WHAT, HOW & WHY.
Yulia is an App that allows smartphones to act as one massive, collaborative speaker. At its core, it's a motor that could become the heart of a party, the solution to a keynote or the future of education.
It works by sessions and joining them, meaning that there is one 'master' user that starts and 'non-master' users login to the session. Technically, it uses Wi-Fi to transmit data, meaning that all phones must be on the same connection. Lag is resolved by a combination of pre-calibration and an internal custom clock.
This was at the time a sort of project I had never handled, as the objective was to present this at Sónar 2016 as a complete product, with both a functional demo and a physical companion. We were a group of three, and I focused on the interface creation, identity, communication and overall tone of the project, and afterwards, as a Co-Founder of an venture focused on selling Yulia as a powerful engine.
A FEMALE SPEAKER
We started with the naming. As the briefing was loosely based on a pitch the school director had done a few months back, we could pretty much do anything identity-wise. We decided that a woman's name was appropriate, as names like Siri or Cortana are associated with talking interfaces. After much debate, Yulia was chosen. The whole gimmick behind it was that the party couldn't start until 'Yulia' got there, giving us room to play the app-person duality in further communication.
The physical part of the project is perhaps the most unusual.
Part of the briefing was to have an invitation to a party and an amplifier that could direct the sound coming out of the phone better, appearing to be louder than it really was. Combining them was a clever way to cut work in half.
We had two versions; a plastic, size-fits-all option, and wooden, customised one. As not all phones are the same size or have speakers on the same side, we needed to adapt the amplifier to the needs of the user.
LEARNING THE TURNTABLE
The premise was essentially one DJ entering a party, people joining him or her, and the person that initiated the session had the most control. We wanted an interface that allowed modifications on the fly, from volume, to treble, all the way to special effects.
The difficulty was in including an entire DJ software inside another software that's already using memory to locate, join and stream. With this in mind, limiting the options and interface was the way to go.
The setup of our stand in Sónar was probably the fastest; two tables, two posters, a tv and a bunch of phones. That was it. And we were pretty successful in selling and promoting something that was not ready at all. The protoypes were hard to work with and tough to listen, so we just had to up our pitching game and have a really good script.
Merging the convincing communication with a confident attitude, we were able to to push the project even further than Sónar, starting a small company (owned by IED Barcelona) and sell the project to a larger, more focused audience.
When deciding our communication strategy, we came up with the idea of having a very 'ethereal' video that featured Yulia a the motif. The script was simple; guy misses girl, girl leaves clue, guy follows clue, guy finds girl. In this environment, the girl is a manifestation of the App, making it seem as if the 'real' party starts only when two parts meet; guy and girl, or App and phone.
The final iteration of this project, so far, occurred on late 2016, when we were able to present a 5 minutes pitch to investors after being selected amongst many other start-ups. The competition was called Mercat d'Idees, or MID.
It was really entertaining to write a script with so many limitations, particularly because we were two on stage. We ended up using about 2 minutes each.
Currently, IED Barcelona owns the majority of the small company started from this venture. But nevertheless, I hope that another run goes for this technology as it could fortify the back-end of many existing applications.
TEAM: JUNIOR GONZÁLEZ, DANAË FISCHER, ALBERTO MARTÍNEZ. SPECIAL THANKS: DIGIO, IED BARCELONA, PABLO RAUSELL & HORGE PÉREZ.