Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Microsoft Visitor Center: An Interactive Experience

The Microsoft Visitor Center is not a museum — museums are filled with old stuff. The Microsoft Visitor Center is all about now. A trip to the visitor center, which has recently moved to Microsoft Building 92 and is open to the public, confirms this.

The Globe
The first thing you notice when you walk into the visitor center is the globe:

Microsoft Visitor Center: globe

Four projectors are used to display content onto the globe. Each projector is controlled by a computer. These computers are fed images by a master computer, whose role is to generate images that blend seamlessly onto the projected surface. The images on the globe change every minute or so.

The old Microsoft Museum was housed in a warehouse-like building below the company store. Employees and guests passed by it without stopping — nothing attracted their attention. These days, the globe at the visitor center attracts a lot of attention. In fact, the visitor center expects to get over 150,000 visitors a year — twice as many as before.

Interactive Content
Kids are immediately drawn to the Xbox lounge in the visitor center, where a large screen and Xbox 360 is set up for game play:

Microsoft Visitor Center: Xbox lounge
Another popular attraction of the Microsoft Visitor Center is the Zune listening area, where you can try out a variety of devices. Probably the most popular attraction is the Microsoft Surface tabletop display, which you interact with using natural gestures and touch:

Microsoft Visitor Center: surface

When asked what she liked most about the Surface display, a woman from Australia proclaimed, “It has streets in Australia!” She was excited to see her Sydney neighborhood on Live Search Maps projected on the Surface display. She then proceeded to show me how to zoom in and out of the map by sliding her thumb and index finger.

The only real historical information about the company is in the form of a large display representing the original employees of the company. And yes, that boyish-looking person in the lower left is Bill Gates:

Microsoft Visitor Center: original employees

Company Store
The Microsoft Company Store is right across from the visitor center, and is open to the public. Note that sales of Microsoft software and hardware is restricted to employees. These items are kept in an adjoining room that is only accessible by employees.

Microsoft Visitor Center: company store

Hours and Location
Microsoft Visitor Center: entrance The Microsoft Visitor Center is open to the public Monday through Friday, 9:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M. It is located at 15010 NE 36th Street, Redmond, WA 98052, in Building 92. Parking is available in the Building 99 parking garage located next to Building 92.

For more information, see Hours & Location.

Other Blog Postings on Microsoft Here’s a list of other Redmond Library blog postings on Microsoft:
Microsoft Commons: It’s a Mall World After All
Microsoft Lincoln Square: A Lunchroom with a View
A New Bridge for Redmond: The NE 36th Street Overpass
Redmond Town Center: A View from Virtual Earth 3D
Exploring the Skies with the WorldWide Telescope
Microsoft Building 83 under Construction

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