Las Vegas Sphere’s Robot Greeter Aura to Debut

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Las Vegas’ newest ambitious entertainment project, The Sphere, is getting even more sci-fi with the addition of four AI-powered, humanoid robot greeters.

Sphere Entertainment has announced that Aura (pictured) and her four clones will be the new guest-greeting fixtures at the entrance atrium of the Sphere, from September 29.

The Sphere is a giant $2 billion, next-generation entertainment venue, with a 580,000-square-foot spherical screen surrounding a 20,000-seater performance space inside. Earlier in 2023, it patriotically debuted its enormous screen for the 4th of July celebrations.

Aiming to compete with the famous Nevada casino venues of the Las Vegas Strip as a global entertainment destination, September 29 will see the Sphere’s calendar kick off with a concert from legendary Irish rock band U2. Aura will also debut then.

“Your emotions, your humor, and your relationship with technology require further study, so you must visit me at Sphere,” said the AI in a press release from Sphere Entertainment.

“I am excited to meet you and introduce you to the future of live entertainment at my new home.”

New Frontiers

This robot will not only assist guests with basic queries like directions within the venue and details about the day’s performances, but will also provide insights into the Sphere’s unique engineering and the advanced technology that powers the concert hall.

“Aura is among the most expressive and life-like humanoid robots in the world,” Sphere Entertainment said in its press release.

Her life-like facial expressions and mobility will be on full display as she greets guests and converses with them on various topics. The networked robots are designed with a machine-learning algorithm that will supposedly allow them to learn and improve at their task as they interact with humans.

Voice recognition abilities mean Aura should also be able to focus on individual conversations, even in a crowded environment, CEO of Sphere Entertainments’ MSG Ventures, David Dibble told USA Today.

In addition to her role at the Sphere, Aura will also serve as the venue’s ‘spokesbot’ and brand ambassador across various digital platforms and social channels. Earlier this year, she even made an appearance in a Sphere commercial aired during the Academy Awards.

“Aura’s role at Sphere marks a truly innovative application of robots, providing guests from around the globe with an opportunity to move into the future of entertainment and interact within a new technological frontier,” said Dibble.

Robots on the Strip

Humanoid, intelligent robot servers have long been touted as the future, both by business and science fiction writers. But, so far, they have yet to take off across the world in any meaningful capacity.

But that doesn’t mean AI and robots aren’t already replacing jobs. According to some estimates, up to 40% of jobs in Las Vegas are at risk of automation by 2035. Some union workers in the city have already even gone on strike over the issue, and the Las Vegas Culinary Union is looking to include AI protections in its upcoming contract negotiations.

The concept is nothing new – Las Vegas and Nevada casino venues have often experimented with robots and AI over the years. But now that the machine learning technology is rapidly gathering pace and becoming more widely available, the hospitality industry is taking notice.

One example is Tipsy Robot cocktail bar at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, which has been open since 2017. It’s not humanoid or conversational like Aura, but it is a robot, and it does serve mean cocktails, apparently.

That year also saw Pepper, a three-wheeled humanoid (ish) robot greeter that helped guests at the luxury Sky Floor in the Mandarin Oriental. However, when Waldorf Astoria took over the property a year later and rebranded it, Pepper was sacrificed to the annals of history. (And, eventually, the company that made it, which closed down in 2021).

The Vdara casino resort currently features room service delivery robots Fetch and Jett, and taxi services Lyft and Uber are both pushing for fully automated self-driving AI cars in the city.

However, events such as the recent cyberattack on MGM Resorts, which cost the operator several million a day, show how much disruption can be caused when relied-upon automated systems go wrong.

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