Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sony Wonder Technology Lab: 55th St & Madison Ave

There is a saying that "you get what you pay for" but when it comes to the Sony Wonder Technology Lab in Manhattan, that is definitely not the case.  This FREE technology and entertainment museum (Tues-Sat 9:30am - 5:30 pm) is fantastic.

I happened by this museum when I ducked into the public Sony Plaza just to get out of the rain.  I saw a small group of people clustered around an elevator and decided to see what they were waiting for since I didn't have to be anywhere soon.  When I saw it was the museum I had heard about from a friend in the past, I checked to see if I could get a free stand-by ticket (you can reserve advanced tickets (online or at 212-833-8100) and it is recommended during more busy times of year) and I scored immediately. The next group was being taken up in 1 minute and there was no line.  What luck!

Upon entry, they distribute an electronic "ID" that you use to activate any station you are interested in interacting with.  You get your picture taken, design your "voice image" and fill out a few other characteristics that help make the experience personal (these are all recorded on your personalized certificate print out at the end).  My "logo," which I created by manipulating my picture on their easy-to-use touch screen, is shown at the bottom right in the picture above alongside the images of fellow visitors.

Then you start winding down the 4 flights of the museum and can read innumerable displays and interact with over a dozen exhibits.  It is fun and educational (and not in the way that they say that phrase in school or most other museums--these are really fun!).  I learned about how digital signals travel, programmed a robot (see above right), tried digital animation, took a turn in a dance motion capture (fancy term for the Wii-like dancing game), designed a racing game, made a little movie clip including sound effects and music, and so much more! 

My favorite activity was the computer graphics dancing program.  In film making, they usually put sensors on major joints of the actors and let the cameras that are digitally "connected" or "reading" the actors movements, create animated characters that move the way the actors do (see photo at left that shows the angles used to translate the movements).  The little girl pictured at right is my animated character mimicking my dance moves to Willow Smith's "Whip My Hair."

If you are ever in the midtown east area, you MUST visit the Sony Wonder Technology Lab.  It is truly a gem in the City for young and old.