New Digital Experiences at Seattle Space Needle

If you’ve ever lived in or visited Seattle, WA—or even just seen aerial footage of the city’s skyline in various TV shows and movies—you’ve seen the Space Needle, originally built as a symbol of the future for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, which had a 21st Century theme. Now, well into the 21st century, creatives from design firms like Stimulant were called upon to revamp the Space Needle for tourists and locals alike, bringing in a host of new digital experiences. Jeff Wright, chairman of the Space Needle, LLC, says:

“Since its inception, the Space Needle has been a symbol of innovation and creativity. Staying true to that vision, we are introducing digital experiences that are not only groundbreaking for us, but for towers around the world.”

Take a look at some of the futuristic additions to the Needle:

520 Teleporter: A Digital Kiosk

One of the Space Needle’s new interactive elements that’s sure to give you some creative inspiration is the 520 Teleporter digital kiosks. Designed by smart space design firm Stimulant in partnership with creative agency Creature for creative direction and content production, the kiosks transport users from where they stand inside the Space Needle, 520 feet in the air to be exact, down to some of Seattle’s must-see spots.

Stimulant utilized Microsoft’s Photosynth technology to capture the iconic city spots in all their glory—in outstanding resolution and full 3D—and to make the “teleporter” experience possible.



According to the Space Needle: 

Photosynth was inspired by the breakthrough research on Photo Tourism from the University of Washington and Microsoft Research. This work pioneered the use of photogrammetry to power a cinematic and immersive experience, perfectly matched to the 520 Teleporter.

Space Needle Mobile App

The free mobile app serves as both a guide and a memory book in order to enhance user experience while up there on the Space Needle’s observation deck. Users can access interesting facts and photos of their surroundings using the Enhanced Panorama. According to the Needle:

Acting as a starting point for exploration, the app presents alternative views with augmented reality, shares a look at historical events, and helps visitors locate and learn about all the key sights in town. On the Observation Deck, visitors will find kiosks that transport them to the octopus tank at the Seattle Aquarium or onto the pitch with the Seattle Sounders FC at CenturyLink Field. Guests can connect with the city in these unrivaled one-of-kind experiences like never before.

mobileapp1 mobile2

Space Spots Viewer

This innovative function is part of the Space Needle mobile app and allows user to unlock virtual glass floors and other interactive surprises, whether on the observation deck or down on the ground near the Needle.

According to the Needle:

The visual “Space Spots” have unique points that allow image recognition libraries to identify specific points in the design. These points are then referenced by the application using Unity and Vuforia which places the pre-created graphics onto of real-world visuals that you can view through your phone’s camera. 3D versions of the Needle complete with elevator motion, clouds, and birds were created to bring the Space Needle to life.

digital experiences at Seattle Space Needle

Users simply point their iPhone or Android phone at designated Space Spots and “experience ‘augmented reality'” as the Needle rises up before them surrounded by fireworks, spaceships and more. A built-in camera allows users to capture their out-of-this-world experience to share. 

SkyPad: A Digital Interactive Wall

This high-definition touchscreen wall acts as a digital guest book, allowing visitors to browse thousands of photos of visits to the Needle from the 1960s to today, including the more famous visits from celebrities and the like, and to record their own visits. According to the Needle:

A complex system of monitors, processors, and computers keep the content running on the SkyPad. The backbone of the system is the Omni Wall processor from RGB Spectrum which drives content to the Planar Clarity Matrix monitors and touch screen framework. Five 6 CPUs control the content on the monitors and touch screen configuration.

digital experiences at Seattle Space Needle digital experiences at Seattle Space Needle

Live Zoom Cameras

Contrary to popular belief, Seattle isn’t actually all that rainy. But if you do visit on a drizzly day, the Needle’s Live Zoom Cameras provide you with a live panorama view of Seattle’s sites on a high-definition screen. This experience is possible thanks to the high-definition cameras and lenses mounted to the very top of the Needle.

digital experiences at Seattle Space Needle

SpaceBook: An Online Needle Memory Book

The SpaceBook experience utilizes users’ tickets to pull all their favorite pictures and memories from their visit into a personalized memory book. Users can then share them via social media, from either the special SpaceBook kiosks or online.

digital experiences at Seattle Space Needle

A number of design firms and companies worked on the digital experiences at the Needle, including the following: 

Belle & Wissel
Group Delphi
Idea Gateway
OK Rocket
Olson Kundig Architects
Streamline Solutions
VODA Studios

look_winit_books_0914-342x274Each month, HOW features 6 books that we think every designer would love.

Enter HOW Magazine’s September Issue Designer Sweepstakes for a chance to receive all six books that were featured in the September 2014 issue.