Upgrade to Chrome Upgrade to Firefox Upgrade to Internet Explorer Upgrade to Safari
Graphic design of newspaper with 'The Good News #15' written on it
July, 2020

The Good News #15

Hello shiny new week! Rip off the packaging and start your week the right way with some fresh good news from the world of tech and innovation.

Google SkinMarks
Remember those temporary tattoos you used to find in packets of crisps? Google is working with researchers from Saarland University in Germany to create its own high-tech version.

The temporary tattoos, named ‘SkinMarks’ can be applied to skin similarly to temporary tattoos. What makes them different from the fire breathing unicorn on your bicep? They’re designed with conductive ink and contain dub-millimetre electrodes for touch sensing. SkinMarks are packed with sensors and can be applied to curved areas of the body such as the knuckles. They can be triggered by tapping or by using swipe gestures, just like you’re used to on your smartphone. Some of the tattoos can be activated by more natural and instinctive fine motor skills, though, like bending your fingers.

The tattoos are made by screen printing conductive ink onto tattoo paper, which is then thermal cured so it can be applied to the skin.

The researchers at Saarland University in Germany noted in its 2017 white paper that a touchpad that exists on the body is a more natural way to engage with technology than using a separate device. For example, instead of whipping out your phone to check the weather report, you could simply squeeze your index finger with your thumb to hear a full report on what the day has in store.

While it’s unlikely they’ll become mainstream anytime soon it’s an exciting development in the world of wearable tech.

Image of rabbit shaped temporary smart tattoo

University of Exeter Business School tackle online harms
University of Exeter Business School are developing a digital tool designed to detect fake news cyberbullying and other online harms. The tool is called “LOLA” and uses sophisticated artificial intelligence to detect emotional undertones in language, such as anger, joy, fear, optimism, pessimism and trust. Developed by a team led by Dr David Lopez, from the Initiative for Digital Economy Exeter, LOLA takes advantage of the latest advances in natural language processing and behavioural theory.

Human moderators have struggled to cope with the volume of messages shared on social media. LOLA can tackle this issue by analysing 25,000 texts per minute and has been found to detect harmful behaviour such as cyberbullying, hatred and Islamophobia with up to 98% accuracy. The tool grades each tweet with a severity score, and sequences them: ‘most likely to cause harm’ to ‘least likely’. Those at the top are the tweets which score highest in toxicity, obscenity and insult.

LOLA has already been successful in recent experiments, to pinpoint those responsible for the cyberbullying of Greta Thunberg on Twitter and to spot fake news about Covid-19, detecting the fear and anger so often used to pedal misinformation and singling out the accounts responsible.

As social media platforms are under increasing pressure to tackle online abuse and false stories flood the web, it’s a great sign that a tool is being developed that could go some way to help make them safer, more trustworthy places for everyone.

Llamas to the rescue
Could the unexpected hero of 2020 be the humble llama? Researchers have found that antibodies derived from llamas can combat coronavirus in laboratory tests.

Llamas, camels and alpacas naturally produce quantities of small antibodies with a simpler structure, that can be turned into nanobodies. It’s hoped that these nanobodies could be developed as a treatment for patients with severe Covid-19.

The team from the Rosalind Franklin Institute, Oxford University, Diamond Light Source and Public Health England engineered their new nanobodies using a collection of antibodies taken from llama blood cells. They found that the nanobodies bind tightly to the spike protein of the Sars-CoV-2 virus, blocking it from entering human cells and stopping infection.

Researchers started from a lab-based library of llama antibodies, and are now screening antibodies from Fifi, one of the ‘Franklin llamas’ based at the University of Reading, taken after she was immunised with harmless purified virus proteins. The team is looking at preliminary results which show that Fifi’s immune system has produced different antibodies from those already identified, which will enable cocktails of nanobodies to be tested against the virus.

If you love tech and innovation, head to our work page to read about some of the projects we’ve worked on for global tech companies.