After hearing the anonymous immigration challenge, our group was struck with the question, but what about after? After the deportation process is over, what is left in the rubble of a child's psyche? The media mostly focusses on the current situation of children who are being detained, in inhumane conditions, as well as the process of them being separated from their families, but the spotlight is absent where the dust settles. PTSD is not just a problem for veterans or adults, the seeds of trauma are planted from a young age. This is where 3T comes into play. While companionship and conversation may not seem like an explicit need, like food and water, human beings need it just as much. 3T gives children suffering from the immigration crisis a safe place to be heard, seen, and validated.
What it does
3T engages in conversation with its users in Spanish. The stuffed animal asks users if it wants to play a game; a version of the classic mad libs game. This way the child does not feel like they are being forced into conversation, but rather has a companion to play and socialize with. The stuffed animal also engages in conversation, ranging from asking about the child's interests to their day. Each outlet is specialized and has multiple branches in which the child can feel like they are having an organic conversation. When the child is experiencing emotional or psychological distress, 3T goes through separate breathing exercises with the child. Additionally, 3T can also tell the child stories. The outward appearance of the 3T, a teddy bear, also provides the child comfort, and it is uniquely shaped so that it is ideal for hugging.
How I built it
We built 3T primarily from a Google Home Mini (if it ain't broke don't fix it). This allowed us to experiment with more dialogue options in order to fully actualize our vision for 3T. We used Dialogflow from Google Cloud to construct dialogue environments. Dialogflow optimizes Google Home's features and implements ML to facilitate conversation. We put the Google Home into a teddy bear for a comforting and approachable display, and then resewed the stuffed animal.
Challenges I ran into
Initially, we had planned to add the traditional Mexican game Basta, however we ran into too many complications and were unable to implement it successfully. While two of the members of our team are (half) Hispanic, none of us spoke Spanish so translating was also tedious, however, we felt that this was worth it. Additionally, mapping out organic conversation for a computer to execute, especially with a child, is difficult and took lots of reworking to get right. Getting into the 3T software is also not as intuitive and requires some setup.
Accomplishments that I'm proud of
Our team is proud of how the finished 3T looks and behaves, and the conversation feels natural and flows well. While the 3T is not perfect, its a great starting point and we think it is user-friendly, approachable, and is easy to distribute. We are also proud of our Locas Libs game and breathing exercises, as they also are implemented successfully. The bear is also very cute!
What I learned
We learned so much about what we could create over such a short period of time, as well as the technologies that are widely available for public use after a little investigating. This is every member of the team's first hackathon, so we had no idea what to expect. It has been such a fun and rewarding experience, and every member of the team is honestly deeply proud of our finished product. Of course, we also learned how much we have to learn! We also would really, really, like to thank all the mentors and people on the HackSC team who set up this event, it was amazing! We have never seen so many different sources of caffeine before in our lives, and we are really grateful for all the effort and care you guys put into setting up this event. Seriously, thank you so much! This has been so fun, and we can't wait to sign up for more hackathons!
What's next for 3T-The Therapy Toy
Hopefully, the conversational options can be expanded for the 3T. Right now, the 3T facilitates most of the discussion and steers it into a more or less inevitable conclusion. We would like the 3T to be more open-ended in the future, to the point where the child feels like they are having a real conversation. The 3T is powered by the Google Home, and needs to be set up as a Google Home before it works, so hopefully, in the future, we could bypass that step so that the 3T is more of an independent entity that relies on the Google Home's processes and hardware. Since our Spanish is not great, we would also like some verification for the Spanish, as well as testing with children who speak Spanish. If the 3T could stand more on its own, and perhaps find a different source of power than a wall outlet, it could actually be given to kids in the detainment camps and provide some relief and entertainment in otherwise dark times. We really want to emphasize the importance of mental health being addressed as an issue not for adults, but for young children as well. Trauma is not exclusive to age, and serious mental health complications can occur at a young age. Thanks again!