The inspiration behind Tina came from a place of loneliness. Because I am naturally extroverted who loves being outside with my friends, a forced 2-week quarantine sounded like a nightmare. I desired a technological asset that would provide me with reliable, accurate information on COVID-19 and an additional 24/7 friend in unprecedented times full of uncertainty. My solution is creating Tina, a friendly chatbot that can help alleviate the anxiety and provide expert information surrounding COVID-19. We need to address the mental health stigma in order to fully realize that it’s not bad to feel bad.

What it does

Tina answers all your questions regarding COVID-19 from reliable sources. She also provides emotional support such as listening to you vent, encouragement, and great puns. You can ask her questions such as: "What is COVID-19?", "How can I prevent getting COVID-19?" "How much toilet paper is left?" and use any sort of emotional descriptions to accurately express your feelings to Tina.

How I built it

I built Tina with Google's Dialogflow for the actual chatbot intents and responses. With my favorite text editor, Sublime Text 3, I used JavaScript's cross-platform library, React Native, with the special GiftedChat library for the user-interface. I connected my chatbot Dialogflow agent to my React Native project by using a separate JavaScript file for the secret credentials. React Native has life-cycle methods that configured the connection between the Dialogflow agent and what happens when the user appends a response as well. I ran my project on XCode development with react-native run-ios in the terminal.

Challenges I ran into

I struggled with the chatbot flow. There are many different questions a user could ask and I needed to find accurate data to code in with Dialogflow, so it needed to be precise. Also, I struggled with missing pod files in the XCode project. This was all resolved through extensive research and proper installation in the command line: cd project, cd ios, pod install, XCode -> run. Next time, I will ensure that all proper files are added before building or running the project!

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

I am proud that I'm coding innovations in tech that break the stigma surrounding mental health. Tina successfully addresses this by listening to the user's struggles and providing empathy. The user can enter virtually anything that upsets them and Tina has the answer. She also provides tips and advice on maintaining healthy emotional wellbeing. In coding a successful, yet basic chatbot like Tina, I feel empowered to expand beyond my programming knowledge and continually promote the intersection of technology and mental wellness

What I learned

I learned the flow of how a basic chatbot works! Prior to this coding challenge, I only had very remedial knowledge of the basics behind chatbot functionality. I realized that chatbots can have custom entities that assign groups of word synonyms a user can utter. This creates way less code and makes intents more efficient. Additionally, I learned facts about the novel coronavirus and the importance of not relying on solely social media for crucial information.

What's next for Tina the Quarantine Chatbot

In the future, I plan on implementing more responses Tina could say. She would provide instant live charts of accurate COVID-19 data, mini-games to play together, productivity timers, more amazing puns, accurate quantities of different items in stock at stores, and daily check-ins with emotional progress reports. and I also desire to collaborate with professionals in the psychology field. They could help give me credible insights and integrate more advanced therapeutic responses for users severely struggling. Tina's responses could emulate what a real therapist would say in various situations. Because I want to create inclusive apps, I also plan on implementing a language selection for users outside of the United States too!

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