NYC’s Public Binoculars Get Solar-Powered Digital Upgrade

Public binoculars or viewfinders are a common sight at tourist destinations around the world. Can’t get up close to the Statue of Liberty? No worries, just drop in a quarter and enjoy a few minutes of up close and personal “face time” thanks to the powerful optics inside the Tower Optical Viewer.

Like all things analog, however, the optical viewers in New York are about to get a digital upgrade. Design consultancy Pensa recently announced plans to infuse the Tower’s iconic design with modern technology. With a boost from the sun, the upgrade will take the device from just a viewfinder to a multi-media storytelling experience.

Tower Optical Viewer

Image via Nomadic Lass

According to Gizmag, Pensa has modified a few of the classic viewfinders to display enhanced digital content, such as videos, interactive images and even games. The modified viewfinders have been placed in the DUMBO (District Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) area of Brooklyn. When tourists push down on the coin lever, they’re treated to a video that allows them to explore the history of the area.

Of course, that takes more energy than binoculars, so the DUMBO viewfinders are connected to a nearby cafe umbrella which has its own battery pack that’s charged via photovoltaic solar panels on top.

Learn more in the video below:

Beth Buczynski is a freelancer writer and editor currently living in the Rocky Mountain West. Her articles appear on Care2, Ecosalon and Inhabitat, just to name a few. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog