Let's Go To…Sony Wonder Technology Lab

Explore the wonder of technology in the heart of Manhattan – for free! The Sony Wonder Technology Lab (SWTL) is a great place to get your kids thinking and wondering this winter.

Let’s Go
Let me start by saying this destination is best suited for children ages 5 and up. My 6-year-old daughter, Ava, thoroughly enjoyed the lab. My 2-year-old son, Gavin, on the other hand, slept most of the time in his stroller, and that probably worked out for the best. Also note that you should allow an hour or two to go through the Lab depending on how much time you spend at each exhibit.

The SWTL is located on Madison Avenue at 56th Street. Pick up your free admission ticket and something called a FeliCa card, and then take a ride in the modern glass elevator up to the exhibits on the fourth floor.

Before you begin your visit, you must program and personalize your FeliCa card by entering your name, your favorite color, and even recording your voice! Your card is your key to all of the exhibits that follow.

Our first stop was the kiosks for “Signal Stations,” where you learn how information is digitized with a series of codings. It’s really amazing that 1s, 0s and a bunch of pixels translate into text and pictures! “Signal Stations” also gives you the option to dress up your profile picture with all sorts of accessories. Ava added a lot of hearts to her picture and then shared it on a big screen for all in the lab to see.

As you walk down the ramp to the next section of the lab, you’ll see a wall chronicling how far technology has come. There are some old phones, TVs and video game consoles that will look foreign to your kids, but bring back memories for you.

Our next stop was “Virtual Surgery” on the third floor, where you get a chance to play doctor, without the risk. Using a haptic controller, you can actually feel what it’s like to perform open-heart surgery. The controller shakes as you try to follow the dotted lines to make incisions or sew up your virtual patient. Apparently, there is a good reason I am not a doctor!

Kids will especially like the “Robot Zone.” The interactive exhibit allows you to program a robot’s actions based on colorful lights and touch sensors. Your profile picture shows up on your robot as it motors around, too.

Another kid favorite is the “Dance Motion Capture” exhibit. You can stand in a sort of pod, start with your legs slightly apart and your arms out in a T-shape, and then watch as a Sony-animated character follows your every move. The sillier the better! For shorter kids, make sure you use the pod all the way to the left. The other characters may not be able to capture their moves.

You’re On
After you’re done grooving, get ready for your cameo on broadcast television. The SWTL has a realistic-looking TV set, with lights, cameras and teleprompters. You’ll need someone to act as an anchor, a reporter and a camera operator to make it work. In the studio, you can practice your report on an assigned environmental topic (we reported on polar bears). Then it’s lights, camera, action! When you’re all done, watch the short newscast on the screen outside.

Down one more floor is another set of exhibits including the “Music Mixer,” that lets you put your stamp on the Alicia Keys song “Empire State of Mind.” Several visitors at a time choose different instruments and beats to add to her track, and then get to hear the collaboration. On the lower floor you’ll also find (what else?) places to sample Sony PlayStation games. Ava had fun with a virtual baseball game and a giant game of Angry Birds. There are also stations downstairs where you can build your own car racing video game and your own movie. Each tells you the (very simplified) steps needed to create the entertainment we all love.

And More
Before you leave (and give back your FeliCa card), you can stop at the Shadow Garden and Sand Interactive, a wall where virtual sand falls, based on shapes you make with your shadow. It can be addicting!

This month, the lab will also show several holiday-themed movies and children’s screenings in its High Definition Theater. In addition, there are holiday-themed workshops to enjoy (some at an extra cost).

Every nook and cranny of the state-of-the-art Sony Wonder Technology Lab offers a chance to learn more about the awesome digital age we live in, and where it can take us. And it may just have your kids saying OMG.

Andrea White is a mom, TV news producer and writer who lives in Edgemont. She is grateful for the
technology she was able to use to write this article. 

When You Go …

Sony Wonder Technology Lab

550 Madison Ave. at 56th Street, New York City



Hours: Tuesdays through Saturdays, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Closed Sundays, Mondays and major holidays (including Christmas Day).

The last entrance is 30 minutes prior to closing.

Admission: FREE

Reservations are highly recommended for all visitors.

Reservations guarantee admission and must be booked a minimum of seven days and up to three months prior to your desired visitation day. Same-day reservations are not accepted.

Visitors without reservations may obtain same day tickets for the Lab, but there are only a certain number of tickets set aside for walk-up visitors each day. These tickets are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, Tuesday through Saturday, beginning at 9:30 a.m.

Tickets are valid for the specific time indicated.

There is no re-entry.

Public parking is not available at Sony Wonder Technology Lab, but private parking garages are located nearby at:

54th Street between 5th & Madison Avenues

50th Street between Park & Madison Avenues

• 53rd Street between Lexington & Park Avenues.