Comcast

We Think We’ve Finally Figured Out What’s Inside Comcast’s Lobby Sphere

The giant structure isn’t just another art installation — it’s an entertainment experience crafted by one of the world’s greatest film minds.


The Universal sphere in the Comcast Technology Center lobby. Photo by Fabiola Cineas.

Comcast unveiled its new 60-story technology center to the world last fall, and since then, we’ve been free to waltz in to marvel at the various art installations in the lobby and sit down for a meal at the Vernick Coffee Bar. But one imposing structure has consistently been off limits — that giant white sphere quietly looming on the lobby’s upper level. But new tips and clues are finally bringing the contents of the ominous orb to light.

Though the sphere has been a mystery for the past five months — it’s been sectioned off by a partition and apparently under construction — sources have told Philadelphia magazine that the sphere will open up this spring as an entertainment attraction that’s free and open to the public.

But it won’t be just any old random attraction.

An estimated 10 to 20 people will be able to enter the sphere at a given time and be seated for a virtual reality entertainment experience allegedly designed by one of the world’s most prominent film minds — Steven Spielberg himself.

“It’s supposed to be a 4-D interactive experience,” Vernick Coffee Bar supervisor Andrew Kauffman told me on Monday. “Right now, it just looks like an alien spaceship that has sort of transported itself here.” The sphere sits atop a bed of lights that occasionally changes color, from white to red to green, Kauffman said.

The Universal sphere in the Comcast Technology Center lobby. Photo by Fabiola Cineas.

Though the attraction hasn’t opened yet, the structure has already gained a name among some Comcast workers: “The Barf Ball.”

“I heard the seats are supposed to move as part of the experience, in relation to the screen,” one employee, who declined to share their name, told me on Monday. “If things are moving around in there, people are going to throw up. The bathrooms are too far. They’re going to need buckets.”

When Comcast gave reporters a tour of the building last September, executives said very little about the sphere, though we pried. On the tour, leaders, including Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, called it the “Universal sphere” and described it as a fixture that would better connect the building to the company’s entertainment arm. In other words, the sphere is something that you might find at one of Comcast’s Universal theme parks.

Spielberg’s connection to the building and the sphere, though very exciting, isn’t a huge surprise. The famed filmmaker is a co-founder of DreamWorks Animation, which NBCUniversal acquired in 2016. At the time, Roberts spoke highly of Spielberg’s impact as one that goes beyond movies. He told The Hollywood Reporter: “It’s what he stands for in life. […] It’s such an interesting life he lives. How can you not want to be in business with him?”

In 2017, when Comcast bought a minority stake in Spielberg’s movie production company Amblin Partners, the two were spotted having lunch together at the original Comcast tower. According to a source, Spielberg recently dined at the new tower’s Vernick Coffee Bar.

On the press tour, Roberts even teased the Spielberg connection. When I asked Roberts how he expected the media and entertainment world to manifest itself in the new space, he replied that he envisions “Steven Spielberg and Bill Gates” at the building for events with Comcast employees and the public. Roberts also wouldn’t confirm or deny rumors that a movie theater would open at the tower.

Comcast declined to comment for this story, and Amblin Partners did not immediately respond to Philly Mag’s request for comment.

What Spielberg has managed to cook up inside the orb is, literally, still left to be seen, though the E.T. vibes are so far pretty strong. The sphere will surely rival the high-resolution video wall that’s entranced onlookers at Comcast’s original tower for years.

According to sources, the opening of the Universal sphere has been pushed back several times now. “This is a shot in the dark, but I’d say very late spring,” Kauffman told Philly Mag.