LifeShare - Thesis Project
LifeShare is an interactive application that creates a safe Augmented Reality environment where people experiencing depression or anxiety can both get help and also help others in Taiwan. For people who are depressed and anxious, this is a place that people can share their experience anonymously. By telling stories, and listening to other people's stories, individuals can develop a support system. This can alleviate the feeling of loneliness. After all, sometimes talking changes everything.
The World Health Organization(WHO) shows that depression is a common illness worldwide, and is one of the top three contributors of death, with more than 300 million people affected. However, TAIPEI (A Taiwan News agency) - reports on a recent study which shows only 20 percent of Taiwanese people with depression seek help, while one third of those seeking help give up treatment after their first doctor's visit. The reasons can be attributed to mental illness denial, shying away from treatment for depression, or not knowing where to start when seeking help. In Taiwanese culture, without proper education, depression is considered “unspeakable,” “weak”, or something to “be ashamed of.” As a result, depression is stigmatized in Taiwan. Hence, I want to help a generation of people in Taiwan feel less alone with their feelings, and destigmatize depression. As a creative technologist, I have an opportunity to design an environment that facilitates this progress."
As World Health Organization(WHO) shows that Depression is a common illness worldwide, one of the top three contributors to death, with more than 300 million people affected. According to the UN World Health Organization( there are at least about 50 million people with depression in Asia and their numbers are on the rise. By 2020, depression and heart disease will have become the top two diseases that affect human lives worldwide.
However, a recent study reported on by TAIPEI (Taiwanese News Agency) a Taiwanese News Agency. It shows that there are 2 million people are suffering from depression with different levels. But sadly, only 20 percent of Taiwanese people with depression seek help, while one third of those seeking help give up treatment after their first doctor's visit.
Why is that? According to a local epidemiology study on the occurrence of depression, only 20 percent of the people with depression would immediately seek help, and that can be attributed to mental illness denial, shying away from treatment for depression, or not knowing where to start when seeking help.
In Taiwanese culture, without proper education, people will revert to the traditional perspectives they were exposed to growing up. Our education teaches us that “Confucius, a Chinese teacher, editor, politician, and philosopher, believes that one is responsible for cultivating his or her own mind. If you’re depressed, it’s because you didn’t do something right; you couldn’t control your own emotions.” So, it means that you are your own fault. As a result, depression has been stigmatized in Taiwan. This stigma remains stronger among the older generation because they grew up in less favorable circumstances. Therefore, depression is considered “unspeakable” or “weak”, or something to “be ashamed of.” More ludicrously, it is 2019, and WARM (Women Anonymous Reconnecting Mentally) is the first and only mental health support group in the entirety Taiwan. This group is trying to combat the stigma by encouraging people to share experience or stories about their depression.
“Minor depression becomes major depression because we don’t talk about it; major depression becomes suicide because we don’t talk about it.“ Morley J Weston says.
As a creative technologist, I want to create an environment as catharsis to help a young generation of people in Taiwan share their experiences and destigmatize depression with recent technology. I choose a target audience of young people between the ages of 20 and 20 because, while depression can strike at any time, it often first appears during people’s late teens to mid-twenties. People are experiencing depression at a younger age without proper outlet to share. This impulse of my ideation comes from stories about my friends. Some of them are taking medicine as a treatment for depression, but they never be willing to discuss it. Thus, I want to make them realize they are supported and they are not alone.
When young people try to talk to their parents about their depression, their parents would say something like Hey, what do you have to be so depressed about? You’re fine. Live your life. So, without further understanding of the cause, it makes people with depression even worse!
Based on my interview, I create a persona. Jessica is a 25-year-old student in National Taiwan University. Her pain points is that she feels lonely because she thinks no one understand her feelings about depression because people are not willing to share their stories and experience of mental illness. So my goal is to create a space where they can share their experience and make people start getting to know more about depression. I believe that this can create a support system for depression community.
WHY AUGMENTED REALITY
Augmented Reality gives a greater feeling of presence (the sensation of being there) and reality judgment (judging an experience as real) than Virtual Reality because the environment and the elements the people uses to interact with the application are real. Users can access to this environment whenever they are depressed. Challenges to sharing stories in a real life setting are different from different people: some might be very busy with work and others might not be willing to go out while they are depressed.Therefore, creating an App for them to share stories anonymously is the first step of my goal to destigmatize depression.
REFERENCE FOR VISUAL DESIGN
Based on those reference, I chose these color for my design. Yellow is the color of sunshine. Orange combines energy of red and happiness of yellow. Pink means romance, love, and friendship. Light blue is associated with health, healing, tranquility, and understanding. These colors are assigned randomly for light bulbs in my augmented reality scenes.
I designed my app based on 3 elements. First, Lightbulb is able to light up the environment. Second, by sharing stories, we can create a support system to help and get help from other people. Lastly, depression is considered as darkness while people are depressed.
This is hierarchy of my app. From the top to the bottom, it has two version of lightbulb, dimmed lightbulb and lit lightbulb, which have similar interaction. User can record, listen, and reply to the lightbulb. And the color of lightbulbs are randomly.
When people is depressed, take out Lifeshare. Pick a lightbulb either dimmed or lit. And start telling their stories. Then it will light up the room with lit lightbulbs. Eventually, a support system is created.
Similar to user journey, when people feel depressed. Take out this app, an ar environment will show up. User can enter into a portal which is full with lightbulbs. Pick a lightbulb and start telling the stories.
There are five steps in my app. Instruction guides user how to interact with my app. User can click to record story if they pick a dimmed lightbulb. While recording, grey lightbulb becomes a little bit brighter. When finishing recording, the lightbulb turns to be bright. If user submit the story, it will be stored to the story history.
AUGMENTED REALITY SCENES
Combined with User Interface and Augmented reality. These are scenes that user would see. First, enter into a dark room with dimmed light bulb. Second, while telling a story. Third, if user pick a lit lightbulb, it will show story history. And finally, the dark room would be full with lit lightbulb.
LifeShare is made using Unity Engine with ARkit, an augmented reality packages that creates an augmented reality world that allows for plane detection and the creation of portals. In addition, I programmed custom interactions in C# in this app. These include, touching to record a story, replying to messages, and listening to other people’s stories. Moreover, I use Unity built-in network API that allows multiple devices to interact with AR scenes in LifeShare.