The service uses data signals and behavioral economics to provide nudges for friends to interact virtually and stay in touch amidst quarantine and social distancing regulations. 

Berkeley, CA, November 2020—In the past year or so, the way we interact with friends has fundamentally changed due to COVID-19. College students lack interaction with their friends, and they miss out on the serendipity of running into classmates on campus or meeting new people casually. Online learning will continue to be the suggested solution as the pandemic drags on, and students must find a way to interact with friends for their continued mental well-being. That’s why six UC Berkeley students came up with an idea in partnership with the Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology to use data signals and behavioral economics to nudge students to virtually interact with their friends.

Through a questionnaire, the platform learns about people’s preferences, personalities, and how much they enjoy certain activities. Then the service sends nudges to individuals to connect with their friends by doing a virtual activity (such as video chatting, cooking together, Netflix party) they would mutually enjoy. It is invaluable for taking away some of the cognitive distress and decision fatigue that is caused by the pandemic and quarantine by providing a platform to reach out to friends with pre-existing activities. 

This platform holds ethical data policies to the highest regards. Data is collected with their full consent and is used only to give nudges that enable healthier friendships. The service removes the stress of initiating and deciding on activities by choosing an activity based on the preferences of both users. Just as Google Maps helps actively guide users toward spatial destinations, our app helps guide users toward maintaining personal relationships.

the proposed user interface

“Nothing like this has ever been done before,” mentor Shomit Ghose says. “I am excited to see it in action.”

The COVID-19 pandemic is driving dramatic increases in depression and anxiety among college students. According to a new survey co-led by the University of California, Berkeley, Center for the Study of Higher Education (CSHE), more than a third are reporting significant mental health challenges.1 We believe that this is largely due to the lack of social interactions and in-person time people get to spend with their friends and family. Not only is Zoom fatigue weighing people down, but they are also missing out on the little things such as talking to a coworker while grabbing coffee in the office lounge or running into a floormate in the dorms. 

The group is composed of six upperclassmen at Berkeley whose different skill sets in business, data science, and economics mesh well together in a team setting. As classmates who are first-hand experiencing this lack of interaction with each other, they came together to work on this project with a unified vision of helping college students maintain interactions throughout quarantine. 

Contact Details

Please feel free to reach out to any of us for more information:

Eunice Chan
Miki Chen
Jessica Kim
Maddy Rutherford
Dua Shamsi
Alice Yao

Code on Github Repository