For more than 20 years, concert promoter Carmi Wurtman has organized music festivals and brought major entertainers to Israel, including Joe Cocker, The Black Eyed Peas, America and Jason Derulo.
Now, turning his focus to a younger audience, he has brought interactive screens and avatars to an event called X-Space at the Expo Tel Aviv convention center.
Think of it as a giant augmented reality arcade.
In this current beta site, visitors — mostly age 6 to younger teens along with accompanying adults — are introduced to several animated characters: the purple-haired spaceship captain Boss and her crew.
Then they gad their way through a series of interactive adventures personally created for each visitor.
Each visitor receives an avatar, operated through a smart bracelet assigned at the door, and then works themselves through several activity rooms, tapping their smart bracelet on the terminals installed in each room to activate each activity.
In one room, there are four augmented reality operations that allow the visitor to operate a wall-sized screen.
In another, geared for younger kids, participants color in creatures with actual crayons and then scan their pictures into the wall-sized 3D screen, where their drawings then come to life fairly magically. They can also bounce on an interactive trampoline and use wands with cushy tops to draw streaks of light on another 3D wall.
In the main, central terminal, visitors can check their personal map to see how many operations they’ve carried out and use their hands and feet to play an interactive video game.
The entire experience was created by Wurtman’s latest venture, One Space Ltd., including the technology platform and content created by local studios.
In this first iteration of One Space, Wurtman started from scratch, creating the entire X-Space experience. But the grand plan is to collaborate with other brands, creating spaces and experiences that can change content with the press of a button.
The event bears a certain similarity to the interactive Van Gogh or Frida Kahlo sound-light-and color exhibits currently traveling the world, including Israel, that introduce masterpieces to audiences who may not be able to view them in real life.
Wurtman dreamed up X-Space after experiencing Geek Picnic in Russia in 2016, an interactive event of science, technology and art, with four-story-high crushing robots, a cyber conference and sci-fi experiences.
The veteran concert promoter saw potential in this very different kind of crowd experience.
“It got me thinking: It’s cool, there are no missiles or BDS that could cancel the show,” said Wurtman, who has grappled with those specifically Israeli challenges repeatedly in his 21 years of concert promotion. “I went out around the world looking to see what I could bring.”
In the end, he decided to invent his own experience, with the goal of using this kind of technology in permanent venues with changing content, much like a movie theater, with different experiences for kids, families and adults.
“In the morning we can have Batman or SpongeBob and at night, digital Bob Marley or Star Trek,” said Wurtman. “It’s a great way for artists to generate more recognition and estates are happy to keep their brands alive.”
For Wurtman, Israel was the place to test the idea because Israelis “are a tough cookie crowd.” He said he plans to later extend globally, setting up in expos, shopping malls, cineplexes and warehouses.
X-Space has been a success so far, he said, selling 20,000 NIS 119 ($37) tickets in its first two and a half weeks.
While there are more than 100 cameras, sensors, projectors and other technological paraphernalia creating the experience, it was made with a relatively small budget compared to other, similar setups, said Wurtman, who is planning two venues in the US and a pilot in China .
“Every single room there is a wink at what we can do,” said Wurtman, who is the CEO and founder of One Space, which got funding from Aroma Music, a subsidiary of coffee chain Aroma Israel; promoter company Bimot Global; a German producer colleague; an American real estate company and several others. “We’re trying to show what our technological abilities are out there.”
For Wurtman, it’s not all that different from being a concert promoter.
“Part of being a tech company as opposed to a concert promoter is that you’re always working on the next future developments, and you’re always trying to be on the cutting edge. That’s what Israel brings to the world plate,” he said. “There’s no reason why we can’t become a tech powerhouse in entertainment.”
Tickets for X-Space can be purchased online.