During the DeveloperWeek Hackathon, we had the awesome opportunity to talk to and work with a number of smart, forward thinking developers who were looking to integrate calling and messaging capabilities into their apps or services. One of the winners created ‘Centrd’, a mental health app, that tracks and monitors deviations of normal behavior to create an interactive journal and proactively messaged close friends if signs of depression are detected. The team consisted of Evan Pun, Zachary Zeleznick and Ryan Ma.
We caught up with the team after the event to ask these 12 essential questions, to better understand their development process, what drove them to create Centrd and what makes them tick.
What is each of your backgrounds in and what brought you together as a team?
Evan: Design and Health Tech; Currently working for FirstDerm, a tele-dermatology startup as a product designer. Previously worked at KP Innovations and Advanced Tech
Zach: Bioengineering and Computer Science; Previously worked at KP Innovations and Advanced Tech
Ryan: Molecular Biology and Computer Science; I’m currently working for CancerLinQ. I previously worked at Whitekoat. The three of us met at a hackathon last year and are all members of a mentoring organization, Edge Interns. After that event we continued working together at other events, usually building products centered on healthcare, a topic we are all passionate about.
What was your inspiration or thought process for creating the app?
Our goal was to help address the growing issue of depression and suicide. Recent studies examining the mental health of college students report that nearly 50% of all students experience a period of depression during their college career. To alleviate this pressing burden, Centrd focuses on expression and empathy as a medium of communication. Users are able to express their thoughts in-app — venting their discomforts and sharing their moments of gratitude.
User thoughts are then captured in the form of an interactive journal, and provide the fuel for Centrd’s machine learning algorithms. Utilizing Cortical.io’s Retina engine and Microsoft Cortana’s sentiment and emotional analysis of text and facial features, we identify deviations from a user’s normal behavior. Then, depending on the severity we alert either a designated close friend, family members — or in an emergency situation, a 3rd party assistance hotline. Through this system of continued support, we hope to inspire a more connected community. A community of listeners, friends, and mentors — a place where even in one’s darkest moments there will always be a guiding hand.
What was your technology stack for the project?
For the front-end, we utilized Swift to create the iOS application. On the back-end we utilized Flask and SQLAlchemy with a PosgreSQL database that was hosted on Heroku. In terms of API’s we utilized Flowroute for SMS messaging, Corcial.io & Microsoft Cortana for machine learning and analysis, and SparkPost for sending email notifications.
Do you each have a feature or particular capability that you really wish was included in the app?
Evan: Passive facial and expression analysis, which would have been leveraged to create a more robust mental health profile.
Zach: Audio-to-Speech in order to allow journaling on the go; adding a Star Trek like feel.
Ryan: Visuals for displaying the data and analysis behind the application to help the user understand how and why Centrd works.
How do you think the ability to utilize SMS differentiates or adds value to your app?
Most applications utilize push notifications when they need to connect with a user, however this has the caveat of requiring the user to have the application installed.
Luckily, SMS does not have this limitation and is a crucial component for us as we wanted Centrd to be as easy as possible to use. By allowing us to notify 3rd party users, without the onus of installing another application, users are not limited in their choices for an emergency contact. This is directly in line with our goal of having Centrd be extremely simple to use and have it be a key differentiating factor from other applications.
Another benefit of using SMS is that users are more likely to silence app notifications than texts making emergency contacts more likely to receive the request for help when it is sent through a text.
Anything next on the horizon for the team or the app?
We don’t currently have anything planned for the application or the team although continuing to build Centrd into a fully functional application is not out of the question.
Transporter, time machine or cloak of invisibility?
Evan: Invisibility cloak
Zach: Time machine; I’ve always wanted to be a doctor
Evan: Sony Vaio
Zach: Used Macbook (2007 model)
Ryan: HP Envy 15
Evan: iPhone 6
Zach: iPhone 6
Ryan: Galaxy S4
Evan: Sunrise Calendar
Zach: Messenger. It’s largely replaced texting and email for me
Ryan: Venmo. It’s removed the hassle of splitting the bill with my friends
I once waited in line for…?
Evan: 4 hours for Franklin’s BBQ in Austin, TX; it was glorious!
Zach: A selfie with Tim Cook
Ryan: To see the Mona Lisa
Stay tuned for more info about the exciting future of Centrd!