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The Sphere is coming to Las Vegas, and it’s no sci-fi tale

One of the best things about being a Southern Nevada resident is having a front-row seat to Las Vegas’ continual transformation.

Those who have lived here long enough have seen rise of the themed resort, the ill-fated attempt to turn Las Vegas into a family destination (remember the MGM Grand Adventures Theme Park?) and now the emergence of Las Vegas as a professional sports mecca to go along with its established unofficial title of Entertainment Capital of the World.

Along with these concepts come the buildings themselves, and many of them are iconic and enduring.

Another such place is on the horizon, and while many ideas and concepts are wrapped in hyperbole, this one looks to be everything the conceptualizers say it is.

About a month ago, a journalist from London and I received invitations to see what New York-based Madison Square Garden Co. has planned for the Las Vegas Strip, a development concept it first unveiled with Las Vegas Sands Corp. in May.

The MSG Sphere will be 360 feet tall and 500 feet wide at its widest point. As its name implies, it’s spherical. It will be built on a lot currently used for outdoor storage just east of the Sands Expo Center. Its nearness to the High Roller at The Linq Promenade should conjure images of a ball and a hoop, but no basketball will be played in the MSG Sphere.

At the unveiling of the MSG Sphere Las Vegas concept at Radio City Music Hall, which Madison Square Garden also owns, entertainment industry invitees were given the opportunity to see and hear what it plans for the future of music performance.

A model of the MSG Sphere about 50 feet tall was on the Radio City Music Hall stage, and the evening included demonstrations of what the sphere will be capable of doing.

Having attended many CES events over the years, it’s hard to get too jazzed about audio and video performance. But the Sphere demo was an eye- and ear-opener and did everything MSG said it would. It’s the real deal.

Using a technique called “beamforming,” sound can be directed with laser-sharp precision, thanks to thousands of tiny speakers embedded in the building’s walls.

That means the sound clarity is as good in the back row as it is in the front.

It also provides options never seen or heard before. One of the prospective uses of the Sphere is to use it for general conference audiences attending trade shows at the Sands Expo and Convention Center. Imagine an international audience attending a speaking event. Through planning and beamforming, groups of Spanish, Mandarin and German speakers can be in the same room, seeing the same visuals, but have their languages directed to them in their seats without headphones or wires.

In concerts, instrumentation can be channeled directly to a performer. Again, no wires and no plugging in required for the performer to play with onstage cohorts.

The visual aspect is 360 degrees with digital high definition better than anything ever before seen.

Among the 18,000 seats will be boxes and luxury amenities.

Because MSG also has developed a production camera specifically built for the spherical environment, new content can be regularly provided. Imagine afternoon entertainment presentations and corporate product demonstrations affiliated with trade shows during the day and big concerts at night.

MSG looks to develop spheres around the world, but the best part is that Las Vegas gets the first one and it should be ready by 2020. The second one will be at London’s Olympic Park. My London Evening Standard counterpart with me in New York already has dubbed it London’s “crystal ball.”

MSG is taking a Sphere roadshow to London to demonstrate the Sphere for Great Britain’s entertainment community.

Look for a similar demo in Las Vegas within a few months.

The Sphere is coming.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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