche, director of NASA Johnson Space Center, and a panel moderated by David Alexander, chair of aerospace and aviation committee at the GHP and the director of the Rice Space Institute.

The conversations focused on the space innovation activity happening in Houston, as well as an update on the industry as a whole has space commercialization continues to develop. All the speakers addressed how Houston has what it takes to remain a hub for the sector.

"The future looks very bright for Houston that we will remain a leader in Houston spaceflight," Wyche says in her address.

Here are a few other memorable moments from the event.

"Houston, I feel, is poised to be a leader. We have led in human space flight, and we will a leader in commercialization."

— Wyche says in her keynote address, which gave a thorough overview of what all NASA is working on at JSC. She calls out specifically how startups are a driving force in commercialization. JSC is working with local accelerator programs at The Ion and MassChallenge.

"These startups help us to connect to tomorrow's space innovation leaders, and gives our team the opportunity to mentor these entrepreneurs as we work to advance both our scientific and technical knowledge," she says.

"The ability to have a place where government, academia, and industry can come together and share ideas and innovation is incredibly powerful."

​— Steve Altemus, president and CEO of Intuitive Machines LLC, specifically talking about the Houston Spaceport, where Intuitive Machines has signed on as a tenant. Altemus adds that a major key to leading space commercialization is a trained workforce, which the spaceport is focused on cultivating.

"We shouldn't discount the character that Houston has from the standpoint as a great place to build a business."

— Tim Kopra, vice president of robotics and space at MDA Ltd., says, adding that Houston is a big city that feels like a small town. "We need to incentivize companies to come and stay," he says.

"Great cities — like great companies — understand that if you're still, you're probably moving backwards. ... I think Houston gets it in that regard."

— Todd May, senior vice president of science and space at KBR, says, adding that Houston realizes it needs to be on the offensive side to bring innovation to the game, positioning the city very well for the future.

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