There is a new prototype for growing challenges in our community. To encourage social interaction among the neighbors, a prototype of an app called "Park Time" is introduced.
According to 2015 report from City Observatory, the time spent with the neighbors is at an all-time low. Growing social media users and usage of apps has reduced interaction with the neighbors. To improve and encourage the need for social ties, this led to design an app.
Growing number of urban cities and busy life-schedule, people have not been able to communicate or spent time with their neighbors. Company Sidewalk began the exploration by talking to a group of eight families in the Chicago area. Although all the members were of the same school group, they hardly know each other. According to them, they spent a lot of time taking their kids to the park, but they barely got to know the other parents they saw. Most of the people also said they were not on a level of friendship to reach out to others before going to the park.
The app prototype notifies parents when another family participating entered one of four nearby parks. Parents who were at home with a child gets a message and can move over to the park, or those parents at nearby can change their plans to go with the other families. The main motto of the idea is to encourage in-person visit without having to form a plan before leaving the house.
The small Bluetooth beacons were placed at the four park entrances. It scans the smartphone of the participants triggering a location-based alert. Only when the parents entered a park and came in contact with the beacon signal, the app sends the notifications on the neighbor's phone. Keeping privacy in the mind, the app notifies participants that their location had been shared.
After the five weeks of the experiment, the group conducted follow-up interviews with participants. According to them, the tool did encourage social connection but not for everyone. The ambition of the Park Time was to provide parents real-time information that may inspire them to see a friend at the park more often. The tool worked for several participants those intended to expanding their friend groups. Some of the participants found the prototype less useful, especially those who have regimented schedules. In future, it is expected to give users greater flexibility including the areas of opting in or out of certain parks or times of days.
Digital tools can pull us apart as much as they can bring us together, and for future iterations, the more privacy oriented system is expected to design.