Miss face-to-face? Just choose a place!

Picking Apart The Problem Statement / Motivation

Working and studying from home has become the norm in our current society and we believe it is here to stay (albeit to a lower frequency). Echoed by our guest panelists during the insightful panelist discussion, the accelerated innovations brought about by COVID-19 are in essence beneficial and should stay even as restrictions lift. Of course, doing so will inevitably cause a trade-off as Singaporeans in the workforce, as well as students currently in tertiary education will face a trade-off when it comes to social interaction. Ironically as tech supposedly pushes social interaction from physical to digital more and more, we actually envision our app to encourage face-to-face interaction as ultimately it is something that simply cannot be replaced.

So how might we design a digital tool that encourages meaningful social interaction post COVID-19 but continue to harness the undeniable power that tech provides?

Insights

  • For many students, online classes have been a new way of studying, and it is likely that it would continue. Singaporean are generally more reserved and hence would not have any good opportunities to interact with their peers and make friendships. How do we ensure that they are able to make meaningful connections in a new normal of studying?

  • Many relationships are actually built face-to-face during work. How do we encourage that in a WFH environment?

  • There are many current ways of interactions, but nothing beats face-to-face interaction. It would be difficult to make use of technology to replicate the experience of having a face-to-face without actually meeting up.

How Might We

  • Encourage students to meet up with other students outside of the school curriculum
  • Instead of coming up with an alternative to face-to-face interactions, we would push individuals to meet up with others and make new interactions

Proposed solution

We have decided to build a platform for individuals to encourage face-to-face interactions through having meals with each other *based on proximity*. Individuals select the venue of where they would like to eat based on the locations near to them. They would be matched with others who have selected the same venue. After being matched, they could communicate with each other through a chat system to discuss the timings of the meet.

Search for buddies to eat with based on preference

Friendships come by easier if they all share something in common. Meaningful friendships are more likely to be made in smaller groups as well. With these thoughts in mind, we have decided to limit our MVP to 2 people as we feel that this best suits the situation in the near future.

Why OnlyMeals??

So why did we restrict our social activity to meals? During the brainstorming phase, our team mostly felt that it was the safest social option as opposed to other activities or even the idea of including multiple activities. Moreover, since it is based on proximity, this ensures that they are able to continue the connection if they choose to with less friction.

Our MVP: A face-to-face social app based on proximity

Factoring the state that adult Singaporeans will likely be in post COVID-19, we believe proximity is a key factor to ensure that relations can be formed well in the new normal. If we were to compare to apps similar to this such as Tinder, Meetup and to an extent Discord server channels our app stands out in this aspect of proximity as it enables face-to-face interactions to happen better since people will be more inclined.

Technical Implementation

React Native

We decided to use React Native to develop a cross-platform mobile application. This allows us to expand our target audience and widen our application's reach to more individuals. We've also chosen React Native due to the transferable skill and reusable code for possible use in the making of a React Frontend web application that we plan to do ahead.

NodeJS With ExpressJS - Hosted on Google Cloud App Engine

We've chosen to use NodeJS with ExpressJS to allow us to quickly write out REST APIs that's needed for our application. Google Cloud makes it very easy to for us to just push our api up for testing.

Firebase Authentication

Understanding that Authentication is definitely a must have for an app like ours, Firebase Authentication provides a safe and secure way for our users to login and use our application. It is also the very feasible to set-up given the time constraint.

Cloud Firestore

Since this is still in essence a hackathon, our team decided on Cloud Firestore to complement with our chat system. As the data is updated in real time, users will be able to communicate with immediate response.

Un-operational Hours - Food Exchange, finding partners and order food delivery for each other

Understanding that Singapore's road to a 'new normal' is not laid out like a carpet, we also thought of implementing a side feature of ordering food for people based on their preferences in situations where dining out is impossible. Users will be able to exchange sending of food to each other through a matchmaking system with their preferences and budget in mind. Unfortunately due to our limited time and technical capability, we were unfortunately unable to mock up a MVP for this feature.

Going against our motto, we want to put in place incentives to eventually encourage these match-ups to meet face-to-face when restrictions are lifted.

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