It sounds like a tasteless joke, but it's a real concept. iHobo is the application developed by Depaul- the UK's largest youth homeless charity. Download the app onto your iPhone and you become carer for iHobo over the course of 3 days. It's your responsibility to keep him fed and looked after, and stop his situation spiraling out of control. At the end of the 3 days, there's a direct appeal to donate either 3, 5 or 10 pounds to the charity.
The application immediately drew criticism for trivializing the issue, and worse, stereotyping young people affected by homelessness (if things start to go wrong, iHobo sells his sleeping bag for drugs). Chief executive Paul Marriott is obviously aware of the tension, commenting in The Guardian: "Is this a Tamagotchi-style approach to playing with a homeless person? We're very clear on that one," he insists. "While the name is a carefully considered attempt to attract attention, this is not a game and there is no winner in the conventional sense."
If it was intended to raise the profile of Depaul, then it's a runaway success; at the end of last week iHobo was at the top of the iTunes download chart. But Depaul needs it to have an impact on levels of donations too. The average age of a Depaul donor is currently 65. The aim of the application is to reach out to younger donors, helping them to connect to the realities of the issue through an interactive experience.
Watch the video below to find out more: