Startup News & Analysis

The Royals partners with Deakin University to launch prototyping lab Y2 for technologies like the “other net” 

Dinushi Dias /

A Melbourne-based creative agency has launched a new prototyping lab in partnership with Deakin University to tackle a wide range of commercial and social challenges in new media by colliding the minds of creative innovators, researchers and businesses.

Y2 Lab, owned by creative agency The Royals, will run a range of research and development initiatives, including commercial solutions for clients and broader experimental projects for the industry.

“It opens up all these different ways of working that don’t require a traditional brief,” Y2 director Dave King tells StartupSmart.

The Y2 team is hoping to create an experimental hub for new customer experiences and storytelling models powered by artificial intelligence, machine learning, new conversational technologies like chatbots, virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality.

“We’re clearly passionate about prototyping because we believe in thinking by making,” he says.

King hopes the dedicated exploration of new media technologies will help Australia build world-changing innovations like those behind content giants Facebook and Amazon.

“The advertising, communication and marketing industries work in a certain mode which is quite [a] quick, [fast-paced], busy mode in the campaign environment,” he says.

“These industries don’t often get a chance to pause, consider and do R and D [research and development] into a certain problem or opportunity.

“On the flipside, academic institutions like Deakin University are a rich talent pool of expertise, researchers, staff and students but they’re not often presented with live commercial opportunities.

“This is an opportunity to bring those two worlds together.”

In addition to building client-specific solutions, King says the lab will undertake a range of broader industry research initiatives with support through funding and resources from Deakin University.

Building the “other net”

One of Y2 Lab’s first programs is a six-week residency for a researcher in design, user experience, sociology, ethnography or critical engineering to explore solutions to new media challenges like data ownership and privacy.

“We’re collaborating with Deakin to find a great researcher of some kind [to imagine and prototype] a new operating system for the home,” he says.

This program tackles a “series of issues”, says King, such as safety, ransomware, or internet service providers being able to “sell your data without your permission”, by developing a private network for residents of a shared home to use in a “safer, trusted, more intimate micro-community” environment not connected to the public internet.

“We love the internet, we love networking … but maybe we can create what’s called an other net,” he says.

King says the researcher accepted into this program will receive $5000 on completion of it with the solutions developed to be owned by The Royals and Deakin University.

Y2 will have “different ownership structures” for the prototypes and ideas that come out of it, he says, and the lab will also be exploring the “future of journalism and storytelling”, how people experience these, and what models they’re willing to pay for.

“Our interest is to prototype what’s possible,” he says.

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Dinushi Dias

Dinushi Dias is a freelance journalist and a former StartupSmart reporter and multimedia content producer. She is the co-founder of Melbourne-based production house Dinushi & Power.

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