“You — you alone will have the stars as no one else has them…”
― The Little Prince
If you’re feeling lonely during this quarantine season, you might find a new friend through @spacesignal. One of the winning apps from The @ Company’s recent @ppathon, @spacesignal inspires meaningful connection between strangers online.
“When people are dealing with anxiety and depression, they tend to put on their headphones and lock themselves into their room,” says Lang Gong, one of the three developers behind @spacesignal. “But we think a warm greeting or some kind language would make them feel better.”
Built with the programming language Flutter, @spacesignal draws its inspiration from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s beloved tale The Little Prince. Lang says, “There’s a correlation between the story of the Little Prince and the depression and anxiety that people feel, because the Little Prince lived on his own planet and felt very lonely.”
Like the Little Prince, everyone using @spacesignal lives on their own planet and can send and receive “signals,” or text messages, from people on other planets. After showing you your planet, the app gives you two options: send and search. You can either send out a message for another person to discover or search for a message sent by someone else.
The app is developed on the @protocol, which ensures that your messages are private: they cannot be seen by anyone besides you and the person you’re conversing with. You can also remove any messages that you send at any time.
Although you’ll be connecting with strangers, the app guards against unwanted spam or harassment. After sending a message, you must wait for the other person to respond before you can continue on with your conversation. (You can friend them permanently if it’s a match.)
The app has other restrictions — for example, you can only send out five signals and receive ten signals per day— but according to team member Gefei Zhang, this is because “messages have power.”
She explains, “We don’t want people to overuse the feature. If you can keep searching for an unlimited number of signals, you’re likely to get tired of this app in a few days. But if there’s a limitation, we can make sure our users take the messages more seriously.”
In this season of government-mandated isolation, the team hopes that @signal can provide comfort to those who are feeling alone.
“In this pandemic, everyone’s staying at home, causing a lot of people to lose their connection with the world,” says Gefei. “Even just getting a ‘hello’ or ‘how’s everything going’ from someone can help make them feel better about the world.”
Lang agrees with this sentiment, saying, “These signals have the power to make somebody leave the dark place and light up their whole day.”
““The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, they are felt with the heart.””
- The Little Prince
@spacesignal is currently still in development and is projected to release in early 2021. To stay updated on its release and hear about other apps developed on the @protocol, subscribe to @news, The @ Company’s newsletter.
About the Team
With diverse backgrounds including finance and mentorship, Gefei Zhang, Lang Gong, and Sen Wang are currently graduate students studying Computer Science at Pace University. After taking part in The @ Company’s first @ppathon, they were awarded $5,000 for their work on @spacesignal.