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Graphic design of newspaper front page, featuring the text 'The Good News #23' on a light green background
September, 2020

The Good News #23

Reportedly the COVID-19 lockdown rules are more divisive than Brexit! At least one thing we can all agree on is there’s plenty of exciting new technology and innovation news.

Bristol Technology Festival
We’re delighted that the fabulous Bristol Technology Festival is returning for a second year, from 9th to 15th November. The festival was born in 2019, aiming to showcase the breadth of technology that has been developed in the local system and to provide an opportunity for the entrepreneurs, engineers and creatives behind the technology and innovation to share their stories. The team behind the festival hope that the weeklong event will break down barriers between technology businesses, their suppliers, educational and charity organisations and the residents of Bristol and the surrounding area.

The 2019 festival hosted over 40 events with 5000 attendees.

As 2020 has undoubtedly been a year in which the entire world has faced unprecedented challenges, with community and technology probably never being more important, this year Bristol Technology Festival will ask the question: what will the next decade see for the Bristol Tech Cluster and how can it help us to build back better from the current crisis? It also seeks to capture peoples hopes and predictions for the next decade. In what ways will technology influence how we live and work? What impact will the tech cluster have locally, and globally?

The festival is coordinated by a group of volunteers from across the tech industry ecosystem, including representatives from Hargreaves Lansdown, TechSPARK, Deloitte and Engine Shed. The events throughout the festival are crowdsourced from organisations across Bristol, including tech companies, public bodies, schools, community interests’ groups and charities.

Image of young woman talking at the podium to small group of people

Robots to the rescue
For many of us, lockdown has meant listening to our toddlers play the recorder all day and/or listening to our other half on constant Zoom calls. However, for those in care homes, the past few months have been incredibly isolating, with visits from loved ones mostly cancelled across the board, meaning that the problem of loneliness amongst the older generation is now even more worrying. Fortunately, robots might be able to offer a little relief.

The wheeled robots, named “Pepper,” which can hold simple conservations and learn people’s interests are to be deployed in some UK care homes after an international trial found they boosted mental health and reduced loneliness. “Pepper” was designed by SoftBank Robotics. The robots can move independently and gesture with robotic arms and hands are designed to be “culturally competent,” which means that after some initial programming they learn about the interests and backgrounds of care home residents. This in turn will allow “Pepper” to initiate rudimentary conservations, play residents’ favourite music, teach them languages, and offer practical help including medicine reminders.

The trial was not intended to explore replacing human carers with robots, but instead to find a solution to fill lonely periods of times when, because of a stretched social care system, staff do not have the time to keep residents’ company.

After running in the UK and Japan, the trial found that older adults in care homes who had interacted with “Pepper” for up to 18 hours across two weeks had a significant improvement in their mental health. Researchers also found a small, but positive impact on loneliness severity among users and the system didn’t increase any feelings of loneliness.

Image of three white 'Pepper' robots in different poses

Even more exciting news for Bristol folk! Yuup, an online marketplace where you can book and gift experiences in Bristol launches this month.

Yuup aims to help local businesses and individuals with a talent or skill to create and offer new opportunities, find customers and unlock new means for a sustainable income. It’s already predicted to inject £1.1 million into the local economy and to create 125 jobs in its first year. The idea for Yuup grew over the COVID-19 lockdown and was fuelled by a desire to support small businesses, solopreneurs and creative, innovative people across the Bristol region. It’s goal is for over 90% of its experiences to be run by Bristol based independents and people sharing a skill or side hustle. Yuup will also be working with community-led partnerships to ensure the experiences offered are inclusive of the city’s rich and diverse culture.

When it launches Yuup will offer 100 experiences and it aims to offer 500 within the first year. And don’t panic! All the experiences have been carefully thought through to ensure the are COVID-19 safe, taking place in small, socially distanced groups.

Dominic Mills, Bristol resident, entrepreneur and former board director at digital agency at Zone created Yuup out of his own personal experience, he said “Everyone knows there’s so many amazing things to experience in Bristol – from arts and craft, to food and drink and sorts and adventure, but there wasn’t a resource where you could easily find it all and book (or gift) in one place. Yuup is a new, sustainable and mutually beneficial way to support the local economy and it couldn’t be easier – anyone can go onto the marketplace and book or gift an experience from 21st September.”

Three women weaving on a wooden loom.

One trip you won’t need your mask for is the Visual Voyage, find out what it’s all about here.