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Trying out Macy's VR furniture shopping and AR makeup browsing. Photos: Erica Pandey/Axios

At 2.5 million square feet, the Macy's in Manhattan's Herald Square is the largest store in the U.S. But an entire city block of real estate in one of the world's busiest spots is little more than a burden if the legacy retailer can't figure out how to attract customers in the age of e-commerce.

Visiting New York, I tested some of Macy's new virtual reality, augmented reality and machine vision features.

The big picture: Although this stuff is at the cutting edge of what’s available in the U.S., it's old news in China. They are going to have to do better.

  • In the furniture department of Macy's, you can slip on Oculus headsets to picture a sofa or a dining table in your home. You can swap pieces in and out, and walk around to see how everything fits.
  • You can virtually try on hundreds of eyeliners, mascaras and lipsticks without getting your hands dirty.
  • A new feature called "Market" takes on Amazona section of the store reserved for smaller brands that have flourished online but want to get into brick-and-mortar stores.

But, but, but: All of these features and more have been commonplace in China for years.

  • JD.com has mastered unmanned store technology in China and is beginning to take the concept abroad.
  • Alibaba has long incorporated augmented and virtual reality into its brick-and-mortar outposts, including at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Shanghai.
  • One Macy's employee told me: "They're ages ahead of us."

Go deeper

Biden plans to ask public to wear masks for first 100 days in office

Joe Biden. Photo: Mark Makela/Gettu Images

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris sat down with CNN on Thursday for their first joint interview since the election.

The big picture: In the hour-long segment, the twosome laid out plans for responding to the pandemic, jump-starting the economy and managing the transition of power, among other priorities.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
37 mins ago - Health

Coronavirus death rates rising across the country

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, Census Bureau; Cartogram: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Daily coronavirus-related deaths in the U.S. hit a new record on Wednesday, when roughly 2,800 people died from the virus.

The big picture: Caseloads and hospitalizations continue to rise, and deaths are spiking in states all across the country.

38 mins ago - World

Ratcliffe's long-term China play

Ratcliffe testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee in May. Photo: Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty Images

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe told Axios in an interview Thursday that "China and China alone is the only country that has the ability to compete with the U.S." — and hopes the intelligence community will adopt his view even under "the next administration."

Why it matters: Ratcliffe's comments suggested that he's trying to lock in the Trump era's harder line on China for the long term.