One World Observatory, NYC


One World Observatory in New York City is full of great multimedia experiences, but visitors’ first will be a room-sized data visualization that puts them on the map. Just after they scan their ticket, they’ll be greeted by a 65′ wide by 16′ tall world map projection which welcomes them from wherever in the world they’ve traveled from. Our on-site server gathers data in real time to compute statistics such as the total distance traveled by visitors to the tower, the common countries that visitors journey from, and more. As visitors pass from the lobby into the rest of the tower, a welcome message appears to them in their native language.

Everyone is welcome

The top-floor public space in the rebuilt One World Trade Center shoulders a significant responsibility. Overlooking the moving 9/11 Memorial pools and sharing the same address as the 9/11 Museum, the goal of the One World Observatory is not to reflect on the past, but to celebrate the now and the power of rebirth. The street address of One World is taken metaphorically for the observatory to embrace the idea that we are all part of the same one world and are all welcome in the great melting pot of New York City. To express this sentiment, Stimulant worked with The Hettema Group to create an impressive and very personal data visualization installation in the attraction’s Welcome Lobby.

A shared data visualization moment

The experience recognizes everyone that walks through the front door and uses their ticket purchase information to create a special and impactful moment at the point of entry. We integrated against the cloud-hosted point-of-sale system built by Accesso to access the home location of every ticket holder. Data was anonymous – we only received zip codes for US ticket holders and country names for international visitors. Using this data, we display the geographic origin of every visitor on a wall-sized interactive map. Timed to ensure that the highlight doesn’t occur until they’ve cleared security, we were able to create a wow moment as visitors clear security, enter into a cavernous, quiet room, and see their home state or country highlighted on the map alongside other visitors. This data visualization provides an Instagrammable moment of pride when the location flashes on the screen. In addition, the more-often-than-not shared moment of recognizing there’s someone else who just arrived that’s from the same far-flung part of the world is exciting and a great icebreaker to meet fellow travelers and citizens with whom there is a shared culture and context/

Who, where, now on an interactive map

visitor inspecting interactive map

The experience features several different modes. A familiar-looking world-map shows real-time home locations of visitors as they arrive to the observation deck. Every few minutes, the entire map warps into a globe-shaped data visualization. In this mode, the globe is covered with pins of various heights. The higher the pin, the greater the number of visitors that have come from that part of the world. Over time, this globe has become a living heat map that shows where the greatest number of people have attended from, and server to show the global appeal of this world-class destination. In addition, various statistics are displayed, such as the total number of miles traveled by visitors to get to the observatory and the most-visited-from countries.

data visualization displaysing the world "welcome" in spanish

Finally, as a subtle personalized touch, the display over the portal to the passage to the elevators is topped with a welcome message in a variety of different languages. Using the same location data, the word “welcome” is timed to display in the language of the current visitors as they pass into the next stage of the attraction.

The power of numbers

If there’s one thing New Yorkers love, it’s counting things down. When the visitor counter on the visualization was primed to tick over reflect the one millionth visitor, this became a great marketing opportunity. The deck promoted the upcoming milestone and visitors flocked to the attraction in the hopes of being present for the happening. This momentous moment was captured by a standing-room-only crowd.

Produced in collaboration with The Hettema Group, Legends, Accesso, and Electrosonic.

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One World Observatory Visitor Welcome Visualization, NYC

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One World Observatory