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Bondies go global with positive voice vibes

Bond University students Megan Van Der Velde, Jackson Miller, Holly Slattery and Ellie Mackey have been awarded funding for voice-note inspired start-up, vybu.

A group of Bond University students have been awarded $15,000 for achieving second place in the World’s Challenge Challenge – a global problem-solving competition aimed at addressing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

The four-person team comprised of students Jackson Miller, Ellie Mackey, Holly Slattery and Megan Van Der Velde, presented vybu (pronounced vibe you) – software designed to reduce loneliness using pre-recorded audio messages from friends, family and loved ones.

Team Leader Jackson Miller said the idea came about after he personally experienced mental health struggles.

“Twelve months ago I was in a tough spot mentally and I found it very hard to talk openly with others,” Mr Miller said.

"Even though I was supporting friends and family who were courageous enough to ask for help, I still didn't feel comfortable doing so myself."

In 2021, the idea for vybu was born - a platform designed to reduce the stigma around mental health by facilitating connection and helping users access helpful psychological knowledge.

vybu's concept is simple - users can listen to voice messages that have been pre-recorded by loved ones when they feel they need support.

“I think voice memos became popular over the last couple of years as people began to feel increasingly anxious towards synchronous communication from social isolation, while also craving increased connection which can be achieved when hearing one's voice," Mr Miller said.

“An advantage of sending a voice note over a text message is being able to listen to it at a time that’s most convenient to you."

vybu does more than just provide a platform to exchange voice notes.

“A lot of the time when people are struggling, we don’t know what to say, and sometimes we’re afraid we'll say the wrong thing. vybu guides users through evidence informed advice on what to say,” Mr Miller said.

“We engaged a team of psychologists and advisors who have years of clinical experience who are currently consulting on the best content in the form of sentence-starter prompts and even full scripts, which users can record their voice over.

“This gives people something to say, even when they don’t quite know what to say. It takes away that barrier of nervousness or doubt that you’re going to say the wrong thing.”

With the competition behind them, Mr Miller is focussed on taking vybu to the next level. 

“The feedback we received was overwhelmingly positive from the competition judges. People are really looking forward to being able to use vybu and our waitlist of early access users is growing rapidly,” Mr Miller said.

“The funds will go towards app development costs, and content and script creation, to accelerate the delivery of this platform to the hands of users."

The World’s Challenge Challenge invites students from universities around the world to form teams and propose solutions based on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. 

The World’s Challenge Challenge began at Western University in Canada in 2013 and expanded to include a global competition in 2017.

The annual event was this year held virtually, with 16 teams from around the world competing in front of a panel of academics from Western University.

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