In a beautiful part of Paris there’s a historic luxury hotel with views of the Eiffel Tower and a new digital welcome experience affectionately dubbed “TOM,” designed by Float4 (Montreal).
The Sofitel Paris Baltimore Tour Eiffel is a cozy five-star luxury hotel in a 19th-century townhome close to the sights we all associate with Paris: the Champs Elysées, the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower. The hotel has 75 guest rooms, 28 suites and a bistro with a well-appointed wine cellar. The historic hotel has a new addition, a digital welcome wall that helps guests to connect with the city.
The hotel client group connected to the Float4 team when they saw another digital multi-touch wall project they had completed. The Float4 team became involved at both strategic and tactical levels in the project, with the goal of providing a turnkey solution from ideation to design, production and on-site integration.
The Sofitel Paris Baltimore welcome wall project was borne of the changing expectations of today’s travelers with respect to hospitality destinations. Modern luxury travelers expect convenience and technology and differentiation as a baseline—even in more historical spaces—which the client recognized and presented as a challenge to the design team; the physical environment would need to be complemented with a perfectly-integrated digital experience to present a luxury aesthetic and provide relevant and unique insights for multiple user groups. To top off the challenge, it would need to be easily updateable and intuitive for staff to manage and update.
The process started with the user research phase, an important part of the process for Float4, as they established the overall goals with respect to the guest’s journey. The design team was sure to take cultural considerations into account, a particular challenge in a cosmopolitan city as the visitors often come from all over the world. They considered factors that would be truly purposeful for the audience in question, ranging from business people to tourists and families, and what would make an entertaining, informational digital experience for all.
The Float4 team came to the conclusion that the audience may be diverse, but what brings them together is the city itself. They developed a content strategy that was inspired by Parisian landmarks, which would be both useful and engaging for tourists and also incorporated ambient visuals. For the business-oriented, users have access to real-time data such as the stock market, exchange rates and headlines as well as a curated selection of restaurants and shops that can be shared via email. For those who want to explore their creative side, the wall transforms into a digital canvas, allowing guests to engage with drawing and coloring as well as selfie taking with an integrated photo booth feature.
One of the goals was to make it unique by involving the hotel staff. From the concierge to the maître d’hotel, staff members can manage and update content to share their insights on visiting Paris. Beyond complementing the aesthetics of the space, the welcome wall becomes a conduit between the local experience and the guest experience, making stays all the more personal and exclusive.
This multi-pronged content strategy integrating artistic, informational and ambient content would enhance not only the customer’s journey but ease the workload of staff who will shape and evolve the experience over time. The interactive experience also positioned the client as an early adopter in the hotel industry—the first in Paris, or in France—to have an installation of its kind, reflecting the commitment of the establishment to forward, user-centered thinking.
From a design and content standpoint, the Float4 team was inspired by the hotel’s age, interior design, brand guidelines and the idea of the iconic destination. Not only were the user experience and multiple user profiles taken into account, but the aesthetic of the location and, more specifically, the hotel’s design elements. Working within a delicate and ornate environment required finesse; the team created an exact replica of the installation in the studio to perform user testing with multiple groups of adults and children that fit the target audience. “This type of testing is so very useful to us, because we know how important it is to observe people’s first reaction,” says Alexandre Simonescu, co-founder of Float4.
The high-resolution multi-touch wall was seamlessly integrated into the historic architecture in the heart of the hotel’s lobby, across from the bar and elevators—a high-traffic area. One of the challenges they faced was to conceal all the components behind the installation, ensuring a state-of-the-art end-user experience. “We had a fairly small area in which to execute this, where a section of wall needed to be removed and noise control was a concern,” remarks Simonescu. “We constructed a custom framework that went around the media wall that perfectly matched the surrounding décor, creating a seamless transition.” The décor of the surrounding room was a heavy influence on the digital elements as well.
While deliberately understated, the technology is an element of distinction. It was important to maintain a reactive and fluid user experience, while also ensuring high performance standards. The combination of motion tracking, multi-touch capability, a resolution of 6K and real-time generative content make this welcome wall stand out from similar installations. Float4 used technology from the video game industry, including real-time rendered 3-D and complex physical simulations through their proprietary RealMotion server. Web-based technology was used for the menus and content navigation and the custom CMS they developed for ease of content curation by hotel staff.
The artistic, interactive, entertainment and informative content was developed in a dozen capsules. Some capability was pulled in from external data sources, such as weather and stock market information. Float4 also partnered with GoFindIt, a mobile solutions supplier, to provide data relating to travel, hotels and restaurants that is presented in real time. Users can activate the wall by simply walking past the motion sensors, triggering a real-time generation of ambient art, or by touching the wall. For example, within two taps, visitors can navigate to send a two-hour sightseeing itinerary, uploaded by hotel staff, to their mobile phone.
The resulting welcome wall has been a success for the client and design team, functioning as an extension of the hotel’s services and a way for guests to connect with the city and with each other. “We will continue to leverage our creative and technological capabilities to integrate digital experiences in these physical spaces and provide a new level to the customer experience,” comments Simonescu. The best indicator of its success? The hotel staff has nicknamed the wall “TOM” for technology, optimal, magnificent.
Project Name: Sofitel Hotel Paris Baltimore Welcome Wall
Client: Société de Développement Professionnel Pierre Esnée
Location: Paris, France
Open Date: December 2016
Project Area: 100 sq. ft.
Experiential Graphic Design: Float4
Fabrication and Digital Integration: Float4, XYZ Cultural Technology