WP Alum Shannon Morales ’14 Creates an App to Gamify Social Distancing


Shannon Morales ’14

Shannon Morales ’14 enjoyed playing video games with friends when she was a kid. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, the concept of social distancing reminded her of those games. “You’d push a button to enter stealth mode and you’d be crouching down and hiding from scary objects,” she says. “Right now, Covid-19 is that scary object that all of us are trying to hide from.”

Morales, an entrepreneur who earned her bachelor’s degree in finance from William Paterson University, was recruiting college interns to help her grow her staffing agency, Echo Me Forward, when she was struck with a novel idea. Why not create a web app that uses game-like features to incentivize social distancing? With the help of students whose other internships were cancelled due to coronavirus, she launched Stealth.ify, an app that uses real-time data to alert its users through push notifications when they are in high Covid-19 density areas.

“Until now, no one has done anything like that or conceived of offering more local information of the infection,” she says. “So we worked on that, which is our big feature. No one is using it in the way that we are.”

Stealth.ify is currently in beta mode and looking for users to participate by filling out a questionnaire with information like location and demographics. The app is free and will be available nationwide.

“Users can sign up and answer about 10 questions that give us high-level information about where they are,” she says. “The app then creates a personalized dashboard with four features. One is an interactive map letting you know how far you are from the infected site. Another feature is how far you are from an essential store, with busyness levels—how crowded it is—so you can decide when to go.”

Telemedicine is another important feature being built into the app, giving users the ability to connect to physicians or health aids while home. Morales says her mother had a bout of high blood pressure during this pandemic, which brought home the importance of giving people a quick way to connect with medical personnel for help and attention. Morales believes it will be especially helpful to low-income populations by offering direct access to healthcare providers.

Finally, the gaming feature is that as you social distance, you accumulate points. “You’re being rewarded for how well you can be stealthy,” Morales explains. “Can you stay away from these high-risk areas?” If players succeed, they earn points that can be redeemed for shopping offers and freebies. Morales is working with businesses and partnerships to develop and expand those rewards.

With its telemedicine feature and monitoring of stores to gauge how busy they are, Morales envisions the app will evolve and remain relevant beyond the current pandemic. “This app will be a global and health tech resource to keep people safe from high-risk areas while traveling,” she says.

 

04/29/20