Sphere, the world's largest spherical structure, has opened in Las Vegas. It measures 112 metres tall—taller than the Statue of Liberty or Big Ben—and 157 metres wide at its broadest point. It is so large and so luminous that its creators boast it can be seen from space. We analyse the construction and curious features of Sphere, unveiled in September 2023 by legendary Irish rock band U2.
A sphere visible from space?
To build this megastructure, "centuries old mathematical formulas" have been used alongside modern engineering techniques. Virtual copies are already being used in construction to prevent facility failures, simulate activity and achieve energy savings of up to 40%. "Did you know many parts of Sphere were built first in virtual reality? Our engineers and architects used the Finite Element Method to transform equations like this into computer models of key structures across the venue—testing their strength and functionality before they even existed in real life," say the structure's creators.
Sphere’s exterior is approximately 54,000 m2, "a creative canvas so bold and bright you can see it from space," say its creators. We'll have to wait for external confirmation of this, but there’s no doubt that one thing that stands out about this colossal sphere is its enormous size: in fact, the entire Statue of Liberty could fit inside its volume. The interior auditorium seats around 17,500 people, surrounded by a massive 15,000 m2 wrap-around LED screen, the largest such display in the world, with 173 million pixels to create a fully immersive experience.
Sphere is big enough to fit the Statue of Liberty. Credit: Top Luxury
A "giant planetarium" or "virtual reality without the headset"
The venue will host music, film and sporting events. "There's nothing like it. It's light years ahead of everything that’s out there," said U2's The Edge in a video posted on YouTube by Apple Music. Rich Claffey, chief operating officer of Sphere, agreed: "I've been in the entertainment business for almost 40 years. I've never seen anything like this, and I'm not exaggerating. It is off the charts." One of the highlights of this mega-construction is that there are 167,000 speakers and 10,000 seats are equipped with haptic technology. This means they can vibrate and create wind, temperature and scent effects.
Sphere was fully illuminated for the first time on 4 July, America's Independence Day, but it was the members of U2 who first unveiled its interior. The videos quickly went viral on social media. "The effect is a little like being in a giant planetarium, a juiced-up IMAX theatre or maybe VR without the headset," says a journalist who attended one of the first concerts.
As well as concerts, the mega-sphere will also be showing a film by New York director Darren Aronofsky (known for Black Swan and The Whale). The film is called "Postcard from Earth" and is, in the director’s own words, "a sci-fi journey deep into our future". Created especially for this auditorium, it is said to take advantage of all the technology available to create an unprecedented immersive experience.
Videos of the U2 concert in Sphere have gone viral on social media. Credit: Inadaptados Radio
Being at the cutting edge of technology doesn't come cheap. Sphere reportedly cost $2.3 billion (about €2.18 billion) to build. That makes it the most expensive auditorium in Las Vegas—even pricier than Allegiant Stadium, which has four times the capacity. It is also the latest toy for Las Vegas, the casino-filled "sin city" that also boasts such iconic tourist attractions as the Eiffel Tower at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel, the Bellagio Fountain and the Luxor Hotel Pyramid.
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