Recently I visited Las Vegas and was amazed at the latest entertainment factory- The Las Vegas Sphere.  It isn’t often I find myself star-struck, especially by technology that is constantly evolving, however this time I was.  From miles away you could catch glimpses of this colorful disco ball, images changing every second, perpetually dancing to some mysterious rhythm.  What was amazing about this was not just the exterior billboard of images, QRC codes advertising events and activities within and outside of the Sphere, but the internal experience itself as well.

For those of you who are not familiar with the Sphere, here’s a little bit about it.  Picture a 367-foot-tall sphere, taller than the Statue of Liberty from her toes to torch tip!  It fits 18,600 comfy seats inside, or up to 20,000 if folks stand on the dance floor (because yes, there’s a dance floor, or so I’m told.)  Covered in millions of tiny LED lights, it can display dazzling images and videos all over its surface, like a giant, immersive screen.  Inside, there’s a super fancy sound system with speakers everywhere, so you feel the music like it’s shaking your bones (in a good way!)  Even the seats have special “rumble” features, adding to the whole multi-sensory experience.  In a nutshell, the Sphere is a mind-blowing concert venue unlike anything else in the world.  It’s a place to see shows, movies, and events in a totally new way, like stepping into the future!

Sensory Overload in the Best Way

Here’s how the Sphere disrupts the entertainment game and takes things beyond just seeing and hearing.  Imagine watching a concert, but the walls, ceiling, and even your seat are part of the show. The Sphere’s giant LED screen wraps around you, pulling you into the music, movies, or whatever’s on stage.  As I watched the show “Postcard from Earth” the images on the giant screens flashed with pristine clarity, truly transporting me into the scene, especially with the sound waves alternating from different heights and angles (no 3D glasses needed.). I felt fully immerged into the setting, especially with the seat starting to move, shake and the breeze circulating around my chair further solidifying my presence in each new place along the journey.  Forget popcorn and soda!

Although I didn’t experience this first-hand, I later learned that the Sphere could pump in different scents to match the scene, making you smell the ocean during a beach concert or the desert air in a Western movie.  Imagine how transformative that experience becomes, especially for those who would not otherwise have the scent experience of a place and event so far away, and even perhaps from a different time and era!  And it’s not just your ears getting a workout. Special technology in the seats sends vibrations and rumbles, so you can “feel” the full experience.

Robotic Greeters (called Aura)

On the main floor were numerous AI stations with interactive robots, engaging with individuals in the audience in fluid personal conversation.  She (or rather, it, since Aura doesn’t have a gender) stands about 5 feet tall and has expressive eyes, facial features, and even realistic skin textures, though no hair or clothing (so you can see the robotic body parts.)  Aura can move and talk naturally, making the interaction feel almost human-like. Think of her as a super-helpful and knowledgeable concierge who just happens to be made of metal and circuits.

This experience further intrigued the audience, which witnessed Aura’s subtle detection of voice patterns, speaker size, age, demographic and even clothing style, which she then wove into the conversation.  At one point a set of twin girls were given an opportunity to ask Aura questions, and the robot complimented them on their choice of dresses, responding to their names, commenting on their questions, and even made spontaneous jokes that sounded surprisingly human!  At different stations I attended, the Aura robots had varying audiences with individuals engaging in small talk with Aura, witnessing her customizing her responses to each individual while also picking up on facial expressions as well as background chatter.  This was an eerily human experience with a non-human.

It became quite clear that these robots aren’t your typical clunky bots.  They’re some of the most advanced humanoid robots in the world, designed to surprise us as well as potentially enhance the guest experience. How will this change the future of the experience?  Apparently, Aura can also recognize languages, answer basic questions about the Sphere, and even offer personalized recommendations based on your preferences.  That’s a robotic, human-sounding concierge service at the venue itself!  Imagine Aura suggesting a show you’d never heard of but turns out to be your new favorite!

The Future of Hospitality

Seeing this Aura prototype at different stations, I’m imagining the potential use cases they may be deployed in.  They can assist with guest entry/ticket collection, security checks, and could help with everything from crowd control to food and beverage service, freeing up human staff to focus on more personal interactions.  They’re way less likely to ask for lunch and bathroom breaks, though I imagine they’ll eventually need to be charged overnight to function optimally.

But one thing’s for sure, Aura and her robotic pals are giving us a glimpse into a future where technology and entertainment blend in exciting new ways.

Beyond the Brick and Mortar

From my experience, the Sphere isn’t just a building, it’s a platform.  Apparently, the venue can host artists, concerts, creators with a different range of cultural experiences.  Artists can create shows specifically for their unique features, pushing the boundaries of what entertainment can be.  One of the attendees described his experience attending the U2 concert there a few weeks prior; he said (paraphrasing of course) it was like being inside a living music video. He spoke of how walls morphed into war zones, starry skies, even Bono’s Dublin streets, while their seats pulsed with the music.  He said eventually rain came down (with scent) during “Bullet the Blue Sky,” then every phone became a light in a crowd-synched spectacle during “Pride.” He explained that it wasn’t just a concert, it was a mind-blowing “sensory journey.”  I could only imagine the experience, but the words he used such as “speechless” and “earth-shattering” were powerful. From there I could imagine attending a virtual reality concert where I’d be not just watching, but part of the band!.   I can then imagine how this could transcend to experiencing historical events, where I’m transported back in time, feeling the heat of battle or the thrill of exploration.

I can see how this opens doors for all kinds of creators, from filmmakers to musicians to game developers, to let their imaginations run wild and craft experiences we can’t even imagine yet!

Shaking Up the Industry

From where I sit, the Sphere isn’t just changing how we experience entertainment, it’s challenging the whole model. Live shows could be beamed to audiences around the world, blurring the lines between attending in person and virtually.  With our economies suffering world-wide and a higher conscientiousness on reducing carbon emissions/travel, I can see why this feature would appeal to consumers of all levels (and wallet sizes.)

Of course, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Some worry about the cost and accessibility of such high-tech experiences, and whether it might take away from the magic of traditional live events.  However, with technologies such as Facetime, we got further along the intimate experience than a plain phone call, but not replacing the actual human touch, so the Sphere is a step in a similar direction.

Beyond Entertainment

In its essence, the Sphere is a lighthouse for the future’s entertainment landscape.  Picture this: you’re inside a giant disco ball, but instead of flashing lights, the walls morph into landscapes, oceans, even Bono’s Dublin streets. Music thumps through your seat, and rain scents the air during specific scenes. The Sphere isn’t just a concert, it’s a playground for your body.   It tickles your mind and all of your senses.  It’s like stepping into a future where imagination and technology become one big, mind-blowing show.

Welcome to tomorrow!

Tag/s:Artificial Intelligence, Business Transformation, Creativity, Customer Experience, Digital Disruption, Imagination, Innovation,