Sheridan and Industry Collaborate to Launch Chumbuggy.com
Students and faculty from Sheridan’s School of Applied Computing and a team from the Sheridan Centre for Elder Research have collaborated with industry partner Chumbuggy.com to create an online, social platform geared to middle- and later-aged adults, which launches today.
Chumbuggy.com is a safe and secure video-chat community where people over 50 have engaging discussions in small groups about topics that are important and interesting to them. The platform allows users to have face-to-face conversations in real time and meet like-minded people from around the world.
Earlier this year, Sheridan Applied Computing Program Coordinator Pejman Salehi, with the support of Chumbuggy.com co-founder Neel Desai, secured funding through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). Sheridan regularly partners with industry to provide learning opportunities to its students and the connection to aging and technology with Chumbuggy.com made for a significant interdisciplinary opportunity.
“The underpinning technology behind Chumbuggy.com helps address the effects of social isolation for older adults,” said Lia Tsotsos, Principal Researcher and Project Manager for the Sheridan Centre for Elder Research. “Research suggests that this issue is on the rise with a growing aging population who are facing significant life events that impact their levels of social engagement, like retirement or the death of a spouse.”
The technology utilized for the platform is structured on Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), which focuses on the interfaces between users and computers. “How people connect with a computing system is important to understand, especially when designing a tool for an aging population,” said Salehi. “Even if you’re tech savvy, there needs to be considerations such as how one’s vision might affect the user experience.”
The easy-to-use video capabilities on Chumbuggy.com are a means to engage in thoughtful discussion in the convenience and comfort of one’s home. “With existing social media platforms, people are lacking face-to-face contact,” Desai explained. “You miss out on important social cues from facial expressions and seeing other’s reactions.”
For the past five months, Sheridan students Ben Hofstede (Bachelor of Applied Information Sciences (Information Systems Security)), Kevin Lee (Computer Systems Technology – Systems Analyst) and Krysta Salera (Computer Systems Technology – Software Development and Network Engineering) have been working closely with Desai and Salehi. Lee, who is completing a co-op requirement by committing himself full-time to the project, is passionate about his work and believes in the importance of addressing the needs of a growing demographic. “The technology industry is so often focused on the latest, fastest products but it’s important to focus on a large segment of our population that is aging and may be using technology differently,” he said.
User testing organized through clients with the Sheridan Centre for Elder Research has yielded positive results and constructive feedback that has been integrated into the platform. With today’s launch, Desai hopes to continue developing new features on the website and use feedback from users to make continual improvements.
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