Cornell CS majors Sam Brickman, Jordyn Goldzweig, and Alisa Lai have created a web-based initiative—Quarantine Buddy—to address the need for connection in the time of physical distancing. The founders note: "We are passionate about connecting and empowering people as we all go through this uncertain and difficult time together. We want to connect people of all ages from all around the globe to bring the world together. Our machine learning algorithm strategically ranks and outputs the best possible quarantine buddy for you based on your background and what you are looking for."
“We noticed that people were feeling more socially isolated more than ever right now, and we wanted to build something to help people where people are still feeling connected to one another while still social distancing,” said Brickman.
Goldzweig added: “When this whole thing started, we realized we had so much free time on our hands and we have to figure out a good way to channel the stress and all of the negativity into something positive."
To be matched with a buddy, all users have to do is answer 10 simple questions. Your name, contact information, age, gender, type of work you’re in and where you are quarantined. Then, you can choose preferences for your quarantine buddy, specifically their age, gender and what you’re hoping to chat with them about.
“We built this matching algorithm which automatically goes through all of the signups and figures out the best possible pairings, introduces them together so the process is streamlined and doesn’t require a lot of manual work on our end either,” said Brickman.
After the match is finalized through the machine learning algorithm, users will receive a text with their buddy’s information. Then, they can connect with one another virtually.
Brickman notes: "We kind of were skeptical about whether people would be willing to talk to a complete stranger and if they’d be excited to talk to someone who they’ve never met before, but everyone seems super enthusiastic about this idea because they realize that everyone is really more similar then they previously thought going through this experience together. That’s really been a nice lesson that we’ve learned."
Quarantine Buddy launched April 1 and already, more than 6,000 users from 43 different countries have signed up for the program.