Health and Healthcare Systems

This voice chat service helps connect lonely people who are quarantined

A Servpro cleaning crew member peeks through window blinds at Life Care Center of Kirkland, a long-term care facility linked to several confirmed coronavirus cases, in Kirkland, Washington, U.S., March 12, 2020.  REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RC2JIF9OS2UU

Millions of people worldwide are living under lock-down, posing a multitude of mental health challenges. Image: REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson

Canela López
Web Production Fellow, Business Insider
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  • Artists Danielle Baskin and Max Hawkins created QuarantineChat, a voice chat service designed to connect people living in coronavirus quarantine zones and others just looking to talk to people.
  • The app is run through Dialup — a voice chat service Baskin and Hawkins created in 2019.
  • As anxiety about the coronavirus spreads, Baskin and Hawkins told Business Insider they wanted to provide a service to help people build community in spite of it.
  • "It's to bring magic and serendipity to a new reality where thousands of people are stuck inside alone for the next month all over the world," Baskin and Hawkins told Insider in an email.

As more people are self-quarantining to protect themselves from the global spread of coronavirus, artists Danielle Baskin and Max Hawkins have come up with a possible solution to the isolation.

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The duo recently released QuarantineChat, a voice chat service that allows users to connect with other people around the world who may be in coronavirus quarantines, whether they are mandated by their government or self-imposed.

Users can access the service by downloading Dialup — a voice chat app that lets people call each other without using a phone number — and get connected with people around the world who want to talk about their shared experiences with the coronavirus, quarantine, or simply isolation.

"It's to bring magic and serendipity to a new reality where thousands of people are stuck inside alone for the next month all over the world," Baskin and Hawkins told Insider in an email.

Baskin co-created Dialup with her business partner Hawkins in 2019 to connect friends and communities through phone calls.

Coronavirus Covid-19 virus infection China Hubei Wuhan contagion spread
Image: QuarantineChat

After anxiety around the coronavirus spread, Hawkins and Baskin decided to create QuarantineChat and run it through Dialup to help people who may be experiencing anxiety about the virus. Since the first case was detected in December 2019, more than 84,000 people have been infected worldwide.

Baskin said a very personal experience with quarantine made the concept for QuarantineChat hit closer to home.

In 2017, Baskin was self-quarantined in her San Francisco apartment after contracting mono during a trip to Shenzhen, China. Baskin was sick, felt awful, and isolated.

Baskin told Insider she connected with people via phone during her several weeks of self-quarantine, but she found herself wanting to speak to people who understood her unique experience.

"Then I thought: I wish I could talk on the phone to other people with mono and ask them what movies they're watching and other stuff," Baskin said. "It would be nice to talk to them because I know we're going through a similar experience together at this moment."

Baskin told Insider that as of now, dozens of people are using the service — primarily in California and Iran, which have both declared states of emergencies due to a rise in cases of coronavirus.

While some may find QuarantineChat to be a bit morbid, Bakin said the purpose of the project is to unify people using humor.

"Yes, we have elevator music and maybe "QuarantineChat" sounds dystopian, but I believe subtle humor is important during chaotic times," Baskin told Insider. "While COVID-19 is not a lighthearted matter, we hope this project brings people moments of joy."

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