Sep 30, 2016 · News

Dance, robots dance

It’s a little disorienting when Nick Weir laughs and mentions “torpedo tubes” aboard Royal Caribbean International’s Quantum-class ships. It doesn’t help much when he explains they were designed to hold people.

“In fact,” Weir says, “when we did early tests, we got way too much speed and people were literally launched into the room.”

“The room” is Two70, the multi-purpose lounge and entertainment venue that debuted on Quantum of the Seas in 2014, and is now also on sister ships Anthem of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas.

For Weir, Royal Caribbean International vice president for entertainment, Two70 is much more than a venue and it’s never been seen before.

“iMax is a format, Panavision is a format, 16 mm film is a format,” Weir says. “I call Two70 a format. And that format includes live action from a cast of 18 performers, a 12K 115-foot by 23-foot high video screen and six robotic video screens.”

“So when we created our first show on Quantum, we were literally pioneering an entirely new way of entertaining guests.”

Weir first saw Two70 – named for its 270-degree view off the ship’s stern – on “this extremely odd looking set of plans. It was almost like five people decided they wanted to design a room, and none of them liked each other.”

Those “torpedo tubes” are actually a way to bring live performers on stage. A lounge by day, Two70 was designed without traditional stage wings, and backstage is taken up by windows and ocean views. So performers either step into the tubes below stage and are raised, or “fly” in from above as aerialists.

That’s the low end of the technology used in this venue/format.

Vanguard technology includes the transformation of the backstage window array into Vistarama, the 12K video screen Weir cites. That’s twice the resolution of iMax in images projected from above the stage

And then there are the robots.

Andy Flessas, a Las Vegas computer animator who wrote and patented software called Robot Animator to simplify the arcane task of programming robots, also patented RoboScreen, pairing an assembly line robot with a massive flat screen TV. Pop stars Bon Jovi and Lady Gaga have used his creations. So have NASA and Nike. They all know Flessas better as andyRobot, who says Two70 was “born in rock and roll.”

“It’s basically big TV screen meets robot and has a baby,” he says of RoboScreen. “Now make it really gigantic and then make a theater based around that. That’s what Two70 is.

“It’s absolutely ridiculous what we did on that ship. Robots had never gone on the deep ocean like this. It’s all new frontier. You’ve got to have the muscle of a Royal Caribbean to do that.”

Mounted on a gantry behind the live performers – whose individual roles and shows are creations of RCL’s hard-charging rehearsal studio – the robots are also characters whose performances enhance those of the live singers and dancers, aerialists and acrobats.

“They take a bow at the end of the show,” Weir says, adding wonderingly, “and the audience is cheering for robots.”