Immigrants living abroad find it challenging not to be able to interact and engage with their loved ones online like they used to do in real life.
A new immersive and interactive messaging app that brings people closer through 360° video calls.
According to my extensive research, immigrants makeup about 15% of the total population of the US, with Mexico being the largest origin country for immigrants.
In Canada, each year, around 300,000 people immigrate to Canada, which is 22% of the overall Canadian population.
According to National Center for Biotechnology Information, the process of immigration could be stressful and could lead to mental illnesses. Add to that a global pandemic, and you’ll see a decline in mental health furthermore.
That’s when communication and technology come into place. According to Family Separation and the Impact of Digital Technology on the Mental Health of Refugee Families in the United States study, analyses showed that communication between separated families through ICTs (information and communication technologies) was a major source of emotional and mental well-being for a large number of refugee participants.
To tackle this problem, I looked at existing solutions like the traditional messaging apps (WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram, Skype, Zoom etc.) as well as more immersive platforms like Traces and Kumospace.
However, these apps are limited and don’t provide an immersive experience.
With further development of my project, I realized that Instagram had a cool feature that lets you replace your background with any image you have while sharing a story or video chatting.
Another inspiration for me was the virtual background of Zoom.
With that in mind, I was set to:
When immigrants talk to their families and friends online, there’s always a missing component that makes the experience less immersive, which makes the participant more distracted.
To test this assumption, I had to do remote interviews with people that had the following criteria:
After conducting my interviews, I was able to confirm my assumptions and come up with a How Might We question.
HMW provide immigrants with a fun and immersive way to connect
with others in order to help them feel closer to their
families and friends back home?
With that in mind, I came up with my persona. Veronica is a 27 years old immigrant living in Canada. She left her home country of Mexico to find a better future. She is close with her family and video chats with them on a regular basis.
Veronica is close with her family and video chats with them on a regular basis.
She feels frustrated that she misses them and can’t see them like she used to which makes them feel distant.
With my persona in mind, I had the following opportunity: A video chatting app that shows the surroundings of the user for a more immersive experience when video chatting.
After creating my user stories, I had chosen one epic to work on:
"As an immigrant, I want to share my environment with my family and friends so that they can interact with it and feel immersed."
After doing research for inspiration and creating a mood board, I created concept sketches, and eventually my solution sketches.
I conducted 2 rounds of usability testing with 10 users (5 in each) in order to obtain practical, real-time feedback that can be incorporated to improve the design, in order to provide a more optimal user experience.
The tests were done virtually on Dec. 17 and 18, 2021.
An existing User (Persona):
The user testing proved to be really beneficial.
The testers struggled to grasp the full concept of the app because in real life, they’re supposed to pan their phones, whereas in the app they’re clicking and dragging which might be confusing.
After the first round of testing, I iterated the prototype according to the majority of the feedback I got. After conducting a second round of testing, the users now seem to understand how the 360° video works with the help of the added instructions.
Building upon my existing design skills, I have discovered that good design ideas come from extensive research and trial and error.
Starting my project, I had a clear idea in mind but limited to one solution. After doing research and conducting user testing and prototype iterations, I learned that the design only gets better and better.
It is important to tackle any problem space with an open mind and embrace the ambiguity that comes with it.
Some other features that would be added to the app in the future:
Answering the tarot card of tech on the right:
If two friends use my product, it would bring them closer together because the 360° video call feature is immersive and interactive. The users would feel as if they were together sharing the same experience.
They can also schedule a phone or video call to suit both their convenience which will result in better and more consistent communication.