THE BLOG

A Glove, Sexy Jacket and "Timelooper": Startups Using Tech-for-Good

07/03/2016 10:19 GMT | Updated 04/03/2017 10:12 GMT

A mood-impacting empathic wearable, potentially life saving cyclist gear, tremor-stabilising glove and a "timelooper." Have I piqued your curiosity yet?

Digital technology advances don't have to be about paradigm shifts, global domination and annihilating the competition.

In fact, the majority of technology trailblazers I find truly worth keeping an eye on are dedicating their inventions to a meaningful purpose. The categories below show it's possible for startups to be driven by compassion and a sense of vocation, rather than the single-minded focus on completing a successful exit and buying that villa in Italy.

Urban safety

What if a stylish jacket could potentially save your life? More than 92% of fatalities with cyclists happen in low light conditions, yet only 10% wear high-visibility clothing (most cyclists find them tedious, unattractive or simply not powerful enough).

Meanwhile, few high-visibility clothes are outfits you would want to be seen in. Together with her husband (who was knocked off his bike when a driver couldn't see him), trailblazer Lucy Bairner created Lumo, a range of sleek clothing without the DayGlo polyester "cringe factor". With clothing to be seen in both on and off the bike, it will incentivise folks to be safer on the road. Watch my co-host Danny Bartlett road test it in the video below.

Immersive virtual reality

Technology can also be a powerful positive agent for change in the area of education and mindfulness. Travel may broaden the mind, but Yigit Yigiter's virtual reality app Timelooper takes the concept even further.

This immersive time travel-esque technology takes tourists back to key moments in the history of any destination through a 360-degree virtual reality view on smartphones, recreating a momentous event that took place at that very location. This immersive view of the venue you're visiting (you must physically be present) could go a great way in revitalising interest in history, inspiring otherwise disengaged youngsters to be more present when touring with their families. It could also help nations tell their stories creatively.

The age of 'empathic' wearables

I don't want to alarm you, but research from Mind shows that one in four people are predicted to develop a mental health issue at some stage in their lives. While exercise can raise your heart rate and stimulate the feel-good endorphins and serotonin in your system, it isn't always an easy or surefire option. This is where technology can be a highly effective agent of change.

One shining example is doppel, a mood-managing gadget worn on the wrist. Your rhythmic pulsing could help tackle stress, insomnia and sharpen your focus. It works with your body's natural response to rhythm, creating a pulse to which your body responds. This "wrist music" aims to elevate or calm you, depending on what effect for which you're looking.

Disability technology making striking strides

Technology could provide greater vision to the 285 million people identified by the World Health Organisation as blind and partially sighted - and stabilise the 210 million who suffer from uncontrollable shaking conditions such as Parkinson's Disease and Essential Tremor.

After working with visually-impaired coders, Lithuanian firebrand Stan kicked offGiveVision. 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.

Then there's Faii Ong, inventor of the GyroGlove. His device uses advanced mechanical gyroscopes to stabilise hand tremors and other forms of uncontrollable shake.

These five startups may very well end up shifting existing paradigms and hitting the global markets that I referenced earlier. However, what makes this trailblazing tech-for-good most powerful is one simple, unifying fact - they're all geared towards driving meaningful social impact.