Thursday 4 December 2014, 17:28 | By Adam Hallows
CSL Creative England Apps Contest Update
This week we catch up with the winners of last year’s competition we ran in partnership with Creative England and NHS England.
The winning developers each received £10,000 to create prototypes centred on encouraging self-expression as a means of alleviating stress and anxiety for young people living with life-threatening and life-limiting conditions.
My Avatar and Me – Shoofly Publishing
This app enables the user to select expressions, skin colour, hairstyle, clothes, glasses, hats etc from galleries of images. The Avatar can be used to represent the young person and visually communicate how they are feeling from hour to hour – day to day. The Avatar ‘likeness’ can be emailed / posted on Facebook etc or used to communicate with health professionals (where young people may not have the words to describe how they feel).
Project manager Anne Curtis adds: “Our concept was designed to build on a successful project with Newcastle University to support Duchennes Muscular Dystrophy Clinical Trials.This is a work in progress, beginning with workshops involving young people who will inform development of an innovative Avatar system that gives young people choices in selecting elements that reflect their mood. The next stage of the project will be to create software for the iPad that enables the Avatar to be placed within social storyboard scenarios e.g. hospital – bedroom – countryside. We will include an expressive drawing / painting option.We envisage the final product being used by clinical practitioners to discuss how young people feel about their illness or personal circumstances.”
Heroes and Guises – Horbury and Goffe and the University of Wolverhampton
This app aims to encourage young people to create and join social stories, adding their contribution to the plotlines. Users read their way through these stories, make additions as they wish and earn points along the way, whilst making friends and seeing their ideas go in different directions and places they never expected.
Project lead Russell Goffe-Wood says: “We are currently seeking further funding to take Heroes and Guises to the next level and implement some of the changes that users have communicated to us, as well as some of the great features that we couldn’t build in the pilot. We feel Heroes and Guises has great potential and widespread appeal. We hope to undertake a second phase to the project that incorporates an impact evaluation, demonstrating through case studies how Heroes and Guises can improve quality of life for young people living with life-threatening conditions.”
Storytellr.me – New Justice Films
This Facebook app provides the tools necessary to write a film script using traditional storyboard techniques. The target group are able to employ pre-built characters, sets, landscapes and special effects to visualise a story, removing the need to write out all the descriptive scene that often discourages new and inexperienced writers from undertaking the challenge of setting out a film script. It will liberate the imagination of young people and allow them free rein to create a story that reflects their feelings in a rapid, productive manner which produces exciting results very quickly.
Project manager David Gilliam adds: “We are planning on creating a Storytellr workshop, in cooperation with a leading university, where we will introduce young people living with life-threatening conditions to writers, actors, designers, musicians, coders and build a short series of film stories over a weekend. I want to jump-start the process of building an active audience for the app, and this should prove to be an excellent mix and mash event.”
In Hand– A collaboration between FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology), Red Ninja Media and Mersey Care NHS Trust
This smartphone app acts as a personal interactive recovery guide, providing individuals with the tools to manage and understand their own wellbeing, equipping them with the confidence, skills and motivation to address the challenges they face. The In Hand traffic lights system allows users to communicate how they are feeling, and will empower them by suggesting a series of practical, straightforward actions to help them overcome feelings of stress, anxiety or depression.
Below, Louise Latter from In Hand talks to Creative Skills For Life Editor Susie Bowers about the intricacies of developing an mHealth app.
SB: What inspired you to create the app? How did you come up with the concept of the traffic light system?
LL: The Creative Skills For Life apps competition with Creative England is a great example of a fund aiming to be innovative and explore new ways for people to manage their health and wellbeing.
Throughout many years of engaging with young people, we have worked closely with those who have had mental health issues, but never within a project where mental health and wellbeing were at the heart of it; a starting point, a passion and an experience of many people in the room.
We included the traffic light system (which is a core part of the app) because it is something that most people can relate to. We are taught the traffic light meanings and colours from an early age through our home lives and the school curriculum. It is also something used regularly in the mental health world, by practitioners and clients, to prevent and manage thought processes and triggers amongst other things. We thought it would be a solid interface for users, offering a clear and memorable way to navigate the features.
SB: Can you share some of the challenges you came across while developing the app?
LL: This project was multifaceted, spanning over a year which was much more time than we envisaged, requiring careful relationship management between an arts organisation, a group of vulnerable young people, an app agency, an NHS Mental Health trust and several funders. I think one of the biggest challenges that underpinned the project was that these technologies are fairly new and nobody has a formula for a successful app. There can be a presumption that if you co-produce with your ‘end user’, you will be able to create something successful. But young people who use apps can only offer insight specific to their own circumstances. It will be biased. Young people are digital natives but does that make them natural app designers? No. It was a challenge to pick out what we all thought as a group would benefit young people who are living with long term mental health issues. We had to just make a decision, try it and see how it worked in action.
SB: So how did you test the app? Did you use focus groups?
LL: We tested the app on our group of participants as well as several other groups of young people. Since launch, we have been evaluating the use of the app through in depth metrics and statistical reporting. We are also lucky enough to have Mind Tech, a mental health and technology research body to evaluate the impact on users through direct feedback and interviews. We will receive the outcome of this in January 2015.
SB: Do you see a need for more creative solutions in support of young people with life-threatening and life-limiting conditions and can you update us on your progress?
LL: I think we need more collaborations with the NHS to explore user-friendly systems and coping mechanisms particularly within mental health. Decreased stigmatisation of the issue would improve the amount of people seeking help early on, and in turn prevent more serious conditions developing.
We have had over 5000 downloads of the In Hand app and we know that people in differing circumstances are genuinely using the app on a regular basis. We have had comments from people on mental health wards and people living with low-level depression telling us that they find the app useful and we are really looking forward to receiving our impact report in January.
SB: Tell us what’s in store for FACT and In Hand?
LL: Once we have our statistical data and anecdotal reports, we’ll gather the working group back together and decide what we’ll do with this project. FACT will continue to work within the realms of mental health, art and technology, commissioning new art works and symposiums – all led by young people. In Hand will also feature in our exhibition Group Therapy: Mental Distress in a digital age in 2015. The exhibition explores the relationship between technology and mental health.
SB: And finally, taking account of the rapid growth of the mHealth market, what advice would you pass onto anyone who wants to develop an app in this sphere?
LL: Make something and test it, don’t talk and meet and talk and meet. Make it, test it and improve it. Also, don’t be precious. If you really want to improve people’s lives with a product, let people at it. Let them take it apart – that way you can only be better.