Explore the full 2022 list of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies, 528 organizations whose efforts are reshaping their businesses, industries, and the broader culture. We’ve selected the firms making the biggest impact with their initiatives across 52 categories, including the most innovative media, travel, and music companies.
After a pandemic-battered year in which virtually every live event went virtual, real-world experiences are bouncing back in a big way.
Some of the most head-spinning, mind-blowing immersive events we’ve ever seen were birthed into the world over the last 12 months, many with an aim toward overstimulating all five senses at once. Large-scale, multisensory installations dazzled visitors at events from the new Superblue centers in Miami and London to Meow Wolf’s latest high-concept art exhibitions in Denver and Las Vegas to Moment Factory’s brilliant light-and-sound displays in Tokyo, Australia, and New York City.
Sadly, though, COVID-19 is not done with us. That’s why virtual solutions continued to be a prominent theme in live events this year. We highlighted a number of companies that are using tech to connect people in creative new ways, including SeatGeek’s smart-entry system for theaters, Tribeca Festival’s VR arcade, Rockwell Group’s hands-free museum design, and a concert experience from Giantstep Studios that brought K-pop stars to the metaverse.
Whether in-person or virtual or a hybrid of the two, all live events are motivated by the same goal: bringing people together for a shared experience. All 10 companies on our Live Events list this year do that with stunning resourcefulness and relentless determination—in the best and worst of times.
1. Moment Factory
For dazzling our senses with multisensory installations
Montreal-based Moment Factory has long been known for its stunning public displays of light and sound. It outdid itself in 2021 with installations for Olivia Rodrigo’s set, Japan’s Shinjuku train station, South Australia’s Adelaide Botanic Gardens, and even the League of Legends Championship. It capped off the year with a digital installation that brought the aurora borealis to New York’s Grand Central Terminal to promote tourism in Canada.
For adapting quickly to new event safety requirements
In the wake of COVID-19, ticketing service SeatGeek launched a handy suite of product features, called Adapt, which was designed to help venues get fans back to events safely following pandemic-related shutdowns. Through this technology, venues could leverage “smart entry” and other features that helped helped them plot a safer return to live events. As audiences reemerged last year, SeatGeek also scored a major coup in partnering with Jujamcyn Theaters, its first Broadway client.
3. Meow Wolf
For delivering trippy experiences in Denver and Vegas
Meow Wolf continued its psychedelic hot streak in 2021 and continues to prove itself a unique presence in the worlds of experiential art and commerce. In the fall, it opened its third and most ambitious offering: Denver’s Convergence Station, a massive installation centered around the idea of quantum travel, complete with its own story arc. This came after Meow Wolf had already successfully opened its second permanent exhibition earlier in the year: Omega Mart, located in Las Vegas at the immersive retail complex Area15, where visitors can explore a giant interactive supermarket. Omega Mart broke records for ticket sales despite opening during COVID-19 restrictions in February.
For celebrating Asian artists with the world’s next big music festival
88rising, the music company founded by Sean Miyashiro, had been putting on the Head in the Clouds festival in Los Angeles—a one-day event—for a couple of years before the pandemic hit. This year, it returned as a multiday blowout, complete with Amazon Live streaming. The event attracted a ton of buzz, with people calling it the next big music festival, and the Daily Californian reporting that it had “tapped into seemingly every Asian influencer on TikTok” for the festival’s promotional campaign. We’re glad to see this one rise.
5. Giantstep Studios
For bringing K-pop stars to the metaverse
Last year, Seoul-based Giantstep Studios teamed up with SM Entertainment, one of the largest entertainment companies in Korea, for an ambitious event collaboration. But because none of their roster of musical artists could actually perform live during the pandemic, Giantstep worked with them and the Korean search engine Naver to create virtual concert experiences for K-pop stars including Aespa, ITZY, Kai (from the band EXO), Mamamoo, and others. The result was a blend of live event and studio special effects, with a timely K-pop and metaverse twist.
For feting New York City’s resilience—again
Two decades after it launched in the wake of 9/11, the Tribeca Film Festival celebrated the resilience of a city emerging from the global COVID-19 pandemic with 12 days of live events at outdoor venues across all five boroughs of New York City, a new “Tribeca at Home” component, as well as podcasts, games, and VR. As the first major North American film festival to offer live programming in a world redefined by the pandemic, Tribeca not only commemorated its 20th anniversary but also reinvented itself for the future.
7. Active Theory
For porting a massive blockchain event into VR
A Los Angeles-based studio that creates VR and AR experiences, Active Theory has worked with film and music festivals (Sundance, Secret Sky) to expand programming into virtual realms, and last year developed a 3D activation for the Cardano Summit, which focuses on the future of crypto currency and the blockchain. For several days at the end of September, more than 140,000 attendees visited a microverse with seven explorable worlds designed around conference topics—70 hours of programming featuring more than 200 speakers.
For giving artists a blueprint for large-scale experiences
Superblue helps visual artists create large-scale immersive experiences. Its flagship location in Miami, a 50,000-square-foot industrial space, included installations during last December’s Art Basel festival, such as a mirror maze from set designer Es Devlin and spaces with floating shape-shifting lamps unfurling like plants from the Dutch experiential art organization Drift. The goal of the for-profit venture is to provide space and resources for established artists to create installations that art fans are willing to pay to experience. Superblue aims to expand to other cities and opened a location last October in London.
9. Rockwell Group
For redesigning public cultural spaces in a COVID-19-safe way
Last summer, in the wake of COVID-19 with theaters still closed and retail spaces shuttered all over New York City, Rockwell Group designed Seven Deadly Sins, an outdoor theater anthology series composed of seven 10-minute long world premiere plays, all performed in abandoned storefronts (and one empty shipping container) in the Meatpacking District of Manhattan. The New York-based architecture and design firm also created the Futures exhibition in Washington, D.C., which combined more than 150 ideas, objects, and technological innovations, collected from 23 Smithsonian museums and research centers, and let visitors experience them using hand gestures.
10. Constellation Immersive
For reviving the roller disco and just in time
The experience-based production studio launched the DiscOasis at the South Coast Botanic Garden in Palos Verdes, outside of Los Angeles. Working in partnership with Chic founder and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Nile Rodgers, Constellation Immersive created a pop-up experience last summer that merged music, nature, and roller disco—all while satisfying the health requirements of our COVID-19 landscape.