Meeting Yinchi for the first time, you are met with a springy teen with curious eyes and an empathetic heart from the onset. After all, what spurred her to join in the Lighthouse Programme in the first place was a need to create something that would quell the uneasiness she had been feeling - the rising issue of loneliness in elderly communities; and what better way than to draw from her own personal experience?
As her grandmother lives on her own after her grandfather passed on, Yinchi sought to look at technology to help solve this impending issue at hand by way of bridging the gap between loneliness and companionship, at least in the form of as realistic a communicative companion could get, and set out to work on an idea that had been brewing at the back of her mind for a long time - a table sized communicative bot that would be able to play the role of companion to her grandmother, and eventually other elderly too.
Coming to VIVITA, she realised the scope and depth in which she would have to deep dive into just to get to a first working prototype. While the coding and technical aspect of getting the bot to move and respond proved to be trickier than it let on, it didn’t deter her. And with a supportive group of mentors that rallied around her, she quickly formed a close friendship and bond with them and many weekend afternoons were spent at VIVISTOP Orchard, tinkering at her prototype, bit by bit.
Aptly named Peng You, a hokkien dialect word for “friend”, Yinchi really wanted this communicative bot to be just that—a presence for those who need it.
Through her many weekend afternoons at VIVITA, she also eventually became a familiar face to the young members in the space, who often mistook her for a VIVITA crew. She was always tickled by this, but you could tell she was glad to feel included, and to feel like a big sister to others and you would often see her giving a helping hand to a younger member in need, and offering words of encouragement and advice to others who were quieter and needed a bit of guidance.
Looking to the future of Peng You, she hopes to make it more appealing to elderly people, knowing that oftentimes older people tend to shun technology as it may be foreign to them, so hopefully that provides a sense of familiarity and a sense of home and friendship. Naturally with it already titled after a dialect word, she too hopes to increase the language features of the robot to include dialects that would be able to cater to a primarily older audience that might not have English as their first language. By breaking down that barrier, she hopes others will be able to approach Peng You more willingly. This is where her empathy once again shines through, in the thoughtfulness that spurs her on to make Peng You even more inclusive and accessible to everyone who needs it.
She too feels that as an aspiring maker, she draws from her own experience that one needs to accept little failures as part of the process, as part of progress in fact, and not to give up easily because there will be mistakes and many do-overs. Funnily, she feels one needs to be thick skinned with their idea, because if you yourself do not believe in your idea, who else could you possibly sell it to? (Strong point, yes).
Through this journey, she also learnt that she is someone who is very stubborn and is likely to keep pushing for her ideas until she realises it doesn’t work before she looks to other means and ways, and it is through discovering all these aspects of herself that also helped Yinchi grow into her own and to focus and be disciplined in working through the areas she was unfamiliar with and to not be afraid to ask for help.
Yinchi also had the opportunity to be featured on media platform Our Grandfather Story to further tell her own story of Peng You and it was exciting for her because she was able to actually tell her story to people of other backgrounds and ages, and it made her even more excited and more motivated to want to continue her work with Peng You.
Through this wild ride, Yinchi surely had her work cut out for her but not once did she give up.
At the end of her three month journey we did a reflection session with her and we asked her to share something for other young innovators and makers who might want to start something and am unsure how, and here’s what she said --
“Just go for it, the journey will take long but it will definitely be fun. You will be able to learn many new things along the way and the end result? It will always be satisfying.”