Circuses around the world have been struggling to keep people entertained and cope with the increased restrictions on the use of live animals. Circus Roncalli in Germany started to phase out its use of live animals in 1990, and in 2018, replaced them with a 360-degree holographic showcase. They’re using virtual technology to preserve the flavor of historic circuses while eliminating concerns of animal cruelty.

The founder of Circus Roncalli, Bernhard Paul, came up with the idea of using holograms when he was watching the NFL Super Bowl half-time show in 2018. In the half-time show, Justin Timberlake was seen singing with a hologram of the musician Prince, who had died two years earlier. Paul was determined to find a way to make the technique work within his circus. He and his engineers have now created 3D digital projections, including enormous holographic elephants, stampeding wild horses, and a massive, colorful goldfish.  

A team of designers and software engineers created a 360-degree display that uses 11 laser projectors and 11 lenses to deliver 3D holographic renditions of various wildlife. The images are projected onto a material called scrims which create a floating 2D illusion using projectors and semitransparent, loose-weave material. The entire audience in the 32 meters wide and five metres deep arena can see the images at the same time. Bernhard Paul says they are now working on images which will interact with the audience.

You can see holograms at Circus Roncalli here: 

The president of the Animal Defenders International organisation, Jan Creamer, stated that “this is the future of circus — a performance everyone can enjoy and for which intelligent, sentient beings are not used and depicted as objects of entertainment”.