Weyo is a creative-driven tech studio co-based in Melbourne, Australia and L.A, USA. We are storytellers, obsessed with bringing to life kids’ favorite content through the magical lens of Augmented Reality and interactive video. We empower trusted brands and content creators to engage directly with their little fans through digital play, to spark imagination and open up a world of possibilities. We are passionate believers in technology’s capacity to support learning and a growth mindset in an ever-changing digital landscape, striving to find new ways to inspire and excite young minds.
Baz Palmer is an experienced tech founder and CEO with a lifetime spent in content creation, licensing and managing IP & rights. Created Soundhalo, a global first HD live streaming mobile platform. Co-Founder of Vampr, the world’s largest musician network. Multi-platinum songwriter with iconic Australian band and Hall of Fame inductees, Hunters & Collectors.
Stuart Berwick created the very first commercial application of Augmented Reality for iconic “band” the Gorillaz back in 2010, when Head of Innovations @ PIAS. Stuart and Baz have worked together for 9 years, beginning with Stuart’s roles as Head of Product at Soundhalo.
How did your creative process change given all of the unexpected turns of 2020?
With our two co-founders on opposite sides of the globe – Baz in Melbourne, Australia and Stuart, based in Venice, USA – to a large degree working remotely was business as usual, however significant opportunity to explore new opportunities came from this unlikeliest of scenarios. With travel time to our respective offices paused and similarly, Baz’s frequent trips to LA and NY nixed, a very considerable amount of time was freed up to pursue collaboration on our new Weyo Reading platform, and its product roadmap, which ultimately accelerated conceptualisation and development. With many others in the content industry seemingly in the same boat, we were also able to take many more meetings and ultimately fast-track partnerships and contractual conversations. The end result sees us launching Weyo Reading six months ahead of schedule in early 2021! Silver linings and all that :)
What’s the most important lesson you learned while making work outside of the traditional video platform?
One invaluable insight we learnt from introducing our new user behaviour (interactive AR video) to kids is that they are even more open-minded and willing to engage in the “new” and immerse themselves in the experiential possibilities that come with it than we originally thought. Adults frame their engagement with all kinds of preconceptions, preferences and biases and too often shut down the imagination- the suspension of disbelief- with a critical mind. This is where the fun really begins! How much real potential is there for inculcating a growth mindset in young kids’ via digital play experiences? And, how far we can go in exploring creativity and open-ended play when breaking the fourth wall?
What do you think is the secret to having a successful creative team who thinks outside of the box?
Weyo is fortunate in that both founders have a lifetime of experience working in the creative arts and know intimately the journey of a successful product from inspiration and ideation, through to execution, launch and hopefully, mass-market adoption. The strength of the original idea and the evaluation of product market fit is fundamentally important, equally so, how they are realised in the product road map, app dev and marketing is inextricable to the products potential success. However, in our experience, all is for naught if the collaborative process, with all its dependencies and personnel, is unable to come together to take the product on its journey. An environment that supports creativity and inspiration, underpinned by mutual respect and a willingness to take on diverse opinions and ideas is essential. If the collaborative process is firing on all cylinders, then you are halfway there to making something amazing.
What was the biggest hurdle you faced during your creative process?
By “breaking the fourth wall” and bringing kids onto the screen and into the action – seeing themselves as their favorite characters and interacting in real-time with the AR face filters – was a massive UI/UX challenge. Considerable R&D and user testing were undertaken to get the initial onboarding right as well as the “signalling” for when a user (who let’s remember is only two years of age!) is to participate in the content creation. We also had to test appropriate content and granular editing to guarantee full attention and active participation. We also had to be mindful of not overloading the experience with too many Wizz-bang distractions. Another major consideration was the privacy, safety and security issues that come with the territory of capturing content from kids. Ultimately this led to the biggest tech challenge of all – doing all that Weyo does, in real-time on the device with nothing sent to the cloud, for instant viewing and saving to the camera roll, by kids!
What do your Telly wins mean to you?
It was mind-blowing to receive this level of validation from The Telly Awards’ judges and it’s voting community. As is so often the case, new technologies that disrupt the way we view the world and/or require new user behaviors can struggle with a real-world use case and adoption and even recognition from the technical community. These awards shout it out loud and clear that our unique user engagement is being noticed and appreciated. We had already captured our own extensive and consistent data from our analytics that definitively demonstrated kids’ preference for our interactive video experiences, choosing them over regular “lean-back” and passive YouTube-style video experiences by a factor of 3 to 1. So while we know kids love Weyo, having industry experts recognising the value of our apps as well as winning People’s Choice, was nothing short of thrilling. Thank you!