Paugme: The Story Behind the Empathy Teaching App


We were getting ready to finish up our initial Beta version of Mantaray AR: Study Sessions and Mantaray AR: Unlimited, and we were brainstorming ideas for our next project.  We wanted something completely different, but still Augmented Reality based.  You could tell that we were getting tired of working on the same type of product for the past year and we wanted change.

Ivan suggested something along the lines of what he thought Tamagotchi was.  He originally thought it was a very elaborate pet simulator where the goal was to keep the pet happy.  The brainstorming session continued and we all took notes.  We ended up with the following pitch: “Paugme: the Augmented Reality Pet that teaches children empathy.”


The original idea for Paugme. It’s come a long way. (Image by Daniela Howe)

Daniela and Ivan had previously decided to go to Startup Weekend EDU (SWEDU) at Phoenix, AZ and decided to pitch and work on this idea while they were there.  See, SWEDU is a 54 hour event where from Friday to Sunday, teams work on a new idea, get mentoring and feedback, and ultimately create a prototype and deliver a final pitch in order to win prizes.

During the initial pitch, we received a lot of feedback from those with children with some type of Autism Spectrum Disorder that it would be very useful for them.  After about 6 hours of talking with friends, family, mentors, and the lead founder of the AZ Autism Charter School, the idea morphed into the current version of Paugme: “The mobile application that teaches empathy to children with autism.”

We were set.

Paugme Presentation

Ivan giving the original pitch for Paugme. (Photo courtesy of SWEDU).

We were not able to finish a prototype in those 54 hours because of how radically different our idea had become, but we had made some great connections and we had created a solid idea.

 We were asked to submit our game to the Game CoLab sponsored Hackathon IO event at UAT.  We decided to do a pitch even though our “game” wasn’t exactly fun in the traditional sense.  It’s very focused towards low stimulation with very basic rules so that those with autism can focus on the educational parts of the app without being distracted.

With only two weeks in between events, we quickly finished up our Mantaray AR: Unlimited and Mantaray AR: Study Session products, submitted them to the App Store and Google Play Store, and began researching autism.  We interviewed people we knew as well as did research online for how to best approach the topic and how to best deliver a product that parents would buy and children would use.

Ivan and Daniela

Ivan and Daniela talking with interested guests.

We ended up building the prototype of Paugme (which is currently available on the Google Play Store) in four nights thanks to Ivan dilegently programming and Daniela drawing non-stop to create all of the graphics.

We ended up going to the Hackathon event with a solid prototype, but not one that could be considered fun.  We ended up not winning the event, but we made some even more connections and one of the judges wishes the criteria for judging was different so that we could have won.

However, by this time, we knew we had a solid product that people wanted.  We created a brand new website for Paugme which is currently open for newsletter sign ups, and we are planning a Kickstarter to launch later this year.


The final prototype!

For more information about Paugme or to sign up for our newsletter, visit our website!

If you want to watch our video entry for the Game CoLab Hackathon, check it out on Youtube!

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