Leaders in the home space gathered on Tuesday for the Surreal Home & Lifestyle Show, a virtual media event showcasing sample projects, innovative products and new styles for Spring 2021 and beyond.

Surreal is an immersive, web-based virtual event platform, hosted in the cloud and pixel-streamed to participants. The platform enables audiences to connect and collaborate via personalized avatars.

“Surreal was born out of necessity and out of need from the pandemic to solve what we saw was a problem that exists when you look at the web conferencing and web broadcasting tools like teams or Zoom,” said Josh Rush, CEO, Surreal. “We've all experienced some fatigue over the last 11 months and really sort of crave the opportunity to connect with people, collaborate and celebrate in ways that feel more like real life."

Surreal is built on the Unreal Engine, a gaming platform created by the makers of Fortnite. The online video game, developed by Epic Games and released in 2017, now has more than 350 million active users.

"Using the Unreal Engine and being able to pixel stream right to your browser, participants don't experience the latency or the graphics processing requirements that would normally be expected from a game or gaming laptop or PC—we're able to deliver these photorealistic environments in real time," Rush said. 

Participants in the Surreal Home & Lifestyle Show had the opportunity to engage with HGTV and DIY Network celebrity designers and contractors—Tamara Day, Sara Bendrick, Chip Wade, and the entire design team from Extreme Home Makeover: Breegan Jane, Carrie Locklyn and Darren Reiher.

Trade shows continue to be impacted by event cancellations and delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In December, concert trade publication Pollstar reported the total lost revenue for the live-events business in 2020 at more than $30 billion. While Rush said he doesn't see virtual events replacing live events, he said he does see them opening up the opportunity for hybrid live-virtual events.

Bizzabo, a New York-based event software company, surveyed nearly 400 marketing professionals and found that “more than 80% of marketers agree that greater audience reach is the most positive effect they’ve experienced from their shift to virtual.” However, the Evolution of Events report also showed that the majority of marketers (63%) plan to resume in-person meetings in 2021.

“The Surreal Home & Lifestyle Show was virtual on a whole new level,” said Amber Leigh Martinson, senior director of marketing, Dal-Tile Corp. “It brought Daltile’s products to life for media in truly immersive, interactive, and realistic room scene environments. Having virtual versions of rooms designed by the Extreme Home Makeover Team, Sara Bendrick, and Tamara Day, that attendees could re-configure with various Daltile products, was key to media getting to experience our products for themselves.” 

Even before COVID-19, games were on the way to becoming the next wave of social networks. Nielsen, the New York-based data and audience measurement company, reported that 3D virtual spaces are increasingly being used to stay in touch alongside more traditional methods. A 2019 study on U.S. preteen gamers found that one of the main reasons gamers aged 7-12 played online games like Roblox, Minecraft and Fortnite was to spend time with friends after school. COVID-19 has only accelerated this trend.

“One thing is clear: it’s critical that we exercise agility, embrace change and capitalize on the power of the pivot,” Rush said. “As we prepare to move forward, there’s no better time to re-envision and re-design a live events strategy that is impactful, sustainable and built on a foundation sturdy enough to withstand any disruption—foreseen or unexpected.”

For more information, visit surrealevents.com