Skip to main content

Out with elephants and in with apps: Ringling Bros. is reinventing the circus

Close your eyes and envision the circus: What do you see? Enormous strutting elephants. or entertainers in flashy, multicolored outfits performing acrobatics, riding bikes, and acting like clowns, all at the same time? But if you were to open your eyes to Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey’s new show, Out of This World, you wouldn’t recognize anything you’ve come to associate with the 146-year old Greatest Show on Earth.

Digital Trends attended the preview show for Out of This World at Selland Arena in Fresno, CA, and the most pervasive difference between it and other Ringling Brothers shows is its first-ever character-driven storyline, which follows Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson and Starseeker Paulo dos Santos’ intergalactic journey to rescue the greatest circus performers in the universe from evil Queen Tatiana.

Related Videos

“It used to be so many acts and performances happening at once, now there’s a lot more focus,” Alana Feld, 35-year-old producer of Out of This World told Digital Trends. “The show is also a lot faster paced, because kids today don’t have the attention span maybe I did as a child or before that.”

Ringling sped up the show and kept kids’ eyes glued to the theatrics by adding an icy rink to the circus, with video projection mapping underneath it — a first in Ringling’s history. With this video, the storyline of intergalactic travel is easier to follow: The performers arrive on a sand planet and the icy floor is altered to look like mounds of sand.

“Now that we have this pristine, white ice floor that we never had before — we always had a black, rubber floor — we’re able to use 3D video projection mapping,” Feld said.

Ringling Brothers also unveiled a new mobile app — available on iOS and Android — which lets users take a Circus Selfie, then apply photo filters to dress themselves up in circus-style garb, right up to the Ringmaster. The app also brings you closer to the performers with a Meet The Performer tab. All of the performers in Out of This World wear costumes outfitted with speakers that emit an inaudible signal that a phone’s microphone can detect. When picked up by a phone using the app, interactive information on the performer is provided.

If you attend the Starseeker’s Early Access pre-show, about an hour before the main event, video boards on a mocked up spaceship’s screen may show your circus selfie or your high score from one of the numerous games on the app.

Ringling Brothers had to reinvent the circus to keep it alive, partly due to a wave of laws passed in recent years centered on animal treatment. In 2013, Los Angeles passed a law prohibiting the use of bullhooks — sharp sticks used to train elephants — due to the “great harm and great pain” they inflict, according to Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz, who announced the new law. As a result of other cities passing similar laws, Ringling Brothers decided to retire its legendary Asian elephants and make way for a new technology era for the circus. “With the decision to retire our Asian elephants, we thought this was a really great opportunity to do something different for the brand.”

Out of This World had its world premiere at Staples Center July 14 and plans to hit Colorado, Illinois, Ohio, and other states before the tour ends its 2016 campaign at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on December 18. The tour will be a multi-year endeavor, so there will be a lot of chances to catch the new Ringling Brothers.

Tickets can be purchased here.

Editors' Recommendations

Two years and a pandemic later, fast-charging graphene batteries are hitting shelves
Elecjet Apollo Ultra

Back when CES was still a live event, we talked with the folks at Real Graphene about how they were going to blow everyone's minds with their groundbreaking battery tech. They've been busy little beavers since then, and not only because their supply chains have been brutalized during the pandemic. They've merged with a company called Elecjet, locked down patents, breezed through their first crowdfunding campaign, and are well on their way through their second campaign.

Elecjet Apollo Ultra - - World's fastest Charging Power Bank Live on Indiegogo
What's the big deal about graphene anyway?
The big deal is that graphene-based batteries charge really fast. We've been trying out Elecjet's upcoming Apollo Ultra, and it can top up its 10,000mAh capacity in a half hour easily. This really hits home when you realize most batteries at this capacity take a couple of hours to get fully charged. The Apollo Ultra's performance relies a fair bit on having a 100-watt charger, but the graphene cathode is what's doing the heavy lifting here.
OK, but how does a graphene battery even work?
Relax, we were just getting to that. First, let's run through a quick refresh on how lithium-ion batteries work. In short, a battery has two main compartments separated by a porous membrane. When you charge a battery, it's pulling electrons from one compartment to the other. The membrane prevents those electrons from drifting on back to their natural home on the starting side. When the battery circuit is completed by a gadget needing some juice, those electrons have a path back. So those electrons run through all of the hoops they need to in order to get back to their starting point, thus creating the wonderful electrical current we need to watch cat videos on YouTube.

Read more
How far away are we from mainstream 5G home internet?
t mobile 5g home internet.

From 5G smartphones to businesses using 5G solutions for better management and rapid scaling to health care industries implementing 5G tech to improve efficiency and save lives, the 5G seems to be penetrating nearly every industry. But despite 5G home internet being presented as a panacea, especially for Americans living in rural areas with limited broadband options, it still hasn't taken hold, with just hundreds of thousands of subscribers using the service compared to the hundreds of millions of 5G mobile customers. 
That raises questions about why 5G isn't currently popular for home internet use -- especially in rural areas that could benefit the most from it -- and what the challenges are in terms of adoption. We talked to experts to find out. 
How widespread is 5G home internet currently? 
T-Mobile launched 5G Home Internet in April this year, making 30 million households eligible for the service (but not all of them have made the switch yet). It also subsequently expanded its availability to 51 cities and towns throughout Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. "While fixed wireless internet isn't yet available to every American, we're projected to serve 500,000 households with home internet by the end of 2021," said Kaley Gagnon, vice president of emerging products at T-Mobile.  

A spokesperson from Verizon told Digital Trends that it experienced a gain of 55,000 net subscribers in July, August, and September. The company reached 150,000 total subscribers on fixed wireless access at the end of the third quarter, the spokesperson said.
However, some experts like Jay Akin, CEO of Mushroom Networks, a networking company that builds advanced routers and appliances, believe getting an exact number of 5G home internet users can be difficult as carriers avoid breaking down their subscriber numbers with respect to LTE-versu-5G for fixed wireless access). "Majority of those subscribers are LTE and not 5G so far," he said, adding that "5G home internet subscribers are lower than 100,000 people in the whole United States among all carriers."
Those aren't promising numbers, especially compared to the slow pace of 5G carrier rollout, which covers 75% of the U.S. on paper, but with only 25% spending online time actually connected to 5G. 
Four big barriers to 5G home internet 
Despite the widespread availability of 5G devices and an increasing number of discussions on applications of 5G technology, data shows 5G home internet hasn't yet picked up steam. Infrastructural, economic, and sociocultural factors continue to be major obstacles to 5G home internet becoming mainstream.
One of the major concerns for many users is performance, especially now that everything (school, work, socializing, and even health care) has moved online. 
"According to the 2021 EY Digital Home survey, 57% of respondents said that dependability is more important than speed and that reliability is the No. 1 deciding factor for choosing a broadband provider," said Vincent Douin of EY. "Reliability has now overtaken price considerations when it comes to choosing a broadband provider, and 51% of respondents said they would worry about inferior broadband performance if they switched providers," he added.

Read more
5G-enabled billboard in Times Square briefly brings interactive game to masses
Picture of Time Square.

If you've ever wanted to play a game with random strangers while standing in the middle of Times Square, well, your prayers were briefly answered on September 8 and 9.

Using the Mega Screen billboard located at 1500 Broadway and West 43 Street in Manhattan, bystanders could scan a QR code with their smartphones to participate as an "interactive spectator" in Streamline Studios' 2020 co-op game Bake 'n Switch. Those who did so were able to jump in and play part of the game without having to download or install it.

Read more