Tom Webb, who describes himself as an artist, tech futurist and hacker, joined us for the latest in our series of PRG Ideas Exchange events.
Tom was inducted into the Magic Circle at the age of 18. Since then he has gone on to establish himself as a huge name, by creating shows which combine technology and magic. Tom’s stage shows featured classic tricks such as the ‘three-card Monte’, updated using drones to perform the sleight-of-hand magic. “People aren’t thinking, ‘How did he put it up his sleeve?’” he says. “They’re thinking, ‘How the hell did that drone switch cards without fingers?’”
More recently, Tom’s focus is on harnessing new technologies and showcasing innovative applications. His online performances have amassed over 40 million views and he has performed keynote addresses on behalf of brands including Wired Magazine, Microsoft and Instagram. Earlier this year, Tom was invited to speak at TEDxBerlin.
One of the highlights of Tom’s career to date was his performance on America’s Got Talent. Tom has even taken to one of the world’s biggest talent shows, to demonstrate how he could ‘hack’ the phones of the audience.
Talking at the PRG Ideas Exchange, Tom let us in on how the incredible trick was done. He showed how, by clever use of the iPhone’s camera and coding, he was able to control phones, making them flash in different colours.
He explained how was able to display messages via the phones, such as asking for an email address to enter a competition and could even open applications like Instagram for people to follow and Twitter with populated tweets ready for posting.
No doubt Tom’s trickery was spooky, but it also demonstrated something hugely valuable, which he went on to discuss at our breakfast meeting. The crucial point here is that the idea itself is entirely scalable. It’s perfect for concerts and gigs, but it could also work brilliantly for millions of people watching a TV show. In the words of Arthur C Clarke, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
Tom’s work has shown just how true the words of this late author, inventor and futurist still are, and he shows no sign of slowing down. Tom is now dedicating more time to creating art using technology. He’s particularly interested in how emotion can be translated through technology. Take Twitter, for example.
Tom has built a series of art pieces which combine an LED screen displaying live tweets with a two way mirror. Each of the art pieces reflected a different emotion. Tom says: “Art is about real time emotions. You have to look at yourself and see your reflection the feeling and thoughts of a stranger. Whether they are talking about depression happiness or fear.”
Tom takes real time statistics and finds bold ways to show that data. For example, he showed a mirror artwork he created which shows two counters side by side. One showed how many people have died in the world today and the other showed how much money has been spent today in the USA on weight loss products. Another mirror showed pills dropping down the screen showing, in real time, Xanax being prescribed in the US.
At the PRG Ideas Exchange, Tom went on to show examples of pixel art holograms, created for Valentino, and futuristic Total Recall style advertising holograms, which he designed as part of an incredible art installation.
In Tom’s words, “Anything is possible if you can code.” We look forward to seeing what he comes up with next.
The PRG Ideas Exchange is a series of monthly invite only events, which has been designed to delve deeper into the minds of some of the most creative people in the events industry, for an exchange of inspiring ideas. If you want to find out more about this and what PRG could do for your next event, whatever its size, talk to John Montague or Andy Johnston.