Messaging apps are lifeless inside the water. That’s the controversial message that Futurefly’s founder and CPO, Oskari Häkkinen, explains to me as soon as we meet on a sunny morning in a South London cafe. Sure, everybody appears to be using them, nonetheless the medium isn’t evolving. Instead of adjusting the easiest way we discuss with one another, the large players have all settled on a single medium and in the intervening time are plugging in extraneous devices that no particular person really requested for. You solely have to check out Mark Zuckerberg’s plan to convey bots, suppliers and third-party plugins to Messenger to know what’s going to return subsequent.
So, why hassle leaping into the messaging space inside the first place with Rawr? “I researched Snapchat and went on to check out WhatsApp, Kik Messenger, KakaoTalk, WeChat – it was a full take a look on the messaging space – and they also all had their very personal non-public tales,” says Häkkinen. “Nonetheless, there was one issue that mainly stood out, all of them launched one factor new, a kick-ass attribute, that hadn’t been seen sooner than. That was the rationale they’d really taken off.
“So, with no intention to assemble a messenger myself, I had an thought: what if we launched 3D avatars and animations to the messaging space? Would you might have the flexibility to tear down the partitions of self-expression? Would I’ve the flexibility to say to you ‘hey, I’m going to be 5 minutes late’ after which give you a low 5? Could I ship a message to my partner and say ‘I can’t wait to be home presently’ after which give her a hug? That was the seed of the Rawr thought.”
Now, two years on since his preliminary thought, Häkkinen’s left Quantum Break developer Therapy Leisure and joined the thrilling world of the Finnish tech startup scene. Futurefly has seen funding from the merchants of Giphy and Bitly, Nokia chairman Risto Siilasmaa and Saturday Evening time Keep creator Lorne Michaels’ venture-capital agency. Clearly, Rawr has managed to grab the attention of some influential people, and if you’ve used it, it’s easy to see why.
The Rawr distinction
Geared towards youngsters and millennials, Rawr shares plenty of its major DNA with totally different messaging suppliers. Your chats nonetheless occur inside a private space between two (and shortly to be further) prospects. Not like totally different messengers, however, each little factor you say is expressed by means of a very customisable avatar. At this stage it is attainable you may be pondering “avatars. That’s the large thought?” Stick with it: when you see it in movement you realise that it’s loads better than that.
Using natural-language processing, Rawr takes your message and – shut to instantly – offers emotion to it. Ship a message saying “I’m going to be late, sorry” and your avatar will appear forlorn as a result of it relays the message.
The similar course of works with emojis, too. Ship a thumbs-up, heart finger or a coy smile, and your avatar will act out the emotion or movement seamlessly. You might as properly make your avatar perform actions by merely using a “hashtag” to issue directions on to your little digital self.
“As a communication instrument, we haven’t seen any messengers innovate the chat experience in a really very long time,” Häkkinen explains. “Fb Messenger goes in path of WeChat’s full platform experience, we’re not. We want to innovate the easiest way people chat instead.
“We actually really feel that each little factor that’s been carried out thus far with emoji, animated emoji and stickers has been baby steps in comparison with this. Now it’s possible you’ll actually hug anyone, actually kick them inside the balls or slap them, irrespective of.”
Getting severely emotional
It would sound like a particularly odd hook for a messaging app, nonetheless in observe it brings a model new stage to conversations with mates. Whereas it’s not quite as surreal as a social interaction in virtual reality, the presence of tiny digital people conversing inside the palm of your hand offers a model new layer of emotional connection. Which is able to seem insignificant, nonetheless quite a lot of communication’s subtleties and non-verbal cues are misplaced in textual content material, and our current choices – emoji and acronyms to level sarcasm or humour – are clunky to say the least.
“You do end up sending quite a lot of foolish shit,” admits Häkkinen. “Plenty of my mates merely write ‘kick’ and ‘slap’ with fully no context. Usually it’s similar to, ‘how are you?’ Slap. It feels as silly as Snapchat, and I really feel that’s an amazing issue. You’ll get a notification and open it solely to acquire a slap inside the face or a pal pooping emoji on you.”
And it’s true: all through my chat with Häkkinen his partner sends him a message that opens as a flurry of cloud emoji emanating from her bum and onto him. I can’t study Finnish, nonetheless he assures me she’s talking about an approaching storm once more home, pretty than her should expel wind. I’ll merely should take his phrase on that.
Part of Rawr’s attraction comes from its extraordinarily rich avatar creator and animation library, which they are going to continuously change on the fly. “We’ve carried out an fascinating issue with the back-end the place we’re in a position to usher in animations, garments objects and points like that to react to trendy custom.” It’s this versatile ethos that makes Rawr actually really feel continuously latest and pleasing to utilize.
To emphasize merely how quickly Futurefly can react to trending topics, one occasion Häkkinen offers is the addition dabbing. “After we obtained right here into work ultimate Monday we had over 2,000 requests in order so as to add ‘dab’,” he explains as I look on blank-faced questioning what a dab is. “Don’t worry, we had been all asking ourselves, ‘what the f– is ‘dab’?’ too. We had no thought.
“We’re earlier, so we went on-line and appeared and it appears dab’s a dance. It’s an infinite sample inside the states… We created “dab” on the Tuesday and launched it on Tuesday night time. There was no should change the app, nothing like that. When people try ‘#dab’ [the animation] is there.”
Animations, however, solely get you thus far – it moreover helps that, as Häkkinen locations it, Rawr has “primarily essentially the most superior avatar creator you’ll see on mobile”. Not solely can you make your avatar look like a carbon copy of your self, which implies it actually looks as if your pal and also you’re performing these actions collectively, nonetheless Futurefly has been extraordinarily savvy with customisation selections. It’s through these that it plans to monetise the complete endeavour, which implies it isn’t using info from conversations or client habits to bankroll the app.