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Verity Studios Brings Drones to Broadway in Cirque du Soleil's PARAMOUR


A troupe of eight autonomous drones designed by Verity Studios soared onto Broadway as part of a live performance in Cirque du Soleil - PARAMOUR. This is the first time Cirque du Soleil - known for its stunning acrobatics and world-class production design - has specifically created a show for Broadway, and it's the first time autonomous robots have taken center stage there.

"We are thrilled to provide this artistic contribution to the show and bring our machines to life on Broadway," said Raffaello D'Andrea, founder of Verity Studios and creator of the flying machine choreography. "Creating flying machines that are reliable enough, and that have the performance ability to operate day after day in such a challenging live theatre environment is the fruition of more than a decade of research and development." Verity Studios' flying machines will perform eight times a week - without nets - in front of an audience of up to two thousand people.

The technical challenge of incorporating robots into live performance has meant that, until now, most theatre robots have been remotely controlled - essentially puppets, with humans working behind stage to operate them. But to manually control the flight paths of a troupe of quadrocopters in a tightly choreographed sequence that also involves human performers would be technically impossible.

Verity Studios' flying machines use distributed intelligence and sophisticated algorithms to achieve the kind of robust performance and safety standards required for live public performance. "From the flying machines' own built-in intelligence to interference-proof communications, our systems are designed around safety, reliability, and robustness," said Markus Hehn, technical lead at Verity Studios. "The only remote commands the flying machines receive are high level ones, such as take off or land."

PARAMOUR started previews on 16 April 2016 in front of a live audience and opened on Wednesday 25 May 2016 at the Lyric Theatre (213 West 42nd Street) in New York.

This is not the first time Cirque du Soleil has worked with Verity Studios. In 2014 the two groups collaborated (along with ETH Zurich) to produce SPARKED, a short film featuring ten quadrocopters in a flying dance performance with a human actor. SPARKED was named a Winner of the 2016 New York City Drone Film Festival.

And this is not the first time robots have appeared on Broadway: Karel Capek's science fiction play R.U.R. (infamous for introducing the term 'robot' to the English language) ran for 184 performances at the Garrick Theatre in 1922.

Photo by Richard Termine

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