During COVID-19, we noticed an increase in online gaming with youth & young adults as well as an increase of negative mental health effects. Angela’s inspiration for the app stemmed from looking for a way to promote children’s mental health awareness through gaming. As a team, we wanted to communicate mental health strategies and mindful thinking in a way that was fun and easy to digest for the young audience.
What it does
The app aims to create a fun and interactive experience that can help youths (6-11) learn more about their feelings and mental health through different ACT/CBT techniques. It also includes an integrative AI chatbot function that allows users to freely express their thoughts. We feel that the production of this app would prove valuable for the youth during these times as it addresses the mental distress that children, who may not necessarily have an outlet, are feeling. We’re striving to do this through interactively educating the children on healthy coping techniques as well as maintaining a daily schedule to attain a sense of stability in these challenging times.
Team communication and scheduling conflicts - Team members were located in different time zones and had additional priorities further making it difficult to schedule meetings. Responsibilities and time commitment on this project were not communicated thoroughly, thus recruited team members were dropped in the middle of the project. Working in an interdisciplinary team proved challenging due to a lack of awareness of the design process. The team size may have also caused some of these problems as with a larger team communication becomes even more difficult.
Conducting research on children It was difficult to recruit participants to conduct research on, especially with the quarantine restrictions. Ideally, we would’ve aimed to conduct in-person interviews with children in our research phase, however, due to restrictions, the bulk of our user data came from online surveys. We supplemented our findings with research from academic journals and other online resources.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
Team - We collaborated together as four different teams: research, animation, design, and development. We conducted surveys with 60+ survey results, created 3 animated personalities, animated a backstory video, wrote and completed narrative scripts, began a user testing phase, and rapidly developed a react native web application from no background knowledge.
What we learned
Team - Since we came from various backgrounds, we learned that it was very important to educate the team about the process and thoroughly explain the next steps so everybody was on the same page. It was important for us to assign different people tasks and deadlines which we found was very effective in keeping our team organized
Dev Team - The project really pushed us to our limits as what we can and can not do within such a short period of time. The project was first introduced to the current technology team two weeks before the deadline. We were able to decide with precision what is plausible and possible for the application and what are some far-reaching requests. The final design was given to the dev team 5 days before the deadline. And as the team did not have any frontend experience, any code was an accomplishment for us.
What's next for "Calm On!"
Going forward, more user testing will be conducted on our designs and prototype in order to iterate and improve upon what we have so far. We would like to do a deeper exploration into the gamification of the app in order to encourage players to come back and check in often with the incentive of in-game rewards and customization. With more support, we will continue adding more character animations, mindfulness techniques, storylines, and other content in order to keep the app informative and exciting as time goes on. We will also look into the ways artificial intelligence could enhance the personalities and dialogue options of our characters. Though this app was designed with the intention that the children could use it by themselves or with a parent, we hope to potentially partner with therapists in the future in order to provide more personalized therapy experiences for their younger clients.