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HANA mobile app gets Cirque du Soleil crowd in on the action

Cirque du Soleil has grown from humble origins in Montreal street performances to a global brand known for its theatrical, character-based circuses and mind-blowing visuals. Now it's using SAP HANA mobile technology to make audiences part of the show.

Spectators can download a HANA mobile app to their Apple iOS or Google Android devices to get ticket information and interact during performances of "TORUK -- The First Flight," which is based on characters from the James Cameron movie Avatar. They can use their phones to control virtual fireflies and other visual effects that are projected based on seat locations tracked by spatial technology in the HANA mobile platform. Images that appear on the phones help create a communal effect for the audience.

In this video from the 2016 Sapphire Now conference, Ian Lidstone, global corporate alliances manager for Cirque du Soleil, explains how the HANA mobile technology works. The video also contains clips from TORUK.

"It's based on a geospatial location of every single arena that we visit over the run of our tour [that] has been mapped out in advance so that we can send out very precise signals to make sure that, at a very specific point in time, we can send a signal," Lidstone says.

On the tour, Cirque du Soleil carts around a HANA mobile appliance that communicates with HANA cloud technology. "Unlike most corporations that would have HANA sit in their server farm at a physical location, HANA actually follows our TORUK show from city to city," he says. "It is a very essential, key component, where the information flows through HANA, [and] the data is crunched and sent back to our patrons."

The phones don't need Wi-Fi or cell service to connect. Instead Wham wave technology from Wham City Lights (now called Offline) uses a phone's audio hardware to communicate -- in essence, conveying data via sound. "Between the HANA Cloud Platform crunching the numbers and using this Wham wave technology, that was the transport mechanism to get the actual signal to the phones to make sure that they reacted at the appropriate times," Lidstone says.

Fifteen years of close collaboration with SAP, which is now also a Cirque du Soleil sponsor, provided "very intimate knowledge of working with SAP" that helped bring technical and creative talent together in the HANA mobile application, according to Lidstone.

Cirque du Soleil began the project looking for ways to extend this spirit of collaboration to audiences. "How could we make part of our DNA -- which is reaching out and connecting and essentially transporting folks for brief moments of time -- how could we augment that experience in a fully collaborative mode?" Lidstone asks.  

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