India's First CoVid19 Tracker with Voice Search
The idea of Voice-Enabling CoVid19 dashboard originated from an internal hackathon we conducted. It allows everyone to do a voice search for confirmed cases in any district in India. At a state level, people can even ask for active, recovered and death cases. We recently added support for getting data on testing and new cases in districts and state.
Here is the final outcome.
The story behind our hackathon is not so interesting, but it’s definitely something we felt personally about. All of us Slangians wanted to contribute to the battle against CoVid19. We provided monetary help but there is only so much we can do to even make a dent.
To contribute to this battle, We decided to play to our strengths. We have a very strong engineering team and we wanted to leverage our engineering chops to help in this battle. We had a goal in mind — Use our existing tech to build something meaningful and impactful.
To achieve this, we decided to organise an internal hackathon with a focus on solving small issues which are often passed upon in these tough times but can potentially make a big impact on people’s lives.
Two issues stood out for us -
- Getting trustworthy news around CoVid in the hands of our parents and relatives to stop fake news.
- Feeling lonely during social distancing. (more about it later)
Why did we create a CoVid19 dashboard with Voice Search?
We saw the effects of the infamous “Whatsapp University” spreading fake rumours and news. We had a lot of anecdotal insights as well as well documented cases of the implication of fake news since the time this crisis emerged. This was clearly a big problem worth solving. We decided to do our part in solving this problem, by making trustworthy news accessible to all.
We wanted a way for our parents and relatives to search and verify the data they get via Whatsapp forwards. This has often been difficult because these emergent are often limited by linguistic and navigational barriers.
Our goal was to make sure emergent users like our parents and family members can search for trusted information via voice in either English or Hindi.
Impact of adding Voice Search to this dashboard?
We had over 800 people use the covid19india.slanglabs.in, in less than a week of launching this dashboard. The only marketing we did for this project was sharing it on our personal and Slang’s social media channels.
We were overwhelmed by the kind of feedback we got. Here is a picture of some of the feedback we received when we shared this project with our friends and family.
This is a small step in the right direction. If your parents, relatives or friends are deriving value out of doing voice search on this dashboard, please do record and send us a video. We will put it up on our social media channels.
How did we create this?
Team ‘404 Found’ members- Vinayak, Nissim, Ritinkar and Ved worked on this project. They forked the codebase and data pipe built by the amazing folks at covid19india.org and added Slang’s WEB SDK to it, to voice-enable it quickly. Adding our SDK helped us to enable voice search in English and Hindi. We tweaked the dashboard UI a bit to make it better for smartphones and voila we had our prototype ready. We were able to complete the prototype overnight.
Getting prototype to production
This section has the nitty-gritty of issues that arose in the prototype. TL;DR- We solved most of these issues and went to production. Read this section if you want to understand, the challenges we faced and how we solved them.
We had to first dogfood our own project. We gave the dashboard to our team to use and soon saw a pattern that was breaking the voice search experience. The data from CoVid19 project gave us district-wise data, but people were asking for cities and prominent towns which differed from their district names. For example, Guhwati a prominent city actually lies in Kamrup Metropolitan district. Haldwani lies in the district of Nainital. Did you know ‘New Delhi’ is actually a district in the state of Delhi (that’s just weird)? (You get the gist, there are many such edge cases).
We tackled this problem in the old fashioned way. Putting manpower to collect prominent towns and cities in over 700+ districts to make it work. Sounds boring, tiring and draining? Yes, because it was. Believe it or not, there is no directory for this for us to scrape. (Believe me, I did scour the internet for it).
The whole team pulled together to solve this challenge. We got everyone on a video call to make this brain-draining work a little more bearable. Each member took a state they are most familiar with and got on to collect this information. After 2 hours of jokes, camaraderie (astonishment on the lack of our knowledge of Geography) and Wikipedia searches we were done.
We added these towns and cities to their respective districts in the backend. Voila, v1 was ready to be released.
We have added this project to our regular sprints. We have been actively making this project better and adding more features. We recently added support for querying data on testing, new cases and countrywide information.
We also are working on building a very simple way of adding a similar ‘Voice Assistant for CoVid19 data’ for anyone to embed it onto their website with just a couple lines of code. Upon adding this, you will get a button on the screen where users can query for CoVid data using Voice in English and Hindi. We call it ‘CoVid19 Slang Assistant’. (You know what they say about coming up names is the hardest challenge in software engineering). If you want to add it to your website just email us on email@example.com. We will be more than happy to help you integrate it. It’s just a couple of lines of code - not much help needed.
We are working on adding support for querying data for all the countries. Adding support for more languages. We don’t have a definite timeline on these features but follow our social media handles. We update on new features over there.
Tackling Loneliness with Games
Like we mentioned, other interesting ideas that came out of the hackathon is to find ways to break the loneliness from the lockdown. Our solution, lets get everything talking by playing Voice powered Games. And so the team went about building one.. two.. three.. four games :-). We really need get a life. We realized that most were really into games and as soon as one game idea manifested, 3 more quickly grow out of it.
One of these games, Elephantine, is a memory game that you can play with your kid. The other, Orb Ball, is a more interactive game that anyone can play to control a ball into a hole. Voice Maze and Voice Paddle were the other two. All these games were powered by Slang’s Android & Web SDK. All of them are available as alpha releases. If you are interesting tracking all the hacks that we keep doing over time, checkout our link https://www.slanglabs.in/hacks.
Let us know what you think. If you have ideas for us to do, do share with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.