Designing the Future from the Top

Its fun creating experiences for a bird’s eye view, especially when we get to use a new technology.  But designing an app for a tower is a unique challenge! Will the focus be an outward experience where the value is what it allows visitors to see? Or an inward, storytelling experience that show’s how the tower impacts the city skyline and the story of its iconic stance through history? And how can you actually experience the tower fully, since its outside is something you simply can’t take in from the inside?

At Calgary Tower in Alberta, Canada, our interactive app is getting an added dimension of storytelling, combining our panoramic experience with a new Augmented Reality (AR) technology that creates a hologram of the building’s outside, with a new and exciting technology partnership. Erin Beattie, Manager of Operations and Business Development, tells us more about what the future of their app looks like:


Interactive screenshots from the tour.

How did the idea of including a new AR feature on your app come about?

I wish I could take credit for the idea, but this feature was first introduced at the Space Needle in Seattle. I saw a working demo at the World Federation of Great Towers conference in New York City last year and was very impressed.

How will your visitors use the AR and how will help them experience the tower?

Guests will get a unique perspective of the Tower - an animated, to-scale mini version that they can interact with using our multimedia tour device. They will also be able to share their augmented reality photos via their own social media channels, allowing their friends and family to also enjoy the Calgary Tower experience.

One of our favorite stories on the app is about your abseiling down the side! What do you hope visitors will take away from the stories on the app?

That was an incredible experience! Six years later, I still remember it like it was yesterday. I hope that when visitors listen to the audio postcards they are impressed by the rich diversity of the Calgary community, with its pioneer and entrepreneurial spirit. I hope that they will be encouraged by our stories to go out and try something they wouldn't normally have considered and create their own Calgary story to share with family and friends.

What are some of the ways Calgary Tower is a distinctive experience for your visitors?

Our observation deck offers visitors to Calgary the best possible panoramic view of the city: from the mountains to the west to the bustling downtown streets at the base of the Calgary Tower. This makes us the perfect location for visitors looking to orient themselves to the city and to discover the location of other attractions in Calgary. Our glass floor balcony treats guests to a very unique sensation of standing in mid-air overlooking the city centre. Our multimedia guide provides an inspiring and informative tour of our city for guests and have been a big hit. And from the outside, our daily LED light show has become a city icon in its own right

We’re working on a new version of the app for iOS and adding Korean, Japanese and Spanish. Are you expecting different kinds of visitors to come to the tower in the future?

We already receive a significant variety of visitors from all over the world and expect that this diversity will only grow in the future. Our marketing research has led us to select the first four most frequently-used languages for our guides and we are happy now to add three more languages on the latest version of the app. We will continue to identify more language groups that visit Calgary Tower in the future and will strive to provide all of our visitors with a warm and enlightening experience.

The app has already been a success for your visitors for several years – what do you think future visitors want from their digital interactions?

Based on what we have experienced to date and from what we have learned by interacting with other attractions, we think our visitors will really enjoy an augmented reality feature. Visitors seem highly motivated to share their experiences with family and friends through social media, and we will continue to explore ways in which to facilitate such sharing.

What else is on your wish list for the future?

That's hard to say. I definitely expect to add even more languages in the future. Once we've re-launched the guides with the A/R feature and the additional 3 languages, we will seek feedback from our guests on how to improve the experience even more.

Thanks for your time, Erin.  We can't wait for this collaborative project to launch!

*This post is part of our series for #Museumweek, specifically #FutureMW.

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