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Our brightest films of 2021

It’s been a memorable year on Tomorrow Unlocked. Check out the highlights

It’s been a memorable year on Tomorrow Unlocked. Check out the highlights

Our brightest films of 2021

It’s been a memorable year on Tomorrow Unlocked. Check out the highlights

2021 has been quite a year for all of us. While technology has helped us through the pandemic in many different ways, our reliance on tech is often not matched by our ability to protect ourselves from cybercrime. 

Against this backdrop we’ve told stories about criminal gangs, explored immortality and asked whether it’s possible to fall in love with robots with the aim of stirring debate and entertaining hundreds of thousands of viewers around the world. 

Join us as we take a look back at the highlights of this memorable year.

The controversial one. Imagine Beyond: Who Wants to Live Forever?

This film attracted the most comments on Tomorrow Unlocked’s YouTube channel in 2021 when we delved into one of humankind’s oldest themes: immortality. With advances in technology and a radical new global movement, living forever might be closer than we think. But is it something you would want? Watch and decide for yourself. 

Check out other stories about AI, robotics and future tech in Imagine Beyond on YouTube.

The edgy one. Imagine Beyond: Build me Somebody to Love

Could you fall in love with a robot? Will AI relationships be the norm in the future? As robots become ever more human, surely it’s only a matter of time before human-cyborg relations enter a whole new dimension. In this age-restricted video we explore these themes and meet those shaping the future of robotics. 

The multi-award winning Imagine Beyond series offers new and exciting perspectives on what the future of technology could bring for what it means to be human. Stream all episodes on YouTube.

The one for true crime fans. hacker:HUNTER – Emotet

Emotet, the world’s biggest organised cybercrime gang, was responsible for a swathe of crimes and possibly deaths. A global coalition of law enforcement officers came together to take them down – no mean feat when the anonymous crime gang was constantly on the move. This episode of hacker:HUNTER tells the inside story of their demise through the eyes of the heroes who brought them to justice.

hacker:HUNTER looks at outstanding moments of hacking and cybercrime from a deeply human angle. Enjoy all the episodes here.

The interactive one. hacker:HUNTER – Carbanak

Choose your own adventure brought bang up to date with our first interactive film. This documentary takes viewers inside the Carbanak attack of 2013 which saw money flying out of ATMs around the world. Get ready to go behind the scenes of the biggest cyber heist in history.

The audio one. Fast Forward

In our first audio series we delve into the future of tech by looking at the recent past. Led by writer, broadcaster and cultural theorist Ken Hollings, the series includes insightful interviews with industry, media and academic tech experts who have an eye on the future. 

Listen to all episodes of this CMA 2021 silver award-winning audio series

The one that might make you cry. Defenders of Digital: I am the Cavalry

Josh Corman leads a collective of white hat hackers, The Cavalry. Driven by the pain of losing his mother, Josh and his global collective are on a mission to make every

connected device safe, from medical infusion pumps to cars. This film inspires and terrifies in equal measure.  

Watch all 3 series of Defenders of Digital to hear from the heroes who fight to keep digital fair, open, free and functional.

The one that shows the future of industry. Young Bright Minds: The Autonomous Factory

Smart factories could fight climate change, save lives and help solve the supply chain crisis that we’ve seen in this year’s post-pandemic world. 

Could they even represent the next industrial revolution? In this episode of Young Bright Minds we meet Theo Saville, CEO of CloudNC and pioneer of autonomous factories. Theo explains why connected manufacturing is the future and how optimizing machines could save lives.

The one that was most awarded. From Kurils With Love – Behind the Scenes

The original From Kurils With Love documentary scooped 4 global awards in 2020, and in 2021 picked up a prestigious nomination for a Webby – the international awards that honor excellence on the internet.

This year we took you behind the scenes of this extraordinary film. With previously unseen footage, filmmakers Renan Ozturk and Taylor Rees share what the apocalypse created by the eruption of the Raykoke Volcano meant to them and how it became a metaphor for the world’s experience during the global pandemic.

The one for business. hacker: HUNTER Behind the Screens – Lighting the Dark Web

The acclaimed hacker:HUNTER series took a new perspective in 2021 by shining a light on cybersecurity professionals and the work they do to fight the exponential rise of cybercrime.

In this inaugural episode we meet officers from the Yorkshire and Humber Regional Organised Crime Unit who talk us through the Dark Web crime they fight every day, detailing how they catch cybercriminals whose identity, location and organisation is constantly changing. 

Ready for more captivating stories from frontline crime fighters? Stream more episodes of hacker:HUNTER Behind the Screens here.

The drama film. Click

For our first foray into fiction we commissioned a collective of teenage Nigerian filmmakers, The Critics, to create a short film. The self-taught collective is gaining global attention with their sci-fi films. In this movie they look at cybercrime from the perspective of Mel, a hacker who lives with her sick mother while investigating the mysterious disappearance of her father.

For more videos on inspiring tech innovation, subscribe to Tomorrow Unlocked on YouTube.

The Tomorrow Unlocked Film Festival Winner: Terra Cene

Now in its second year, the Tomorrow Unlocked Film Festival gives up-and-coming independent filmmakers the opportunity to showcase their creativity and tell engaging stories about how technology influences our lives now and in the future. Directed by Nono Ayuso, the 2021 winner Terra Cene is a remembrance of things past and an observation of the interconnected nature of our time on Earth.

Check out the 2021 Tomorrow Unlocked Film Festival finalists.

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Young Nigerians’ movie Clicks with Kaspersky

Nigerian teen collective The Critics is gaining global attention with self-taught filmmaking. The Click, explores a fictional cybercrime adventure.

Nigerian teen collective The Critics is gaining global attention with self-taught filmmaking. The Click, explores a fictional cybercrime adventure.

Young Nigerians’ movie Clicks with Kaspersky

Nigerian teen collective The Critics is gaining global attention with self-taught filmmaking. The Click, explores a fictional cybercrime adventure.

A collective of Nigerian teenagers called The Critics is making waves across the world. They make their groundbreaking movies using recycled smartphones and things they’ve learned in online tutorials.

Their recent short Z: THE BEGINNING went viral, catching global film heavyweight attention with its creativity and homemade special effects.

Tomorrow Unlocked is among the first brands to have commissioned The Critics to make a new film, The Click, written and directed by Godwin Gaza Josiah.

The Click: Plot Summary

Mel, played by Esther Ukata, lives with her sick mother and works a repetitive job, all the while investigating her father’s mysterious disappearance.

When an old acquaintance offers Mel a lucrative job hacking elite cybercrime gang The Click, she’s reluctant to get involved. But when her mother’s condition worsens, stress gets the better of Mel and she takes the job.

Remembering skills she learned from her father, Mel succeeds in breaking through the gang’s defenses. But they won’t take this lying down. Will Mel find out what happened to her father?

For more videos on inspiring tech innovation, subscribe to Tomorrow Unlocked on YouTube or follow us on Instagram.

Is it ethical to hack a cybercrime gang?

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Check out the best of Russian Film Week and beyond

Watch the best short films about how technology influences our lives from Russia and beyond

Watch the best short films about how technology influences our lives from Russia and beyond

Check out the best of Russian Film Week and beyond

Watch the best short films about how technology influences our lives from Russia and beyond

Russian Film Week is back in London cinemas for 8 days from November 28 – December 5 2021, the annual film festival features the best films produced in Russia or Russia-themed films produced globally. Tomorrow Unlocked Film Festival Finalist Cheat sheet for the princess by Vladimir Bukharov will be screened on Thursday, December 2. To celebrate, check out our favorite films about how technology influences our lives from Russia and beyond.

Cheat sheet for the princess

When an agent introduces his latest star to a film producer, things end bloody. But do they?

Terra Cene

Terra Cene is a remembrance of things past and an observation of the interconnected nature of our time on Earth. Winner, Tomorrow Unlocked Film Festival 2021.  

hacker:HUNTER – Wannacry: The Marcus Hutchins Story

In May 2017, computers around the world suddenly shut down. A malware called WannaCry asks for a ransom. The attack stops when researcher Marcus Hutchins finds the killswitch. What happens next for Marcus has to be seen to be believed.

Defenders of Digital – Inherited bias: The trouble with algorithms

These lawyers from Athens explains the dangers of today’s content moderation systems and explores how discrimination can occur when algorithms inherit the biases of their programmers.

hacker:HUNTER – Cashing In

ATMs hold cash, and that makes them attractive for criminals. While criminals around the world try to get to the money in cash machines with hammers, explosives, excavators, or other heavy gear, the Carbanak gang found a more elegant and stealthy way. 

Defenders of Digital – Fighting every day to keep children safe from exploitation

Susie Hargreaves and her team at the Internet Watch Foundation hunt down child abuse images online and help identify children involved so that law enforcement can intervene.

Visit the Russian Film Week website to see the complete film program along with details of exhibitions, talks, masterclasses, and other special events.

Would you watch a film if the star was an AI actor?

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One web developer with an exceptional ability

Young bright mind Cosmin Ciolacu can compose code in his head

Young bright mind Cosmin Ciolacu can compose code in his head

One web developer with an exceptional ability

Young bright mind Cosmin Ciolacu can compose code in his head

Visualizing code

Romanian web developer Cosmin Ciolacu has the amazing ability to see code in his head and know if it will work. A wheelchair user who isn’t able to use his arms and hands to type, Cosmin composes scripts in his mind then mentally error-checks them before dictating word by word, character by character to an assistant.

Using assistive technologies, he reviews code on screen for any transcribing errors. And he’s been making some impressive tech of his own.

Tech for greater good

Cosmin’s first project was designing and developing a user-friendly e-learning platform. Inspired by YouTube and Netflix, teachers can use it to upload educational videos and interact with students. Cosmin wants to make sure the tech is easy to use so that it can help more people.

The potential of future tech excites Cosmin, especially Elon Musk’s Neuralink, which lets users control devices with their minds through an implanted ‘neural lace.’See more videos about Young Bright Minds on our YouTube channel or Instagram.

Would you have a brain implant that lets you control devices?

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7 of the best tech movies for Halloween

Our favourite movies with a tech twist... for the darkest of holidays

Our favourite movies with a tech twist... for the darkest of holidays

7 of the best tech movies for Halloween

Our favourite movies with a tech twist... for the darkest of holidays

It’s spooky season again so grab the pumpkin juice and a bowl of spider’s eggs and check out our favourite thrilling, action-packed and scary movies with a tech twist…

Face/Off

This all-action John Woo thriller stars Nicholas Cage as an FBI agent undergoes pioneering high tech facial transplant surgery so that he can take on the identity of the criminal mastermind who murdered his only son. When the villain – played by John Travolta – wakes up prematurely, all hell breaks loose.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Arguably THE archetypal cyborg movie. Arnold Schwarzenegger travels back in time to protect future resistance leader John Connor, pursued by a more advanced and powerful cyborg programmed to destroy them both. With time travel, human-cyborg relations and a glimpse into the future with the T-1000’s polymorphic technology this movie has tantalising tech running through its liquid metal core.
If Terminator 2 puts you in the mood for more thought provoking cyborg-related films, check out Imagine Beyond: Build me Somebody to Love on YouTube.

The Fly (1986)

The movie that spawned the iconic phrase “Be afraid. Be very afraid.” This cult classic tells the story of Seth Brundle, a scientist who gets transformed into a man / fly hybrid after one of his experiments goes horribly wrong. With the classic tech theme of matter transportation at the heart of this movie, The Fly is a sci-fi horror film that is chilling as well as gory – perfect for Halloween.

eXistenZ

Jennifer Jason Leigh plays a world-renowned developer of VR games played on consoles connected directly into the players’ spinal cord. When a demo of her new game eXistenZ is sabotaged by a counter-VR group, she’s cast into a harrowing journey through what may or may not be the game.This movie is eerie and mysterious, taking viewers on a head-scratching journey through the dark side of gaming.

Kairo / Pulse

After one of their group takes his own life, strange things begin happening to a group of young Tokyo residents. Is their friend trying to contact them from ‘the other side’ via the internet, or is something even more sinister occurring? Japanese cinema aficionados may already be fans of this movie but for the rest of us, Halloween is the perfect time to check out this cult classic.

For a look at the darker side of digital, check out hacker:HUNTER, a Tomorrow Unlocked original series that recaps the most notorious cybercrime cases of recent years.

Unfriended: Dark Web

When you find a laptop in the lost property of your local cafe do you take it, or leave it alone? Matias decides to take it and soon wishes he didn’t as he and his friends get sucked into a  deadly game of cat and mouse with the previous owner who will stop at nothing to get it back. Taking us on a journey into the dark web, this movie is perfect for Halloween with its mix of suspense, gore and terrifying view of humanity and technology.

Hard Candy

Some harrowing themes are exposed in Hard Candy as a vigilante 14-year-old lures an online sexual predator into a web of psychological and physical torture. With some brutal scenes and a tough moral question at its core, this is a film that’s sure to provoke debate.

To learn more about the fight against online child sexual exploitation, watch our Defenders of Digital profile of Susie Hargreaves, CEO, Internet Watch Foundation.

Before the clock strikes midnight…

These are just a selection of our personal favorites. But which Halloween horror films make your watch list? Let us know on our Instagram or Facebook before the sun rises.

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iPod’s world-changing tech is 20 today

Take a look back at the evolution of personal music players

Take a look back at the evolution of personal music players

iPod’s world-changing tech is 20 today

Take a look back at the evolution of personal music players

On October 23, 2001 the world changed forever when Apple launched the iPod. Since then, 35 billion songs have been downloaded onto 400 million iPods. Join us as we take a misty-eyed look back at the evolution of personal music players.

Where it all began: The Sony Walkman

In July 1979 Sony created an entirely new way to listen to music with the introduction of the TPS-L2, better known as the Walkman. Playing cassettes that could hold up to 90 minutes of music, the battery-powered Walkman introduced the concept of ‘music on the go.’ From launch to its retirement in 2010, about 200 million devices were sold and “Walkman” became a by-word for all portable music players. 

Going digital: The Sony Discman

In 1984, energised by the global dominance of the Walkman, Sony launched the first portable CD player: the Discman. Entering the world just two years after the first mass production of CDs, the Discman was arguably ahead of its time but went on to achieve huge global success.

The best thing you (probably) never had: The MiniDisc

In the early 90s some brands encouraged us to switch from cassette and CD to MiniDisc. Unlike CDs, MiniDiscs were skip-free and re-recordable. Despite offering superior quality – and many subsequent years of use in the music industry – MiniDisc failed to take off and production of personal MiniDisc players ended in 2011.

The MP3 pioneer: The MPMan F10

By the end of the 1990s the MP3 digital music format was with us, leading to a flood of portable MP3 players hitting the market. Some had screens, some didn’t, and capacity was often limited to a handful of albums. Launched in 1998, the MPMan by SaeHan Information Systems was available in 32Mb and 64Mb models (yes, that’s MEGABYTES – the 32Mb model could hold 8 to 10 songs) and sold for around $200.

The first dual-purpose device: The Samsung Uproar

Nowadays the idea of having a phone and music player as two separate devices seems crazy. But back in 2000, when Samsung launched the first mobile phone with a built-in MP3 player, the concept was totally fresh. Hailed by Time magazine as one of the top 100 gadgets of all time, the Uproar was able to hold up to an hour of digital music and laid the foundations for iPhone and countless other smartphones.

The game changer (part one): Apple iPodOctober 23, 2001: Steve Jobs stepped onto the stage at an Apple Music event and changed the world. By introducing the iPod, Apple gave anyone (with a spare $399, a price tag that clearly positioned it as a premium product) the ability to put “1,000 songs in your pocket” thanks to a device that was smaller, easier to use and offered much more storage than other MP3 players on the market. 

Two years later, Apple launched iTunes, sealing its dominance of the emerging digital music market. Now only one model exists – the iPod Touch – with many commentators predicting the iPod category will be retired soon.

The game changer (part two): The Apple iPhone

Several years after the iPod launch, with over 100 million sold, Apple introduced a second revolutionary device in 2007 – the iPhone. Combining a phone, email, web browser and music player into a single product, Apple reinvented the phone and changed our portable tech expectations overnight.

Into the intangible era: The rise of streaming

The advent of the smartphone led to the demise of physical media for playing music – although vinyl has enjoyed a welcome revival among music aficionados. Streaming now accounts for 83% of music industry revenue in the US, a huge rise from just 3% when Apple launched the iPhone in 2007, with Spotify the dominant service globally.

Into the future: What’s next?

With a raft of opinions about what the future holds for music tech – from embedded microchips connected to our brain stems that automatically play music matched to our mood, to AI replacing artists entirely, making a solid prediction isn’t for the faint-hearted. 

Whatever the future holds, we’re excited to see (and hear) it!

To explore a range of future tech topics, check out our audio series Fast Forward

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Could giant extractor fans stop climate change?

We need to start removing carbon from the air, and here’s one amazing way to do it

We need to start removing carbon from the air, and here’s one amazing way to do it

Could giant extractor fans stop climate change?

We need to start removing carbon from the air, and here’s one amazing way to do it

In the battle to keep the climate from warming even more, storing carbon – known as carbon sequestration – will be crucial. Climeworks is capturing carbon from the air and storing it deep underground forever. And they’re doing it in a very cool way.

How do you remove carbon dioxide from the air?

Giant extractor fans. That’s right: Climeworks extractors suck in air, use a filter to trap carbon dioxide (CO2) and then store it. It’s called direct air capture. Founded by two engineers who decided they must do something about global warming’s impact on glaciers, in September 2021 Climeworks launched the world’s largest direct air capture plant in Iceland, trapping captured CO2 underground as stone.

The plant will store 4,000 tonnes of CO2 each year, equivalent to the emissions of 870 cars. Although its impact is modest, and it’s costly to run, the technology is at an early stage. The New York Times explores Climeworks’ challenges of reaching its ambitious target of removing 1% of the world’s annual CO₂ emissions. 

Climeworks work with companies that produce CO2 and sell CO2 removal subscriptions online to anyone. They’ve joined with renewable energy suppliers to make sure the energy running the process isn’t adding more CO2 to the environment.

In our short documentary, Climeworks co-founder and Chief Technology Officer, Carlos Haertel, explains what drives their tech-led climate initiative.

Why we must trap carbon

Why capture carbon at all? If we eat plant-based foods and use renewable energies, won’t that be enough?

Scientists say probably not. Climeworks’ website says, “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s climate forecasts make clear we must remove carbon dioxide from the air to keep global warming below 1.5°C.” 

Direct air capture, like planting trees, goes further than reducing emissions, removing CO2 produced in the past. So, projects like Climeworks are a much-needed addition to everything else we do to fight climate change.

How the carbon capture tech works

The extractor fans are powered with renewable or waste energy. They’re modular, so can be stacked to make machines of any size.

Fans draw in air and capture CO2 on a selective filter. Once the filter is full, the collector closes and uses temperatures of 80 to 100°C to release the CO2 in a highly concentrated form, ready for storage.

There are many ways to permanently store CO2, but Climeworks prefers to focus on natural carbon sinks, like underground mineralization. They also work with companies using this pure carbon dioxide to produce renewable, carbon-neutral fuels and materials.

Alongside well-understood environmental wins like planting trees, carbon capture technologies will be an important part of ensuring the climate stays friendly to life on earth. We might’ve imagined a future of forests, but who would’ve thought it might also involve giant extractor fans? Innovation always has a few surprises up its sleeve.

For more videos about technologies that will change the future, see Tomorrow Unlocked on YouTube.

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The Best International Cyber Short Films – Finalists

Our top 10 finalists of Tomorrow Unlocked Film Festival 2021

Our top 10 finalists of Tomorrow Unlocked Film Festival 2021

The Best International Cyber Short Films – Finalists

Our top 10 finalists of Tomorrow Unlocked Film Festival 2021

The Tomorrow Unlocked Film Festival (TUFF) provides up-and-coming filmmakers the opportunity to showcase their creativity and tell engaging stories about how technology influences our lives now, and in the future.

From so many entries from around the world, the film industry jury awarded this year’s winners:

Terra CeneWINNER

Terra Cene is a remembrance of things past and an observation of the interconnected nature of our time on Earth.

Directed by: Nono Ayuso

Country: UK

Are you still there? – RUNNER UP

Are we really connected? A young man passes out on a Skype call during lockdown but can anybody find and save him before it’s too late? Are we really connected? Is the internet a tool for unity or separation?

Directed by: Monica Zamora

Country: Spain

The Artificial Revolution – RUNNER UP

An artist investigates the recent advancements in creative artificial intelligence to see if we’re approaching the end of art.

Directed by: Elyas Masrour

Country: US

Hedy

A tech-savvy homeless girl creates a robot as a surrogate for her departed younger brother. Not everyone is happy with their partnership.

Directed by: Andy B Clarke

Country: Ireland

The InTEXTigator

Toronto Police help grieving widow Liz Brown solve her husband’s death. On the case: its newest recruit, Sherlock the AI.

Directed by: John Babu

Country: Canada

Cheat sheet for the princess

Cyber-actress Alena needs to impress in this movie role audition.

Directed by: Mikhail Salin

Country: Russia

#Perfake

She wants to be an actor. Tired of waiting, she amplifies her presence online. But the influencer life isn’t as easy as it looks.

Directed by: Ho Ting Yau

Country: Hong Kong

As long as I breathe

After the extinction of life on Earth, a man comes from space, looking for something amidst his delusions.

Directed by: Thiago Beckenkamp

Country: Brazil

Conversations with a monkey

Juan Siegman is an uninspired film director. He’s writing a science fiction script for his new film with the help of Ian, an anthropomorphic robot. 

Directed by: Grojo

Country: Spain

Spyglass

Paula is a young influencer who has organized a crazy new challenge. It consists of people trying to find out where she lives and calling the police before she drinks a glass of hydrochloric acid.

Directed by: Javi Prada 

Country: Spain

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Celebrating today’s young bright minds in tech

The tech innovators showing age is no barrier to achievement

The tech innovators showing age is no barrier to achievement

Celebrating today’s young bright minds in tech

The tech innovators showing age is no barrier to achievement

George Bernard Shaw famously said “youth is wasted on the young.” We’re taking a look at a bunch of young tech innovators who are showing that age is no barrier to achievement.

Giulia Tomasello, Co-Founder ALMA

Giulia is part of a team of four friends who embarked on a mission to create silent, comfortable wearables that help women manage their intimate health. For the estimated one billion women affected by vaginal infections every year, ALMA can provide an accurate home diagnosis of a variety of infections without an awkward trip to a clinic, empowering women and leading to genuine attitude changes.

Gregory Hitz, CEO Sevensense Robotics AG

After graduating from uni, Gregory became CEO at the Swiss company Sevensense Robotics AG. With his young startup, he believes automation has already brought great benefits to society but has more to give. They’re trying to automate more mundane tasks, freeing up our time for more pleasant things. Their biggest challenge? Making robots not just to see their surroundings but also understand them.

“The mundane tasks are for the machines and the more intellectual tasks are for the humans.”

Vitalik Buterin, co-founder and inventor of Ethereum

Around 2013, enthused after learning about Bitcoin from his father, Buterin attended a conference that convinced him to pursue development of the cryptocurrency full-time. The next year, armed with a $100K grant from the Thiel Fellowship, he dropped out of uni and went to work on Ethereum full-time. Having won a string of accolades and honorary doctorates he continues to focus on research and has donated over $1 billion of cryptocurrency to charities worldwide.

Rifath Shaarook, inventor of KalamSat

As a young teenager, Shaarook joined Space Kidz India, an organisation dedicated to nurturing young people with a passion for technology. He formed a six-person team and dedicated the next four years to making a satellite from 3D-printed plastic – a technique no other scientist had accomplished.

By age 18, Rifath and his team had invented KalamSat: the lightest satellite in the world. Just 64g and 3.8cm wide, it weighs about as much as a large battery and fits in the palm of your hand. In June 2017, the device was successfully launched by NASA and survived in space for around 12 minutes, successfully demonstrating that 3D printed components can be used in space.

Keiana Cavé, Founder Mare

Cavé’s journey of invention began with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which unfolded in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. It led to the largest maritime oil slick in human history, consisting of 4.9 million barrels (210 million gallons) of oil in one of the most ecologically important bodies of water on the planet.

At just 15, she began studying what happens to oil when it’s left on the ocean’s surface and discovered that when hit by UV rays from the sun, it reacts to form carcinogenic chemicals.

Today, now in her early 20s, she’s turned her work into two scientific papers and won two patents for chemical methods of detecting carcinogens, attracting $1.2m in funding. She’s also launched a startup, Mare, which is working towards a way to disperse the toxins so that they aren’t as damaging.

For more stories about young tech pioneers, watch our Young Bright Minds series.

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Games could help develop better assistive tech

"My brain became part of the machine."

"My brain became part of the machine."

Disabled athletes’ assistive tech at Paralympics

"My brain became part of the machine."

The 2020 Paralympics held in 2021 will be a global window on assistive tech. Every four years new technology brings extra excitement to the arena and goes on to change disabled people’s lives. We could see these recent assistive tech innovations at this year’s Paralympics.

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) uses the Paralympics to raise the profile of assistive tech: Any tech that gives people with disabilities more independence. Assistive tech can improve access to any part of life where disabled people face barriers, from eating to travel, sport to work. Alongside funding research into anything that can improve access for people with disabilities, the IPC funds research into assistive tech.

Several tech innovations in recent years have potential for use by this year’s Paralympians. Here are some you could see.

Affordable artificial limbs

Assistive tech can be a game-changer, if you can afford it. For many with disabilities, getting hold of the technology is a bigger barrier than speed of innovation.

Motorica is one company emphasizing affordability in developing prostheses. They think all people living without limbs should be able to access start-of-the-art artificial limbs – body-powered and bionic arms and legs designed for individual need.

With the level of technology they employ, it’s great that Motorica builds cybersecurity into all their products.

More on Motorica’s limbs and other emerging assistive tech

Technologies that debuted at Cybathlon

Multi-sport assistive tech championship Cybathlon is a four-yearly event that sees many new assistive technologies burst onto the scene. It aims to encourage innovation with the latest materials and developments in areas like AI and robotics.

Cybathlon sees disabled people using assistive tech to compete in events designed to mimic everyday challenges. It’s this ‘everyday’ angle that’s made Cybathlon the birthplace of assistive tech from the futuristic to the home-made.

More on Cybathlon

High-performance Para-badminton chairs

Badminton enters the Paralympics for the first time at Japan 2020. High-performance para-badminton brings unique challenges for sports wheelchair design. Chairs must perform a wide range of pulls, quick pivots and have backward-bend stability. Although basic para-badminton only needs a chair with front and back stabilizers, IPC expects to see some exciting chair designs on the courts.

IPC’s predictions for assistive tech at Japan 2020

New assistive tech adds another angle to para-sport, but it also raises questions about financial access to technology. These questions aren’t unique to the Paralympics. What does winning mean when your competitor can’t afford the best kit? How do we make competition fair in an unequal world?

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