Research shows that 7 out of 10 kids are handed screens during long rides. Road Tales uses a combination of public and curated data sources to create interactive stories for children. Ordinary rides are turned into creative stories through a data driven story engine. Bringing back liveliness, imagination and interaction to every car ride.
Volkswagen has been the leading car brand in the Dutch automotive market for the past decades. With their broad range of different models, Volkswagen can be seen as a true family car brand.
After focussing on sales campaigns in the previous year, Volkswagen asked us to create a non-traditional idea that drives brand sympathy among families, in an innovative way.
Describe the Creative idea / data solution (20% of vote)
Road Tales are location-based audiobooks that transform ordinary highways into magical tales. Road objects like windmills, bridges and lakes are turned into story elements. Parents can download the app from the App Store or Google Play Store and play the interactive stories through the car’s sound system and then put the phone away.
All stories are data driven. 5000 kilometers of high-way was scanned to create a personalised experience for every ride. The story engine uses custom storylines for every object along the road. We have identified and tagged over 8042 objects, divided over:
Farm, Chimney, Water tower, Bridge, Communication tower, Tunnel, Lake / canal / river, Electricity pole, Gas station, Old windmill, Wind turbine, Overpass, Forrest, Grassland, Billboard.
Hence, through a mix of good old storytelling, the game ‘I spy with my little eye’ and a huge pile of data, Volkswagen turns every car ride into a story.
Describe the data driven strategy (30% of vote)
First we identified all the available objects that we could get data on. Once we had this overview we looked for a holistic approach that allowed creatives to create stories based on data. This resulted in a story engine that was able to reorder the storyline in real-time as the car would encounter different objects on it’s journey.
To populate the engine with the necessary data points we applied 3 methods:
1. We sourced publically available data sources to create a base of objects
2. We applied a computer vision alghorithm to google streetview screenshots
3. We manually scanned the highways to validate and add extra custom data points
Once the structure and engine were established, we wrote the first story ourselves so that we had a clear template to work with when we briefed children book writers who had no prior experience in interactive story writing.
Describe the creative use of data, or how the data enhanced the creative output (30% of vote)
The biggest challenge in executing this idea was to find a scalable solution that allowed users to start a story at any point on the highway. Instead of creating fixed linear stories on limited segments, we created a story engine that detects objects along the road.
To design the story structure, we took inspiration from classic children stories and the way they were structured. For example, in Turbo Gerrit we follow a fruit fly who wants to fly to the moon. He embarks on a journey along several objects that he will use to build his space ship or get advice from other animals. Each object has an individual storyline attached that can be used in individual order.
List the data driven results (20% of vote)
Project is still running.
The Road Tales app reached the #1 position in the app store’s book category within 3 days. It has currently been downloaded 13,300 times.
The number of unique users currently totals 12,902. On average, they have each played 3.8 stories (out of the 4 stories currently available).
People have, together, been listening to Road Tales for more than 10,000 hours, which equals 130,000 kilometers of highway driving or 32 laps around planet earth. This is time that otherwise would have been spent behind screens.
However, the biggest compliment we got is parents asking for more stories, as with Road Tales they don’t feel the need to hand out screens for every ride anymore: screen time became story time, and thus quality time. We are therefore researching the possibilities of a sequel, like adding new stories to the app, or even expanding the app to other countries.