[ i miss your touch ] – Staying Connected During COVID-19
Thanks to the Exertion Games Lab, Monash University
[ I miss your touch ] is a web platform that allows friends, who are in separate locations, to interact in a shared explorable virtual environment. This project launched in mid-March 2020 as a rapid response to COVID-19. It provides a unique way to maintain meaningful connections during times of social distancing.
Due to COVID-19, many people are without physical contact with others due to social distancing rules. We can’t shake a friend’s hand, nor give them a hug. This has led to mass increases in mental health issues. Increased mental health issues have been prevalent in children and youth, people living alone, and those in the LGBTIQ+ community.
The challenge was to create an online solution that:
1. Connects vulnerable communities during COVID-19 social and physical distancing restrictions.
2. Can be implemented quickly at low cost.
3. Is easily accessible.
4. Is engaging, meaningful and enjoyable.
[ i miss your touch ] is a web-based platform that allows two friends, who are separately located, to connect via interactive video. Both people's images are abstracted and displayed in a shared, explorable virtual environment. [ i miss your touch ] makes people feel as if they are together in the one shared space.
[ i miss your touch ] was co-designed with diverse communities: seniors, children, teenagers, new immigrants, LGBTIQ+ communities, those with Autism Spectrum Disorder and those in regional areas. The platform is free and easily accessible via webcam, requiring low internet connection. It was online from mid-March 2020 at zero outgoing cost.
[ i miss your touch ] was accessible to select communities from mid-March 2020 as a rapid response to COVID-19 social and physical distancing rules. It enabled a unique and memorable connection between friends during a time of unprecedented social restrictions.
External evaluations have evidenced impact as:
Reducing social isolation.
Increasing personal wellbeing.
Helping maintain meaningful connections.
Providing access to innovative art-design during museum and gallery closures.
One participant said: “it was incredible, it felt like [my friend was] physically with me.”
[ i miss your touch ] is easily accessible to those with restricted abilities and for non-English speakers.
The vision was to create a unique, visually exciting online work of art-design that is interactive and accessible to broad audiences. The goal was to make the functionality simple and for it to appear intriguing, appealing and new. Many of our target audience lack the funds and skills to access technology such as social VR. The team looked to replicate this kind of experience, by connecting people via webcam. Our participants only need a laptop or mobile device and light internet connection to be involved in this unique, online interactive experience. This provides access for the widest number of people, including those in remote and rural locations.
COVID-19 social rules have had a devastating effect on many communities particularly children and youth, who have been without normal school routines and isolated during school holidays. Access to this platform is only provided after consultation with specific communities or in consultation with parents/guardians. Under-18 participants require signed guardian consent.
Each interactive session is 10 minutes long. Participants can’t talk to each other; but they hear the same music. The music combined with the abstract visuals (ie they are not visually identifiable) make them feel less self-conscious. They often end up dancing together.