Hello...is anyone there?
What is Talk to the moon?
In a nutshell, it’s an AI-powered experience through which you can have a conversation with the moon. That's it. No ulterior motive, no business objectives, just you asking Luna (AKA the moon) questions about life, the universe, and everything in between.
Talk to the Moon is part of Tour de Moon—a public festival of immersive experiences which celebrates youth countercultures, commissioned as a part of UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK.
Conceived by Tea Uglow and Beth Shuman, who worked with Tour de Moon festival director Nelly Ben Hayoun—alongside some talented artists and friends—they created an otherworldly experience that prompts radical imagination, merging technology with digital culture. While Tour de Moon’s festival convoy did give people an opportunity to talk to Luna "directly" via a giant red telephone, the rest of us would get to do so via an immersive, AI-powered experience on WeTransfer.
Who are you?
Robbie Kerr (Senior Designer): What’s unique about Talk to the Moon is that it feels more like a piece of interactive theater rather than a well-oiled functional experience. But while we definitely wanted people to get lost in the moment, it was important to make sure that it was seamless, enjoyable, and accessible for everyone. It had to work on WeTransfer as an interactive wallpaper, but also as a fully responsive microsite, mobile included.
The experience goes something like this: much like a traditional theater performance, you’re ushered into this auditorium via a beautiful—and, in this case, mysterious—entrance. Once inside, the curtains pull back to reveal an introductory story that helps people understand (or not) what this experience will involve, and who Luna is. You’re then invited to interact with the moon and have a full-blown conversation about anything: the environment, family relationships, and people’s experiences of racism. Each step is handled seamlessly, with carefully chosen sound effects and ambient sounds to compliment the strange and mysterious experience.
"As we started exploring and researching, Samantha from the movie Her (2013) really stuck out. Like Luna, she challenges our own perceptions of AI in society, and the relationships we might forge. She also feels grounded in the faceless way we interact with AI in our modern lives—think Siri, Alexa and the like."
One of the key concepts that sprang up in early conversations with our co-collaborators from Heyday, who developed the conversational infrastructure for Talk to the Moon and Tour De Moon was that of therapy. Speaking to Luna would be like stepping into their office, so we had a lot of conversations about who Luna is and their personality, which informed how we approached the project from a visual perspective.
What’s interesting is that Luna’s emotional state changes depending on how your conversation goes, so we created a suite of calming, fluid color gradients for each of the eight emotional states. This thinking also extended to our typographic approach—with headline and supporting typefaces that had a unique personality to them, whilst also remaining accessible. In a lot of ways, we imagined the whole experience as that of a digital interactive zine: something a little wild and rough around the edges. This is most apparent in the design of Luna itself, a living and breathing digital halftone moon that morphs, changes and even reacts in real time when speaking.
Christian Manasci (Copywriter): It was obviously important that Luna’s personality come through in the front end copy. What was great is that we had access to Luna’s responses and conversation prompts. That really helped to write the copy for the entirety of the front-end experience, making sure we matched the thoughtful, funny, and often strange personality of Luna.
Let's have a chat
Giulian Drimba (Front-end Developer): The build process was definitely interesting—and not without challenges. The thing is, this isn’t your average passive AI: Luna actively challenges people, asking questions about literally anything.
To start with, it was important to complement the design work with animations that helped convey that otherworldly, interdimensional feeling. The wallpaper background became an extension of Luna's personality—with water droplet animations acting as a subtle hint for how the moon affects the ocean's tides. Because Luna doesn't actually have a face, changing colors helped us convey Luna's varied reactions based on the conversation.
The UI followed suit: since we’re technically in space, everything needed to have that low-gravity vibe, which you can notice as you hover around the buttons and move your cursor across the screen—and across Luna.
And then of course, there was the conversation itself. Users could talk to Luna either through their microphone or by typing, although we definitely believe that microphone usage leads to a better experience, since it mimics a real-life conversation much better.
To do that, we used a technology called Speech to Text, which allows the browser to interpret what you say and provide its equivalent in text. Not every browser supports it—and the ones that do, aren’t always 100% accurate—but after some tinkering, we managed to get some pretty cool results. Of course, none of what I’m describing would have amounted to much without some under-the-hood magic.
"Our API acted as a kind of bridge between the front end and Heyday's back end. In every step of the conversation, the front end would send a request to the API. That would ask Heyday for a response, which would then be passed back to the front end."
So long, beautiful human
Robbie Kerr (Senior Designer): Between WeTransfer Studio, Heyday Labs, Tour de Moon’s core team, Flying Object, and youth reporters who shared their dreams to inspire the conversations, this was quite the collaboration. So much incredible work went into this, and the journey to get there was a lot of fun, despite the occasional challenge.
But what’s really getting us excited are the opportunities Talk to the Moon opens up for us as a creative studio. It feels like we've gone to another level in terms of the immersive experiences we can offer on our platform.
Not a small step, but a giant leap for all of us at WeTransfer.
Experience Luna for yourself here.
WeTransfer: Robbie Kerr (Design & Direction), Fin O’Neill (Design), Giulian Drimba (Lead Developer, front end), Aya Hayashida (Producer), Christian Manasci (Copywriter), Leonidas Diamantis (Lead Developer, back end), Nicolas Garnier (Developer, front end)
Heyday:Tea Uglow (Creator), Beth Shulman (Co-Creator & Producer), Rupert Parry (Lead Developer, Luna AI), Georgia Lewis Anderson (Lead writer, Luna), Lucy Draper (Writer, Luna), Grac Franki (Voice of Luna), Megan Broberg (Producer), Mighty Sound (Recording Studio)
Flying Object: Tom Pursey (Digital Lead, Tour de Moon), Jennifer Tomkins (Project Manager)
Tour de Moon: Nelly Ben Hayoun-Stépanian (Festival Director)
Special thanks: Pangram Pangram Foundry for use of Gosha Sans