Feeling overwhelmed by all the emails and messages that land in three different places on your mobile phone each day? Help is on the way: Angela Orzell, Tuck ’19, is working on technology to keep track of that torrent.
It’s a computer application called Nudg, and it would show a user, in a single display, a record of all communications received and sent to contacts over a selected period of time. Nudg would not show the content—just a log of the correspondence. “It’s a mechanism to track how you communicate over time, not what you say,” Orzell says.
This winter, Nudg won the DALI Grand Prize at The Pitch, a high-energy Dartmouth event in which 20 groups try to sell big ideas in two minutes or less to panels of judges and the audience. The prize is worth $8,000 in technical support from DALI.
Now Orzell is working with DALI (a lab where students design and build technological tools), the Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network, and Tuck School of Business professors and colleagues to create a prototype for Nudg. It will likely be designed for Android devices.
Orzell recently met at DALI with some of her product development team—DALI members Paula Mendoza ’19 and Regina Yan ’19, and Gabriella Savage, Tuck ’19. They’re working toward a tight deadline, because at least a preliminary version of Nudg will be unveiled on June 22 at the Digital Arts Expo, also known as DAX, an annual two-day showcase of work in technology, arts, design, and interactivity by Dartmouth students, faculty, and staff. Also on the DALI team: Kendall Ernst ’18, Jiachen Jiang ’20, and Tanya Shah ’20. Other Tuck students working with Orzell include Sarah Igoe, Tuck ’19, and Jack Cai, Tuck ’19.
The idea for Nudg came from Orzell’s own need to stay on top of mail, messages, and calls she makes and receives each day.
“At my previous job,” she says, “there was a focus on developing your own professional network. There are customer relationship tools that a lot of big organizations use. However, at the lower level it’s hard to obtain these expensive tools, so I had to track everything manually through Excel or calendar updating. And coming to business school, I realized that many of my classmates were in the same situation.”
Savage says Orzell is one of the most talented entrepreneurs she’s met at Tuck, and she thinks Nudg will attract investors—if presented in the right way to the most receptive market. “I once worked for a small venture capital company, and we actually needed a product like this. I can help think through the fundraising process, figuring what a firm might be willing to invest in,” she says.
Orzell says people are feeling increasingly unable to keep tabs on the social networks they build using smartphones. “In today’s world, we are communicating constantly using many means—email, phone calls, text messages, social media—and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to remember to follow up with people, or even to remember if you spoke with someone last week, because of how busy we are, and the impact of technology,” she says.
The challenge, says Yan, an engineering and studio arts major, is how to make Nudg functional, easy to use, and aesthetically pleasing. “We’re doing a lot of prototyping, starting with user research and current market research. We’ll be refining the problem and figuring out what specifications we want in this app as we communicate with Angela, and then getting high fidelity mock-ups,” Yan says.
Mendoza, a cognitive science major with a double minor in human-centered design and linguistics, says she loves working on this problem at DALI because “there is so much knowledge here, such talented mentors, and it’s so great to be on a team working with your hands toward a common goal.”
That goal, says Orzell, is not to multiply contacts and connections with Nudg, but “to enhance to relationships you already have.
“For example, on Facebook, almost anyone can connect with you. And all these companies have information on us and we are not aware of what they know about our communication networks. But with Nudg, with data visualization and analytics, you can see for yourself with how much frequency you are communicating with people you know,” says Orzell.
While she sees Nudg as indispensable for business communities, Yan says it can also help multi-taskers maintain family ties. “You’ll have a picture of your conversational priorities. You’ll be able to see if you are staying in touch with your friends on a daily basis but forgetting to text your mom.”
Hey, it happens, says Orzell. So sometimes you need a Nudg.
Charlotte Albright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.