'Prototype or die': The Royals launches lab with Deakin

Daisy Doctor
By Daisy Doctor | 16 May 2017
Dave King and Matthew Allen

The Royals has partnered with Deakin University to launch the Y2 prototyping lab.

The lab, based within The Royals' Melbourne office, will offer a series of programs for clients and researchers, with initial research areas including artificial intelligence, conversational experiences, mixed reality and the future of journalism, narrative and storytelling.

The lab is taking a “prototype or die” approach says Dave King, co-founder of The Royals and Y2.

He says innovation is not just “tech for tech's sake” but rather, it “works with clients to help explore what emerging media and prototyping media” may be of benefit to brands.

The lab will be used three ways; client projects, research residencies for academics and students, and artistic exploration.

Client driven or 'incubator projects' are about aiding clients with potential development opportunities, exploring pressing issues, and de-tangling emerging media forms.

The six-week research residences will work on projects that ould become client products

The third area of study will see creative technologists using the facilities to work on personal projects. At present, teams are researching the conversational experiences of artificial intelligence.

The lab is both backed and staffed by Deakin University, which has been a client of The Royals since 2014.

“We were hoping to go beyond being their creative agency and become their research partner. There's a rich vain of research talent at Deakin and we wanted to help apply that talent to contemporary commercial opportunities,” King says.

Y2 follows a series of innovation labs opening by both agencies and brands which have been used to explore, research and develop tech products.

M&C Saatchi has Tricky Jigsaw, the lab responsible for developing products like the NRMA bushfire detection service. Domino’s unveiled its DLAB in February of last year where staff and external start-ups can use generate ideas.

While King considers labs crucial element of “brand expression” others are sceptical.

Speaking at the AdNews Media + Marketing Summit, AFK Agency's James Sugrue stated that “there are some labs that have been a complete waste of time”, however “if you structure it right, you can add value”.

Similarly, Maxus' director of innovation Tom Kelshaw agreed you don't always need a lab to deliver innovation.

For King, what differentiates Y2 from other labs is its focus.

“Where a lot of agency labs are probably more focused on communications method and innovation within a brand, Y2 is more focused on product development and expanding new capabilities of brands.”

Y2 officially opened its doors this week (15 May) and is now taking applications for research residencies.

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