The best way to get to know any city is to explore it on foot, absorbing the sights, smells, and sounds unique to a particular place. But sometimes being there is simply impossible, or ill-advised. The latest installment in the Google Stories campaign offers a degree of immersion for those exploring the world via their computer by upping the sensory ante on Google’s Street View functionality.
“Promenade Nocturne/Night Walk” is a TV and digital effort created by Google Creative Labs and 72andSunny Amsterdam, which takes views on an audio-visual tour through Marseilles, led by urban storyteller Julie de Muer.
Known for her Promenade Sonores, a series of 40 audio walks created in collaboration with artists, locals, and Marseille radio station, Radio Grenouille, de Muer’s work is the subject of a short documentary. Throughout the film she recounts how she reveals the soul of Marseille through the sounds of its neighborhoods and voices of inhabitants, and how Google enables this process. To further enhance the story, Julie invites viewers to follow her on a night walk of Marseille, titled “Le Souffleur,” at which point the power of Google is put in individual hands.
In a nice little transition, the night walk experience picks up right where the film left off–with Julie walking across a bridge into the artful Cours Julien quarter. The night walk is narrated by artist Christophe, and using the customary Street View navigation, users are directed on which paths to follow and are encouraged to stop at hot spots, where he uncovers stories of the plentiful street art of the hood through images and videos. The static images are accompanied by sounds from de Muer’s original audio walk. The combined result is a city-scoping experience that anyone who’s gotten lost within Street View will be accustomed to, only richer, more romantic in its night glow, and full of local insight.
Gregg Clampffer, creative director at 72andSunny says the scope of the campaign was to show how Google’s technology enriches people’s everyday lives, but that with Julie’s story, they found a way to create a deeper experience. “The Google Stories campaign is about showing people achieving extraordinary things with the help of Google products. Julie de Muer is one of these people with an extraordinary story,” says Clampffer. “As we were capturing Julie’s story in film, we not only fell in love with the project, but also with the culture and vibrancy of Marseille and sought permission to recreate an interactive version of one of her sound walks. This interactive element would allow us to connect Julie’s story through an immersive and personal product experience, so that anyone, anywhere in the world could partake in a sound walk and experience the magic of Marseille firsthand.”
Built with the latest HTML5 technologies, Clampffer says the walk and hotspots were placed on an embedded map that is customized using the Google Maps API. Using photospheres–a technology that anyone can use and upload to Google Map View–the website is based upon a constellation of close to 100 360-degree spheres that collectively bring a three-kilometer stretch of Cours Julien to life. The spheres were shot with a DSLR camera during five successive nights, making this, says Clampffer, “the first-ever Street View at night.” The experience also integrates features such as Knowledge Panels, Spheres, and Maps API, to illustrate how Google can help people explore a place with Maps, and Web Audio API was used to build a framework required to create an immersive soundscape with multiple sound layers that reacts to users’ positions both in the city and in the story, says Clampffer, “So when Christophe beckons you to come closer, you can really get closer.”
Viewing “Promenade Nocturne” on a computer allows viewers to enjoy the high-resolution imagery, the pop-up photo galleries and hidden videos on a larger screen, but viewing on a mobile device affords users to an even more unique experience. “Try the experience on your smartphone,” says Clampffer. “Mobile users are treated to mobile-specific functionalities like the Google Places API, which pulls in local data based on a user’s location. Also, by using gyroscope technology, your phone is in the driver’s seat of a 360° photosphere adventure.”
For both 72andSunny and Google Creative Labs, Clampffer says the campaign represents what they see as future of storytelling: “combining the best of age-old approaches with the most exciting developments in technology. And in this case, allowing people from all over the world to experience Marseille for themselves.” No passport required.