The SAP link in Cirque du Soleil’s Toruk

Fans of Cirque du Soleil’s highly-anticipated Toruk – The First Flight were encouraged to whip out their smartphones during the performance in Singapore recently – with full blessings from the production team.

You heard that right – instead of putting their personal devices away during the show, the spectators used the Toruk mobile app enter the world of Pandora, learn more about the show and view special effects on their mobile screens during key moments.

Developed in about three months, the app is powered by SAP’s Hana platform, which facilitates communication between spectators and the show’s visual effects control system, creating a personalised experience delivered directly to mobile devices based on the viewers’ interaction with the app and location in the theatre.

This is accomplished through native spatial processing capabilities in SAP Hana that analyse and process geospatial information in real time. After the show, spectators can continue to engage with the show through interactive images, videos and content that extends their experience.

That Cirque was able to synchronise the events on stage with the special effects delivered to the mobile app was critical to the audience experience. Even a delay of second or two would have messed things up.

The development team also did extensive testing, to ascertain the best time to deliver the mobile effects, and when to notify spectators about them, according to Marc Van Oordt, program director for IT at Cirque du Soleil. This has helped to ensure that the app would not become a hindrance, and one that spectaculars wouldn’t need to constantly look at.

Now, that’s an important consideration, given how easy it is to fall into the trap of implementing newfangled technology for its own sake. To be sure, not all Toruk spectators used the app (just a third of them did), but one thing is clear: amid the call for digital transformation, do something that is truly useful and transformational, lest you end up with white elephants waiting to be buried in the graveyards of technology.

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