The 118-year-old One Times Square building in New York City—the site of the annual New Year’s Eve ball drop—is getting a major $500 million renovation by owner Jamestown.
To latch onto metaverse-related publicity and find new ways to connect with the public, Jamestown has set out to incorporate augmented reality across its portfolio. The first effort is at One Times Square, an augmented reality project called “Concrete Jungle AR TimesSquare.”
“Expected to open in the fall of 2024, the project includes a 12-floor, branded AR-VR [augmented reality-virtual reality] experience offering brands the added ability to connect with their customers in Times Square through immersive, technology-enabled activations,” says a company press release. “In addition to the AR/VR experiences, the redevelopment includes a new viewing deck offering a closer look at the New Year’s Eve Ball and an elevated view of Times Square, as well as an interactive museum that tells the story of the building, New Year’s Eve, and its place in the history of Times Square.”
Public spaces will include five viewing zones where “animals will roam and play in their natural habitats against the backdrop of digital signage and buildings that make up Times Square.” There will also be games and photo opportunities.
AR is an overlay of digital information and experiences on top of the reality everyone sees. This happens through the use of some mobile device, whether a phone, tablet, or special goggles. Users hold up or wear the device and see the additional visual content.
“Augmented reality is the future of entertainment, retail, advertising, and the built environment more broadly,” Jamestown president Michael Phillips said in prepared remarks. “Concrete Jungle will scale and normalize augmented reality experiences as a tool to enhance engagement with the public. These technologies can be leveraged beyond entertainment to improve wayfinding, public safety, and health and wellness.”
Such arguments have been made for years, and there are uses of AR in specialty applications, like presenting equipment documentation to repair staff rather than sending them out with books of material to carry around.
There are also hurdles, as LD Salmanson, CEO of real estate data and analytics platform Cherre, has previously told GlobeSt.com. “Whatever hardware you have, it matters,” he said. “That’s the headset I’m getting and that’s the app store I’m getting. More likely, if an Apple provides goggles with a level of augmented reality, if the hardware is strong enough, maybe I see different ads than you see.” Or different animal habitats.
Perhaps there is a future in other areas as well, like providing services to office building workers. It could be that Jamestown is spot on with its choice of entertainment material in a concrete jungle. Or it might be that problems with the app, device compatibility, or even the novelty quickly wearing off, might undercut the company’s goals.
AR and VR are absolutely technologies for CRE professionals to pay attention to. But make plans that can shift with how markets and consumers move.