On this week’s episode of #EventIcons, we’re happy to introduce one of our amazing partners. Edo Segal is the founder and CEO of Touchcast, an innovative solution that’s bringing a human connection back to virtual events. One of the many trends we identified for the upcoming months was the implementation of mixed reality in digital experiences.
Because after months of repetitive webinars and dull sessions, attendees will increasingly expect more. And the price for not delivering will be having a significant portion of your audience walk out on your event. But how do partners like Endless Events and Touchcast come in? How can these emerging technologies and production partners elevate your virtual events? Well, press play or read on to learn more about the magical powers of mixed reality!
So, how did Touchcast come about? “When we started in 2012, it really focused on the future of video communications. What’s going to come after video conferencing?”, Edo recalls. “And that led us down this path of combining the artistry and talent of production and creating high-impact visuals with this technology that allows us to arrive at what we’re trying to do today. It’s been a very challenging time, but these challenging times also give us the license to innovate”.
“So we found ourselves being challenged by our existing customers to help them still deliver on the incredible events that they’ve historically produced. Touchcast really stepped up to the challenge and produced something that really allows us to deliver on the art form of creating amazing events in this age of virtual”, he explains. “Because we really effectively do everything you would do in a physical event, but we do it in a distributed way and we do it virtually. So the people at home still kind of feel that the event is happening. They’re watching it from home, but all the production work, everything that goes into mounting an amazing event is still standing on the shoulders of giants”.
Taking Virtual Events To The Next Level
As Sarah speaks, you can notice Edo playing around a little bit. And it’s literally playing around! As he explains, “this is an Xbox controller that I’m using right now to move the camera around this amazing venue. So I can basically control this just like you would control it if you were producing the event with the crane cameras. And so this allows us to deliver an experience to people at home, which feels like a multi-camera shoot, even in a world where we can’t really do that kind of production anymore. We still need to program these screens, we need to configure them in pre-production. We need to think through the same exact journey that we took our clients on before, but now we’re doing it in a way that is completely digital”.
The beauty of Touchcast is that the process doesn’t have to completely shift just because the setting is virtual. “The human effort, the creativity, the planning, the pre-production process we go through is identical to what we have done historically when it was physical”, says Edo. “When it comes to a premium experience, like the ones that we’re trying to enable for our clients, I believe that you still need the same kind of talent and teams you’d have for any event”.
Disrupting The Industry
Among the many incredible things Touchcast can does is the concept of digital twinning. “So if you have a company, let’s say one of the big multinational banks that we service, we’ve replicated their environment, their auditorium, their building, which is part of their brand. And they’re now running events inside their building, even though nobody can enter the building”.
“So really an interesting paradigm shift that you can still effectively create these events, and people from home experience them like they’re happening in the venue, while that’s not technically possible. So what happens on these things is people just dial in, using Microsoft teams, and it converts in real-time to a venue. The people attending in terms of speakers don’t need to learn anything new. They’re just there to share their knowledge. And the people that are coming in from home are basically landing on a page that feels kind of like a Netflix experience”, Edo adds.
And speaking of Netflix…”We’re trying to make it feel more like Netflix. So how do you make this whole experience of digital events feel like a delightful content consumption experience? We run 4k video at 30 frames a second. So when your attendees are watching your events, they’re seeing it as though they’re watching a high-end movie on Netflix, which is another big differentiator of how to solve this problem for high impact events, especially for clients where the content matters”.
Looking Into The Future
Comparing the events industry to what recently happened in the world of streaming, Edo has a hopeful vision for the future. “I think that we’re going to see a resurgence of demand because a good event, there’s just no replacement for it. It’s an amazing platform for companies to reach their constituents in different scenarios. And I think when you distribute this process and you give the creative people the tools, we’ll have a situation where we can create a tremendous amount of demand”, he says.
“I think there is a chance, and we’re really working hard to facilitate it, that there’s actually going to be an explosion of work for this industry. And there’ll be actually more events. And the events will have bigger audiences because all these events are now global. I think that’s going to play a big role. It’s just an amazingly exciting time, even though it’s also a very challenging one”.
The Hybrid Revolution
Much like everyone else in the industry, Edo sees the hybrid revolution fast approaching. “So we kind of see the evolution of events as emerging into this hybrid model. If historically events were basically a physical experience that was backed up by a digital extension, what we’re seeing in the next 12 to 24 months is a digital event with a physical extension. Everybody agrees that there is no replacement for the serendipity of meeting people and all the things that happen at these incredible events, but we all recognize that behavior has changed for the long haul”.
“There will be people that will refuse to get on a plane and leave their family if nothing else because of health reasons. And probably most important for the corporations is the costs and the costs are a big driver. Now the reality is that we can help both the professionals that need to run the events because the same skills are needed. As we run an event like this, we have a director in every stream and we have producers and we have customer service people that are there to answer questions”, explains Edo.
“We have pre-production and we have artists that are involved in the process of the grading, the digital package. And there’s a lot of people that are effectively applying their amazing talent to make these digital events be impactful. We are also developing a program to partner with these venues to create a digital twin. And when things come back, we’ll be their digital partner to create these hybrid experiences, it’ll all kind of blend together in this mixed reality future”, he adds.
It’s Time To Do Better
We’ve spoken at length about the lack of creativity and overall production quality seen in virtual events. Edo agrees that the soul has been missing from these experiences. As he puts it, “the companies that are servicing the virtual transition are approaching it like engineers. But what’s missing is the artistry, the amazing creative input that people in the business know how to apply”.
“It represents the brand that represents experience. It takes you on a journey. Ultimately it creates an experience. And right now these virtual events for the most part are devoid of that. And we’re trying to bring that in to help revitalize the future of this trillion-dollar ecosystem and try to create a world in which these professionals can thrive, apply themselves, create value that leverages the skills that they’ve honed for many years and delivers them in the same way”, he continues.
“It’s not enough to have the technology and the tools. You need to know how to direct, where to put the camera, when to put in the music, when to get the crowd to applaud, you need to know how to create an experience. And I think that the technology industry is a bit blind to this, that they’re not really aware of it. They think about it very technically, and it’s missing the soul of what makes this industry so vibrant. So how to channel that amazing creative energy of this community is something that I’m personally very passionate about”.
Edo leaves us with more inspiring words for the future. “You would think we’re all kind of self-motivated, but it sometimes does take a crisis to squeeze stuff out of us. And that’s true for Touchcast as well. I mean, this was not an easy time, but the hardship actually forced the team to come up with an incredible solution”.
“And I think that’s true probably as a metaphor for most of the people that are watching us now, and the time that’s challenging. I would try to embrace that and appreciate the fact that we do have the license to grow and innovate and to tap into our creativity. And from my perspective, personally, I view it as a call for your help. We need all the help we can get to make this transition happen and kind of revitalize this amazing ecosystem”, he concludes.