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May 11, 2012

Sky's the Limit

High Point Pittsburgh Team Creates Virtual Simulation of US Steel Tower Rooftop Venue

By Pam Wigley

high pointIf you've ever imagined the view of Pittsburgh's Golden Triangle and beyond from the tallest point in town, virtual satisfaction is headed your way.

A Carnegie Mellon team of researchers and graduate students has created Virtually There - High Point Pittsburgh, an interactive experience that lets people envision a three-story addition to the U.S. Steel Tower. The virtual reality program enables anyone with a computer and Internet access to explore the proposed one-acre space atop Pittsburgh's tallest building, which would be the largest, highest place atop any building on Earth.

high pointA product of the High Point Pittsburgh Investigation, the latest phase of Virtually There (VT), was unveiled in late April in the Randy Pausch Studio of the Entertainment Technology Center (ETC), where the project's producers, artists and programmers offered highlights of what they call their "destination in the sky."

After an overview presentation, guests accessed the VT site from on-site computers and got a glimpse of the virtual simulation's interactive kiosks, which took them on a tour of the structure's media gallery and video theaters, as well as the proposed restaurant/café/bar, central atrium and numerous panoramic viewing areas. VT also allowed site visitors to ride elevators or climb stairs to the rooftop promenade and enjoy a virtual fireworks extravaganza.

"The talents of many people have combined to create an exciting, interactive online environment unlike anything you've ever seen," said David Bear, a fellow in Carnegie Mellon's STUDIO for Creative Inquiry who has overseen the multi-year High Point Pittsburgh project. "It's a virtual destination that allows anyone to experience an imaginary place we hope one day might become a reality. In a very real sense, it provides a whole new way to see what can be."

The VT team includes producer Sean McChesney, programmers Siddhesh Vichare and Cintia Higashi, and artist/designer Sun-Moon Hwang, all ETC graduate students working under faculty advisers Mk Haley, ETC associate executive producer, and John Dessler, an ETC lecturer. CMU School of Architecture fourth-year students Richman Neumann, Daniel Rapoport and John Kim provided architectural design and décor concepts for the project.

The VT simulation can be accessed at
More information about the project is available at, and on Facebook at
A 3-minute preview:
30-second promo:

A central atrium is seen here in this rendering of a proposed three-story addition on top of the U.S. Steel Tower.

An exterior view of the proposed addition shows an elevator track running up the side of the building.