The most recognized symbol of Seattle has gotten an experience overhaul, and locals may want to consider scheduling another visit. Last month, the Space Needle introduced a new interactive element that lets you view Seattle and the iconic building itself in a whole new light. And it's a welcome change in this digital age, complete with futuristic activities including everything from taking long-range selfies to teleportation. I don’t know about you, but when I visit a landmark in any city, I see it, snap some photos, read some blurbs about the why and how, and then I’m ready to go eat lunch.
As much as I love Seattle and everything about it, that’s what I was expecting to do on my first trip to the Space Needle. Check it off the must-see list. But how wrong I was. Before entering, I was told to download the Space Needle mobile app, which was the first step to enhance my visit.
Karen Olson, who has overseen the entire digitizing of the Space Needle experience, was my personal tour guide. Right from the start of my tour, she showed me just how hands-on everything was as we stood in line to go up to the observation deck. Even while waiting in line, which usually means crying babies, bored kids and sighing parents at most tourist attractions, you're engaged. For example, on the floor you'll find circular stickers called Space Spots that you stand on (see photo below). Then when a Space Spot is viewed through the Space Needle mobile app, a virtual tall-as-you Space Needle appears for picture-taking. This provided me with a few too many minutes of pure entertainment.
Photo courtesy of The Space Needle
Olson also showed me how I could unlock the capability to see through the floors on some of the Space Spots. Kids just loved this! They were engaged, asking questions and actually learning! In fact, I found that even I was retaining information better because all my sensory modalities were engaged. “It’s for the young and young at heart,” Olson says.
The tech-savvy "app-basadors" that help you navigate your way around the new exhibit
Photos by: Shuchi Mehta
Up next along the viewing edge of the observation deck: teleporting.The 520 Teleporter kiosks involve five large computers with interactive motion displays of some popular locations in Seattle (e.g. The Seattle Aquarium, Pike Place Market and Century Link Field). Using Microsoft’s Photosynth technology, you're able to immerse yourself into a 3D dynamic screenshot of each of these locations. At one point, I was standing next to The Sounders' Clint Dempsey as the team huddled and shortly after, I was swimming next to a tentacled octopus at Seattle Aquarium without actually going anywhere.
For avid social media-ites, “Spacebook” is a user-friendly way to capture, store and share your photo memories of your visit to this historic Seattle building. Two more features for photo-savvy people that are brand new are the SkyHigh Selfie and the Zoomie. Use the specialized cameras to take a selfie with the ultimate zoomed-in view of downtown and Mount Rainier in the background.
On the inside wall of the observation deck, you'll find “Skypad,” a huge digital media wall with scrolling photo strips, interactive maps and a huge memory for...your memories. Here, you can enter in your modern-day version of an “I was here” signature in one of the largest guestbooks in the world. Use the Skypad to see if someone from your neighborhood has made it to the top of the Needle, or famous people: I had no idea Elvis Presley had been to Seattle, much less the Space Needle.
The biggest "iPad" in the world? Probably.
Photo by: Shuchi Mehta
My favorite feature was the live-zoom camera next to the teleportation kiosks along the observation deck--an upgraded version of the standard telescope. The high-definition screens allow for panoramic, live and zoom-able views into different parts of Seattle. Want to find your house? Or peek into a Seahawk’s game? Zoom away!
The gigantic and hi-tech cameras used for the Live Zoom kiosk which is inside
Photo by Shuchi Mehta
So locals, if you think you’ve been there and done that, you may be missing out on seeing all of Seattle from a whole new perspective. With the help and hard work of some big-time digital, media, and technology companies (most of them Seattle-based), the Space Needle has truly done an outstanding job of allowing all visitors and locals alike to experience the Space Needle in a captivating way.