Our team recently watched the Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma, and became aware of the widespread political polarization and the worsening political divide in our country caused by social media. According to the documentary, “A huge new Pew Research Center study of 10,000 American adults finds us more divided than ever, with personal and political polarization at a 20-year high.” Because much of our political information comes through a screen, whether it be posts on Instagram or videos from news networks, it is easy to forget that those of differing political views are real people and may have much in common with ourselves. Our team noticed that in real life, political conversations are often not polarizing and can be very informing. We wanted to recreate this on a digital platform. We were inspired to create a video chat app to bring together people on opposite sides of the political spectrum. We want to humanize politics and put a face to political issues. We believe it is important, now more than ever, to bring people together and heal the divide in our country.
What it does
Middle Ground is a video chat platform that matches users with differing political views to encourage discussion and discover things they have in common. Users’ names and other personal information are not shown but video is kept on during the call to stimulate meeting a stranger in real life. We do not give specific issues or prompts to talk about, so users can get to know each other and find shared interests first. To ensure our platform is a safe space, users can report their match if they feel uncomfortable and immediately end the call. After the call, users can rate the experience and choose to exchange contact information with their match if their match also chooses to do so.
How we built it
We used Xcode to build the iOS app and Adobe Xd to design the app. Using core image data from the iPhone, we sent it using UDP sockets facilitated by a flask Python server.
Challenges we ran into
We did not actually start the project until the second half of the hackathon, as brainstorming took longer than anticipated. We initially wanted to create a website similar to Omegle, but none of us had experience with web development. We realized we would not have enough time to learn and complete the project. As a result, we decided to switch to an app. We also could not get the video chat to work at first, so we had to build it from the ground up.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We are very proud of getting the video chat to work. We had to do extensive research to find the best possible approach because none of us had any prior experience. There was a lot of trial and error involved, but we finally got the video to transmit after many hours.
What's next for Middle Ground
We will add more features to the app to better understand polarization and track the effectiveness of our app. A statistics and progress feature will help us see if our users are becoming less polarized and changing their political opinions over time with the help of our app. We will develop our reporting feature and flesh out the procedure after someone has been reported such as what investigation and actions to take. Overall, we aim to make the user experience more enjoyable and comfortable.