Social inclusion is a two way street. People living without disabilities have to be proactive in including people marginalized by society, while those who are excluded as a result of their disabilities need effective means to feel more included. Our inspiration stemmed from the realization that physically disabled people are unable to experience the world on their own and current solutions do not sufficiently address this issue. We aimed to build our solution around this core idea of mutual interaction. For example, someone with severe physical disabilities might be unable to experience the Yosemite mountain trails, but many people are willing to provide a little bit of their time to share their own experience with someone unable to partake in that experience directly.
What it does
Our app brings together people who are often excluded from experiencing the world (due to some form of disability), and people who are willing to share their experiences.
Let's take an example scenario: a person in Sweden wants to experience the Niagara Falls and is either physically (or even financially) incapable of doing so. Instead of traveling there, they can just take out their phone, open up our web app, and be instantly greeted with a map of the world. Then, they can either speak "Niagara Falls" or drop a pin on the desired location. The app will send a notification to "guides" in that area who have downloaded the app onto their phones. Once someone confirms they're willing to share, the app will open up a live-stream feed for the requester. The pair can then interact, talking about the environment or looking at different things in the area (i.e. "Can you show me this specific lookout point nearby?").
After the stream is done, the two users can then friend each other if they'd like to keep in contact through our app. They can become long distance virtual pen pals, while still creating and fulfilling video streaming requests to request and share other experiences around the world.
How we built it
We built a React based web app and a Java backend that provides the capability to do live video streaming.
Challenges we ran into
Too many to count. Mostly TypeScript and other bad tech choices.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
Establishing meaningful, specific use-cases for the app and getting at least something that works.
Also, the backend is really beautiful!
What we learned
Promoting the issue of social inclusion must involve an active interaction between excluded and included populations. Tackling social inclusivity can be difficult from our perspectives as people living without physical disabilities. On the other hand, the advantage of our positions is an understanding of the most effective ways to combat stigma and dissolve the barriers that exist between us and those more excluded from society. Technology must be oriented towards inclusivity and shared experiences in order to foster meaningful relationships that can then develop outside of the tech.
What's next for Xperience
After hammering down the incentive model for "guide" users to ensure sufficient user retention for the app to be conveniently usable, we can expand to more use-cases. We can expand to provide for blind users, by converting live-stream video to text and then to audio guidance. We can begin to tackle the problem from the other direction: users can drop pins and launch live-streaming of their own current surroundings and ask for help from local guides, addressing the issue of migrant/refugee cultural integration.
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