Next generation news - OtherWorld

Introducing OtherWorld, backed by Google.

Google

Ideation, Branding, Prototyping, User Testing, Storytelling, Partnerships 2017

The Brief

To invent innovative storytelling experiences using cutting edge digital technologies. Based on our vision of ‘Living Media’ - fluid news serving the cities and communities of tomorrow.

The Strategy

What if: we could deliver highly-relevant, contextual stories to people’s smartphones, turning the city’s streets into their news homepage?

The Solution

OtherWorld reimagined Google Eddystone and the Physical Web to create magical location-based storytelling experiences, helping people to explore the world around them like never before. For free and without the need for an app.

Bringing Manchester’s streets to life

OtherWorld’s network of beacons were strategically positioned in key hotspots across Manchester city centre, giving maximum coverage on a manageable human scale.

The would tell the stories of a diverse mix of neighbourhoods (via their commuter thoroughfares, public squares, cultural quarters and mixed-use developments) supported by clusters of nearby content partners.

These partners would come in all shapes and sizes, and would have their own set of reasons for getting involved in the pilot. They included Greater Manchester Police, Allied London, BBC, Trinity Mirror, Manchester International Festival, Manchester City Council, NOMA, NHS, People’s History Museum and Manchester Pride.

Reaching people across Manchester with real time news and alerts is essential for Greater Manchester Police. OtherWorld provides us with a new way to engage and we are keen to be involved and see what happens with the experiment.

Our fundamental promise to all partners is that OtherWorld doesn’t create any additional work for them. OtherWorld simply repurposes and repackages the stories they’re already sitting on, ready to be discovered by new audiences on the go.

Eddystone beacon technology

How beacon news tech works

OtherWorld used the very latest beacon technology to create magical location-based storytelling experiences, helping people to explore the world around them like never before. For free and without the need for an app.

Behind that simple proposition sat Google Eddystone and the Physical Web - a Google trial where beacons broadcast their URLs to the Chrome browser. Setting it up as a reader was easy and you only needed to do it once.

From newsroom perspective, for less than $100 you can build your own dynamic news ecosystem and have it broadcasting in less than an hour. Each beacon has a Bluetooth® Low Energy transmitter. It broadcasts tiny radio signals over the air containing unique, location-specific data.

Modern smartphones constantly scan for these signals. If the handset enters their range they display a silent notification or trigger an app intent. This relatively simple exchange turned out to be an extremely powerful storytelling tool.

Step 1. Switch on Bluetooth

Beacon signals are sent via Bluetooth. These days 75% of us (40% UK) already have it switched on thanks to the rise of Bluetooth wearables and for hands-free calling and music streaming in our cars. It also no longer drains our mobile phone batteries.

Step 2. Activate

This is where iPhones and Android handsets differed. On a mobile phone running on Android OS the process was simple. Make sure Location was switched ‘on’ and that should be enough. If not, go to Settings > Google > Nearby. If it’s switched ‘off’, turn it ‘on’.

Older devices would need to enable the Physical Web in Chrome.

Step 3. Explore!

Hey presto! Any stories you walked by appeared as a silent notification on your phone’s homescreen. When you walked out of range (typically ~100 metres) they fell away.

If you clicked on the story it would open up on Chrome.

OtherWorld beacon technology news

A revolutionary new storytelling format

OtherWorld put our concept of ‘living media’ to the test and, in turn, piloted a radically different news ecosystem for our future cities. This centres on providing an accompanying real-world experience to digital news that proved it could open up exciting new storytelling possibilities for newsrooms and engage a new generation of people in local news.

The pilot was supported by Google’s Digital News Initiative (DNI) - a $150m collaboration between Google and news publishers across Europe to support high quality journalism and encourage a more sustainable news ecosystem through technology and innovation.

OtherWorld illustrates the layers of our cities that are often invisible to us, bringing them into focus and allowing a deeper level of exploration into even a familiar city neighborhood.

ArchDaily

Summary

Those brave enough to think differently about news distribution and discovery - beyond websites, apps and social media - will reap the rewards.

OtherWorld offered equal part provocation and inspiration for the sector, showing the exciting new storytelling and civic engagement possibilities presented by beacon technology.

OtherWorld and Like No Other were delighted to be crowned Digital Startup of the Year at the 2018 European Digital Media Awards.