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Inside the Insane Concert Venue of the Future

The MSG Sphere in Las Vegas, the world’s most audaciously advanced concert venue, is ready to blow your mind

The Madison Square Garden Company

The Madison Square Garden Company

If you were a billionaire CEO who wanted to create the world’s most audaciously advanced concert venue, what would you do? If the answer is “Stick 157,000 ultra-directional speakers, a three-and-a-half-acre spherical ultra-high-res video screen and vibrating floors into a enormous dome built from scratch,” you’re thinking like actual billionaire James Dolan, whose Madison Square Garden Company broke ground on the MSG Sphere in Las Vegas in September. As MSG Ventures CEO David Dibble tells it, the project began in Dolan’s office. “He turned to me and he said ‘Dibble, let’s reinvent the live entertainment business,'” Dibble says. “Technology has been an afterthought: ‘Let’s get the building built, then what kind of tech are we gonna do?’ Jim Dolan said nope, we’re gonna do tech from the beginning. It’s gonna be a technology-driven design.”

Touring acts can certainly play the MSG Sphere, but the venue seems geared for residencies and special projects that could fully exploit its capabilities. The video screen arcs up and over the audience “like a planetarium times ten,” Dibble says, adding up to “the largest display ever imagined on Earth.” (And unlike a planetarium, it’s made of LED panels, rather than projected from the ground.)

The speakers are from a German start-up, Holoplot, that specializes in targeting narrow soundbeams, so each section gets its own sound (per MSG, audio in different languages could even be beamed to different sections).They’ve also figured out how to hide the speakers in the venue’s walls, behind the video display. Those vibrating floors, meanwhile, are all about the bass. “We have developed a haptic flooring system,” says Dibble. “It’s still a bit of a work in progress, but the lowest bass response, instead of being transmitted through the air, is literally transmitted through the floor, directly into your feet or onto the chair in which you sit, and it’s a remarkable experience.”

In addition to musical residencies, MSG is pondering other, more radical uses for their Sphere. Ideas range from esports to “mass gaming” on the big screen (in other words, playing video games with 19,000 of your closest friends) to immersive storytelling experiences that they hope will feel like “VR without the goggles” to… well, the Rockettes. With another Sphere planned for London, MSG’s hopes are high. “Three years from now,” Dolan promised reporters at the ground-breaking, “you’ll say, ‘I had no idea this was what it was going to be.’ It is that crazy and that incredible of a project.”

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