Please note, mic was broken so could not record audio.
In the wake of the 1 year anniversary since the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic, it's important to reflect on the lasting effects social isolation has on our mental health. With interstate travel unadvised, my sister and I have often felt lonely and helpless being on opposite coasts of the US, away from family and friends. And hence, we created Beyond the Horizon Line, a web application that provides a safe space for people feeling alone to contribute to and create their own stories.
Through this app, we aim reframe loneliness and well-being and the way technology contributes to those feelings. Many times, apps are designed to suck our attention away from the things that matter. We hope that hope that the time people spend on this app will go a long way in extending beyond the horizon line of their imagination and their connections, to imagine a better future even if we can't see it ourselves, even if we are still (physically) in different places and stuck at home.
What it does
-The web app primarily serves as a place to create and contribute to stories around the world. The app aims to help loved ones connect, but we also enable users to interact and collaborate with people anonymously.
-Users sign up for this web app and are asked to include an email address, a username, and a password, to ensure that your stories are saved. Real names are not public.
-On the web app, the user can choose from a variety of anonymous stories around the globe to contribute to or start a story. Users are also able to connect with other online users and start private stories as well.
-The interface is designed with UI/UX first principles to be bright, cheery, and welcoming. The letters are sent some time later so as to not cause anxiety for the recipient (chat apps and angry red notifications give both of us anxiety to "respond as soon as possible").
How we built it
-Additionally we designed the webpages and created the image assets from scratch using Procreate and Adobe Illustrator.
-We then registered the domain name beyondthehoriz.online and stored all our code on a repository on Github. We use Google Cloud for webhosting and serving. Note that we just put it up, so make take some time for DNS to update.
Challenges we ran into
-One of the largest challenges of this week was figuring out how to coordinate assigned work. Since my sister and I live on opposite sides of the US, meeting together on Zoom and Discord was the only way for us to communicate, which caused a host of issues in regard to Internet.
-We also encountered some difficulty implementing the back-end, as we originally were doing an Apache + mySQL + PHP implementation but the PHP and mySQL database kept giving us trouble. This hackathon was definitely a huge learning experience for us.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
What we learned
Working on a project with the end goal of bettering our mental health really put into perspective, for us, our current situation.
What's next for Beyond the Horizon Line
-We aim to add more features to Beyond the Horizon Line, including integrating OpenAI's API to add a "prompt feature" to help people with writer's block get started with writing their stories.
-We also aim to add calming music, animations, and experiment with lighting and design choices to add to the relaxing atmosphere of the web app.
-We also want to integrate a feature to filter out inappropriate or threatening prompts to avoid triggering certain users. This would be handled by a universal filter, but additionally an added layer of customization where the user can add specific or uncommon triggers.
-Additionally we also want to roll out a private/public feature, in which the user gets to choose who can see their story drafts, and add more back-end functionality including a stored database instead of just a live server.
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