LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — As people continue to stockpile and clear the shelves of local stores, it can still be difficult to find certain items like toilet paper and cleaning supplies.
While other students spent their spring break relaxing, four University of Texas computer science majors spent their vacation making people’s lives easier.
The students came up with a solution they called Instok.org.
“People were going to 5 or 6 different stores to find a single, specialty product.,” said Instok.org co-creator Rithwik Pattikonda.
“We thought we could make the whole experience better by bringing together all this inventory information from the different websites into one place,” Pattikonda said.
To use the service, shoppers simply input the item they are looking for and the zip code they are un and Instok will tell the shopper where they can find it.
The site sources inventory data directly from the store’s websites.
The team found the most frequently searched items were toilet paper, disinfectant wipes, and hand sanitizer, “but we have also seen some stuff that we weren’t expecting,” said co-creator Sriram Hariharan.
Some of those unexpected items included baking flour and electronic gaming devices.
“It is kind of interesting to see how the public’s interests have changed over the quarantine,” said Hariharan.
The students said they’ve received touching emails, including one from a man who couldn’t find distilled water for his CPAP machine.
“He said he waited in a long line in the morning at Walmart in the morning to see if he could get it, but he couldn’t find it after waiting 30 minutes in that line,” Pattikonda said.
The man was able to order online after searching on Instok.
“I think it feels awesome, just to have this amount of impact,” said Pattikonda.
In a little more than a month since launching, the site has reached over 750,000 users.
The students are working to make the website even better by adding a price comparison feature and a way to get notified when items come back in stock.