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Space Needle Launches New Virtual Reality Installation: The VR Bar

Seattle’s symbol of the future offers ticketed guests free HTC Vive VR experiences, including bungee jumping off the Space Needle.

Seattle’s famous Space Needle has launched a free virtual reality (VR) installation, The VR Bar, that offers guests four extraordinary ways to experience the iconic landmark. In partnership with Panogs and Graffix, the Space Needle has installed a bar that gives visitors the virtual experience of walking the Space Needle’s outer Halo, flying a seaplane above Lake Union, soaring over Seattle, and bungee jumping from 520′ in the air.

Space Needle: The VR BarIncluded with the price of admission, The VR Bar is available to all guests who visit the Space Needle’s Observation Deck.

“Since the Space Needle opened for the 1962 World’s Fair, the tower has symbolised innovation and endless possibilities,” said Space Needle Chief Marketing Officer Karen Olson. “Today, we’re taking that pioneering spirit above and beyond with digital experiences designed to give guests new and exciting ways to interact with Seattle’s most iconic landmark.”

Panogs, a leading photographic agency that focuses on VR storytelling, refers to the project as one of its most technological challenges to date.

“In less than 30 days, our team was set with the task of developing an authentic and thrilling bungee jump experience,” explained Gavin Farrell, Panogs co-founder. “Two of our biggest challenges were navigating the best way to record footage on such a uniquely designed structure, and how to keep the cameras stabilized during the bungee jump fall. While drones are typically used to capture aerial footage, our team dropped a camera from the Space Needle’s 520′ Observation Deck, which captured a more realistic descent.”

In addition to Panogs working with a mechanical engineer to design the camera drop-system, the company also partnered with a gimbal design specialist from Advance Visuals to develop AutoGimbal, a gimbal specifically designed to stabilise the cameras during the free fall. The AutoGimbal measures angular velocity 800 times a second and the information is used to calculate the amount of motion in the opposite direction. This allowed the camera to remain compass-locked during the free fall with all potential spin and other movement distractions being completely absorbed by the AutoGimbal.

Space Needle: The VR BarOnce the 360-degree videos were completed, Graffix – a design and build fabricator of signage and branded environments – customised a one-of-a-kind VR installation for the experiences. Also focusing on The VR Bar’s user interface and software development, Graffix created a user experience that directly aligned with the Space Needle’s brand.

“We were challenged to create a unique interactive exhibit that would facilitate a virtual reality user experience in an environment where there are a varied set of users,” said the Graffix President Chris Richardson.

The VR Bar is part of the Space Needle’s larger initiative to enhance guests’ experiences using technology. In the past few years, the Space Needle has launched a series of digital experiences including augmented reality, virtual reality, interactive experiences, and mixed reality technologies. Visit www.spaceneedle.com/wow/ for more information on the Space Needle’s digital experiences, while VRFocus will keep you updated with other location-based VR initiatives.

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