Booga: The Virtual Companion That Cares

On a Friday night, November 3rd, students from various different backgrounds met for the first time at a pool hall. Having Virginia Commonwealth University as the commonality, each one of us was drawn to the 3rd Annual Caring for the Caregiver Hack for various reasons. For some of us, it was from personal experiences with caregiving of loved ones, and for others, out of curiosity. However, unbeknownst to us, Booga would be born after 36 hours of brainstorming, programming, research, and caffeine.

Booga was inspired by our team’s assigned caregiver, Tom. Tom has been providing care to his mother and late sister for the past 8 years. As we listened to his story, Tom openly and honestly talked to our team about isolation. The feeling of loneliness. The feeling of misunderstanding, and more importantly, the lack of genuine care for himself shown by others. In fact, this theme seemed to resonate throughout previous speeches given by Dr. Lindsey and Mrs. Choula earlier in the day in regards to caregivers. The selfless caregiver is a rapidly growing population who feels this sense of loneliness. The everyday burden which caregivers experience is often unacknowledged.

Conclusively, our team decided to address the uncomfortable. As a topic  of neglect in the past, mental health, specifically, depression, guilt, and loneliness, was the prevailing problem. After further consultation with our caregiver, we were ultimately tasked with putting human empathy into cold technology; our solution to this became Booga.

Booga is a virtual campion app that is unlike any other item on the market, which cares for the caregiver through initiating check-ins based on the caregiver’s interaction with the app. In order to combat the overwhelming feeling of isolation and loneliness, Booga works by reinforcing positive memories through the use of pictures uploaded by the caregiver. Booga also reminds caregivers to save pictures and memories on good days, and on bad days it can share those moments back to the caregiver. Other capabilities of this virtual companion include providing reminders for the caregiver’s doctor appointment and other daily tasks. In the future, our team hopes to further develop Booga to address the additional emotional needs of the caregiver.

iCAN Tech is provided with support from GreatCall.