We’re constantly inundated with all manner of new wave tech pegged as ‘the next big thing’. However, let’s go beyond that shiny, whizzy gadgetry – fascinating as it is – and hone in on inventions with tremendous social impact… and the wildly clever founders behind them.
These next-gen change makers are using ‘tech for good’, tapping into emerging and future technologies in order to transform the lives of those who need it the most.
That’s the exact ethos behind The Trailblazers, an ambitious, playful new 13-part video series discovering millennials (18-35 year olds) whose ventures have the explosive potential to drive meaningful social good.
We’re talking sustainable impact that goes beyond the confines of the tech elite, aimed at becoming accessible to our communities, be it local or global, developed or developing. The apps, platforms, services or gadgets from the creators the series will profile are either on the cusp of hitting the mainstream, or trying slowly but surely to make their mark beyond an early, niche market.
The Trailblazers also unravels what made our interviewees tick… their personality quirks, cheeky vices and what they were like as a kid. The series is really as much about getting personal with the founders as it is about putting these makers of tomorrow in a deserving spotlight.
Powered by digital telco Telefónica, intent on championing talented founders (see Wayra and Open Future_), a big call-to-action was issued via social media and our networks to scour Europe to find our Trailblazers.
Here are just three of those folks driven by the altruistic need of making our day-to-day lives infinitely better.
It really hit me that this wasn’t trivial. What I was trying to do actually mattered – Stan Karpenko, co-founder and CEO, GiveVision
A whopping 285m people are visually impaired worldwide, of whom 39m are blind. Certainly the latter come up against a huge struggle to navigate their indoor and outdoor environments.
After working with visually impaired coders, Lithuanian firebrand Stan kicked off GiveVision. One of the world’s first blind-friendly user interfaces for smart glasses, the software turns text-to-speech, reading aloud street signs, bus numbers, shop names and written copy directly to the wearer.
When I travelled with my grandparents as a kid, I often wondered what the places I visited would be like going back in time. – Yigit Yigiter, Founder, Timelooper
Harvard grad Yigit is staying true to both his childhood aspiration and the pledge in his original admission application to the Ivy League. In just under five months from conceptualization to a working first version, he pulled off Timelooper, a virtual reality tool that aims to bring historical sites to life for millions.
The app gives you an immersive view of the venue you’re visiting (you must physically be present), and recreates a momentous event that took place at that very location. You really do feel like you’re ‘there’.
Yigit wants to spice up history, promising to pry young eyes away from their phones and step into an all-consuming experience.
I want to explore how technology could make us even better than we are – Nell Bennett, Co-founder, doppel
Nell and her team have devised an ‘empathic wearable’ that works with your body’s natural bio-rhythm to impact your mood, helping lift it when you’re low on energy and calming you down when you’re highly anxious. Best of all, doppel is aimed at being entirely natural and non-invasive. It works with your resting heart beat to first establish a baseline then, using haptic technology via a tiny motor pulsing on your wrist, it intervenes between the body’s feedback with the brain (acting like a heartbeat) to tell the body to become more alert or calmer.
When technology is less ‘aggressive’ than an energy drink loaded with enough caffeine to rev up a large animal, you know it just makes good sense.
These are a mere three of the 13 Trailblazers we’ve filmed showcases with. If they’ve whetted your appetite, hold that thought for the rest of the cohort – to name a few, there’s med student Faii Ong’s tremor-stabilizing device GyroGlove, Oliver Armitage’s sensor for prosthetics CBAS, Weerada Sucharitakal’s platform for cinemaphiles and Rowan Jones’ cancer community app Spero.
I feel strongly that we need to rally support for those trailblazing folks working relentlessly to make ‘sexy tech’ a driver for social good. Forget about slapping on a smartwatch or obsessing over your Instagram feeds, this lot is bringing their digital ventures to the forefront of society in a meaningful way.
The Trailblazers might just be one way to do that.
The Trailblazers is backed by Telefonica. Filming for series one has wrapped, but get in touch with @shivvyjervis if you’d like to nominate yourself for series two or to collaborate on the next series.