Emma Tatman

Bloc Digital's First Product Launch, virtURL®

This month sees an exciting enhancement to the Bloc Digital offering. virtURL® | Powered By Bloc: is our first dedicated product roll-out. Building on our international reputation, pioneering proactive digital visualisation and immersive tech solutions, we’ve developed a product to meet the needs of businesses as a result of the unprecedented change of the last 12+ months.

This virtual event and product showcase platform combines our expertise in digital capabilities and development of web technologies to create a virtual platform that enables businesses to deliver global communication, interaction and marketing impact in the digital sphere.

We caught up with Bloc Co-Founder and Director Keith Cox and Head of Sales and Solutions Development, Steve Bentley to find out more…

Keith: The shift to the ‘digital world’ had been a natural progression for many of our global clients, who were already utilising our immersive tech and web solutions within their own product development, training, sales and marketing. But the Covid-19 pandemic forced a fundamental rethink and reconfiguration of the way they connect, engage and differentiate themselves – overnight.

Steve: I think the initial focus by businesses was communication “how do we keep people talking”… but we identified that organisations would quickly need to do more to maintain their brand presence and wider interactions. This is why we took a more holistic view of what the virtual space should, could and would offer.

Keith: Absolutely, digital remote communications, networking and interactive experiences are now required to cut across all sectors of a business from operations, product design, marketing, training and skills learning.

Steve: We could see that by bringing together Bloc Digital’s expertise in 3D modelling, animation and software engineering, coupled with our experience in developing industry focussed online solutions, particularly for our engineering and manufacturing global clients, we could take businesses to a much more enhanced level of interaction and communication.

So what does virtURL® offer?

Steve: By integrating online communication tools, virtual presentations and advanced 360° navigation capabilities we’ve created a customisable platform. This enables organisations to engage with their customers in real-time, aided by interactions, and 3D product demonstrations, which closely simulate previously in-person live events.

Keith: I think that’s the beauty of the platform – its ability to deliver a uniquely branded presence for businesses. We quickly identified that the initial ‘virtual’ responses being offered to businesses were little more than enhanced video-conferencing abilities. We know from our immersive technology expertise and insights that unlocking the power to explore and engage with a concept or product in a 3D capacity involves the user in a deeper experience and stimulates greater interest. And it’s that concept that is at the core of our platform design.

Steve: We also wanted to increase accessibility across sectors, by offering the opportunity to utilise the benefits of virtual environments and interaction. The platform can create a virtual and interactive presence for our clients to meet Covid-19 specific challenges and maintain activity and operations in the virtual sphere – as it evolves. It also builds in resilience, adaptability and cost efficiencies. With no licence fees, and just a one-off start-up and customisation cost, our platform enables businesses to be agile, adaptable and to cost-effectively tailor and brand their environments to suit their developing and ongoing needs.

Is it just a COVID response - has the landscape fundamentally changed?

Steve: I don’t think this is purely a Covid response at all. Most businesses would argue the increased digital and online presence has now become integral to their operations. It’s no longer just a reactive response, instead it’s about bringing the added potential to offer improved daily functionality, enhanced services and also drive productivity and impact. I think the digital/virtual shift is here to stay – but it’s not about virtual and online replacing face-to-face or previous working practices. It’s about developing blended solutions which maximise personal connections but also realise the cost, sustainability and opportunity of virtual, immersive solutions.

What does the launch of virtURL® mean for Bloc Digital?

Keith: This reflects the commercial growth of Bloc Digital – expanding our offering from a service to an enhanced service & product-based business.

Our horizon scanning and early access to technology and hardware, means we’re able to quickly and effectively take an improvement idea, and develop, test and productionise it. We took the decision to accelerate this to support wider the business community and to invest in the development of virtURL as our first dedicated product.

Innovation and seeking to differentiate ourselves in the market has always been a key driver for us. 2020 has seen us make a shift in the business – though Covid-19 was perhaps more of a catalyst than a reactive pivot. It also reflects the continuous advancements in technology and research and development made by the company over recent years.

What's next for virtURL®?

Steve: While this is the official launch, the technology and insights behind our virtURL product has already been delivering impact for a number of our global clients.

This platform is much bigger than a virtual event… it’s a new way to consolidate your data and engagement, all in one place. There will also be increasing development in immersive experiences. We have already started work on an offline tool for touchscreen and mobile AR experiences. By integrating update capabilities to ensure a matched information set is available at shows or for other marketing purposes. VR installations are also in the pipeline. The potential is forever growing and is continuously progressing and shifting to suit the surrounding needs of industries.

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