Will Bizzabo’s Whalebone product bridge the virtual divide?
Virtual event platforms have been iterating at an exponential pace since the start of the pandemic in an attempt to satisfy the many varied needs of their skyrocketing user bases. One issue that comes up again and again? Creating a platform that brings in at least some of the key elements of the live, collective experiences we’ve all been so dearly missing.
“One of the things we noticed early on is how challenging it is to replicate the energy and emotional connection you feel when you’re physically together,” Bizzabo Co-founder and CMO Alon Alroy told XP Land. “Without those magical shared moments, many event participants tell us they get bored, experience ‘FOMO,’ or feel unheard and uninfluential.”
Live audiences produce energy and shared moments and human interactions that amplify emotional involvement, Alroy said. After powering tens of thousands of virtual events over the past 18 months, Bizzabo realized that they had to find a way to bring those elements into virtual experiences.
That’s where Whalebone comes in. The Swedish tech startup, acquired by Bizzabo in late May, simulates a live audience by making it possible to hear and visualize the online crowd, bridging the gap between virtual and in-person experiences. Whalebone uses deep learning, sensors and interaction analysis to interpret the audience’s activity in real-time and generate highly responsive sounds as well as immersive visualizations.
“One of the things we noticed early on is how challenging it is to replicate the energy and emotional connection you feel when you’re physically together.”Bizzabo Co-founder Alon Alroy
Whalebone’s crowd amplification tool generates hyper-realistic sounds like clapping, cheering and buzz, adding energy to virtual events and giving speakers and producers real-time feedback on audience sentiment. “Attendees can show their support the same way they would in-person and share their excitement with the entire audience, creating a more human and connected experience while driving engagement,” Alroy said.
The crowd visualization element creates a vivid birds-eye view of the audience in real-time, “simulating a natural crowd and delivering an intimate and connected experience.” The visualization tool also highlights the most important interactions taking place. Audience members are represented by small spheres and when they clap, the globes vibrate.
When users enter a room, they are given instructions on how to applaud via a pop-up. There’s an option to click a “make noise” button, or attendees can enable the “emotion detector,” which allows them to clap into their mics to generate noise. The individual audience members also have control of how much crowd noise they want to hear through a volume slider. Meanwhile, the speaker/performer is able to hear the noise the audience makes and see a visualization of every viewer.
Bizzabo is just starting to roll Whalebone’s tech out to select companies and it remains to be seen what the adoption rates will be. There were no current stats or client lists made available, but Bizzabo says their plan is to eventually provide the Whalebone tech to all Bizzabo customers.
In December 2020, Bizzabo announced a $138 million financing round, which the company said would enable it to meet “surging demand for its all-in-one, end-to-end events platform globally, with a focus on enhancing the attendee experience in the hybrid events market.”
Following its Whalebone acquisition, Bizzabo quickly acquired AI-scheduling and recommendations tool x.ai. “Both of these acquisitions solidify our commitment to elevating event experiences by creating shared moments between stakeholders at all events — whether they’re in-person, virtual or hybrid,” Alroy said.