What sparked the idea for restar-t was a conversation about rehabilitation and the irony of it. Majority of those needing rehab are often lacking the income to attend. Upon doing more research, we came across this shocking socio economic statistic: approximately 40% of homeless individuals and up to 70% of homeless youth struggle with alcoholism. The costly price of addiction means that these individuals often live in poverty, unable to afford rehabilitation or the essentials necessary to gain employment. Given that over 95% of homeless individuals have mobile devices, we wanted to create a more affordable and accessible solution that could help uplift these individuals to lead healthy and stable lifestyles.
🤔 What it does
Restar-t is an Android app that makes the path to alcohol recovery more accessible and affordable, by providing individuals manageable alcohol consumption goals to slowly taper off their dependency.
When a user creates a restar-t account, they fill in some basic information about their current dependency on alcohol so we can appropriately track their progress over time. After that, they have the option to add a trusted individual’s phone number that can monitor their progress, receiving updates on any relapses. They’re then required to list their 3 greatest reasons for wanting to change. Based on their initial alcohol intake, we design a custom tapering plan with achievable daily targets, to help them reach sobriety without nasty withdrawal symptoms. Even after they reach sobriety, they can continue to track their progress!
Restar-t also encourages the user to reflect on their day and keep track of how they are feeling emotionally as well. Alongside this, the dashboard displays relevant statistics since the start of the user’s recovery, such as their current streak in order to continuously motivate them.
In order to help keep the user on track, every time the user is tempted to relapse, they can shake the phone. This brings them to a page which displays a countdown timer of 5 minutes to resist their temptation. This page also provides the user an option to call their trusted person, a hotline, write an entry in their journal, and reflect again on their earlier answers on why they sought this change.
Another key feature of restar-t is the reflection center, where the user can view and create their daily journal entries. Each journal entry prompts the user for their mood, whether they met their alcohol target, and their thoughts on why they did or didn’t. If the user hasn’t submitted an entry around 10:30PM, then the app will send a notification reminding them to!
Additionally, there’s a feed for users to anonymously share their stories in overcoming addiction that provides a motivational place for users to know they’re not alone in their journey.
Restar-t also features a resources page that can launch Google Map directions to the nearest Alcoholics Anonymous center, along with basic information on alcohol use, services and resources the user can use, as well as other methods they can use to aid them in their recovery.
Regardless, restar-t is not by any means a replacement for professional services like conventional rehabilitation, but rather an alternative for those who have nowhere else to turn to. We researched recommended tapering treatments to addiction and substance abuse from trusted sources like verywellmind.com and drugrehab.com, and explored other affordable techniques that could streamline the process of uplifting those in need.
🧰 How we built it
With the serious and consequential nature of our topic, we first did a substantial amount of research on alcohol measurements, proven tapering strategies, recovery techniques etc. to ensure we were providing an accurate and helpful resource.
Together, we also researched the most accessible solutions to alcohol dependency. This is what led us to decide on a mobile app over a website, as well as what informed our tapering algorithm, and the creation of our reflection page.
Using those ideas as a focal point, we worked together to build different prototypes in Figma, until we discovered a suitable style to best convey an intuitive, motivating and comfortable design that reflects both the hopeful and mature nature of the topic.
As a team, we all tried to push ourselves to dabble in different areas. We explored different areas we weren’t so familiar with, whether that was back-end, front-end, or using new APIs, we taught one another to help us learn and grow along the way.
😅 Challenges we ran into
One of our biggest initial roadblocks was actually our design and concept. We debated for hours about how we could attempt to motivate users while also respecting the gravity of the situation. We started from an intense gamification concept that bordered a juvenile design, but arrived at the clean but hopeful design of our final product through the power of experimentation and brainstorming as a team.
Implementing/testing shake function: To launch the app when the phone is shook, we used the built-in accelerometer (and some math!) to determine the triggering motion. However, one of our team members was using an emulator, which made for a very tedious testing process. We decided to add an alternate pathway to access the same screen, which allowed for more user freedom - and it made it a lot easier on our end too!
Algorithms to track progress: Designing an appropriate way to quantify and taper alcohol consumption was unfamiliar territory for us, but we were determined to ensure the accuracy of our app. We researched topics including the ABV of alcoholic beverages, the quantity of alcohol in a standard drink, the best way to create a tapering schedule, etc. - all in order to implement the most appropriate algorithms and calculations.
Countdown time: The timer on the relapse page was a bit difficult, as we had to wrap our head around how the countdown timer could work. After following a few different tutorials and having different members attempt to implement this feature, we still couldn’t get it to work. It wasn’t until we all came together with our knowledge learned that we implemented this feature. Once you open the screen, it begins counting down, and after 5 minutes of allowing the user to self-reflect and take their mind away from drinking, it redirects the user to the dashboard.
💜 Accomplishments that we’re proud of
Shake Detection: Using a sensor event listener, we are able to detect and interpret motion from the phone’s accelerometer to launch a screen in the app. Although we didn’t have any prior experience with motion tracking, the feature worked like we hoped it would, thus offering a reflexive response to a user’s urge to drink. It was fun adjusting the sensitivity of this sensor too!
Making use of SMS & calling: We used the phone’s built-in texting and calling functionality to facilitate contact with a trusted individual. We understand that it can be hard to reach out for help, so we automated the process through a non-confrontational support system. This the first time for us all playing with features outside of the app so it was amazing how we were able to implement this.
The UI/UX design: We’re super proud of our UI/UX design because of how difficult of a journey it was. We spent a lot of time prototyping, testing color schemes, and design styles that would best represent the goals of our application and resonate with the target audience. From gradients to isometric designs, the process of trial and error was an experience that taught us that good results can come from perseverance.
Progress bar: At first glance, having the progress bar move simultaneously with the user’s progress looked incredibly difficult. However, by carefully looking through documentation and tutorials we discovered this feature was already implemented within android studio. Many things may seem harder than they appear so we’re glad we decided to implement it even after believing it was extremely difficult.
🎓 What we learned
Alongside improving and streamlining our skills in mobile development, through this experience we learnt a lot in areas we didn’t think we would. When researching we learnt about mental health and addiction, as well as which members of a community would be most susceptible—vulnerable people suffering from homelessness and/or poverty.
In terms of technical skills, we learnt a lot about design - how different design styles can shape the audience, motivations and atmosphere of any applications, whether it be the colours, fonts or even the colour blending.
We also experimented a lot more with how to make use of different sensors and permissions in devices, from sending SMS messages, making calls, to using the built-in motion sensors to make for more flexible and unique user interactions.
Finally, we learned about how difficult recovery from an addiction can be and the complexities of the process, which was why we wanted to make an app to aid them in the process.
⏩ What's next for restar-t
We would like to make restar-t able to support individuals’ recovery for other drugs and substances that have the potential to be abused, with even more extensive research to ensure safety.
As well, we’d like to implement more customization options where users can select the timeline over which they’d like to taper off of their addiction, with certain minimum durations fixed by the app according to medical recommendations.
We’d also create a donation page that compiles Non-profit Organizations or Charities that promote sobriety and aid with overcoming addiction for those looking to support the cause.
Another feature we’d like to implement is an alternate portal for the user’s trusted contact (family member, friend, sponsor or therapist) to sign into the app and view the user’s overall progress or journal entries if given permission.
Another idea we'd love to implement would be helpful articles and information can be added to the resources section. The information can be geared towards the user’s geographic location using web scrapers to find information that would cater the app towards the user.
Finally, allowing users to compile lists of their most trusted resources in the forums, enabling users to support one another through their collective journey towards a better life.