Six Solutions For A Better Tomorrow

Designers take on fake news, deforestation and women’s reproductive health

By The Index Project

OUI Contraceptive2 - designThe Index Project

OUI

One small capsule, one giant leap for women’s health

OUI Contraceptive for womenThe Index Project

According to the United Nations, 1.1 billion women still lack access to family planning. Not only does this lead to unwanted pregnancies and abortions  – many illegal and even deadly  – but is an erosion of women's rights and a toxic threat to our social progress.

OUI rivals the traditional pillThe Index Project

The hormonal pill was introduced about 60 years ago and has since become an industry standard for female contraception. But, unfortunately, it has also burdened many with side effects and compromised efficiency.

OUI teamThe Index Project

With 922 million women worldwide currently using contraceptives, Danish company Cirqle Biomedical answered the call for a new solution.

OUI - The gel capsuleThe Index Project

This tiny capsule, known as OUI, builds on our bodies’ natural pregnancy prevention. The technology is inspired by pioneering mucus engineering research at MIT and The Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden.

OUI Contraceptive packagingThe Index Project

During menstrual cycles, cervical mucus naturally becomes impenetrable for sperm. But during ovulation, it becomes more watery, thereby allowing sperm cells to pass. When applied, OUI reverts the cervical mucus back to its impenetrable state.

OUI Contraceptive4 - testing in the labThe Index Project

Without any use of hormones, OUI can reach 99% efficiency one minute after insertion, lasting up to five hours.

Index Award 2021 Winner: OUIThe Index Project

“We want to make it so small, so that we can enhance this feeling of a product that you can just put in whenever and wherever,” says Marie Lyhne, Design Manager at Circle Biomedical. “We wanted it to be invisible, flexible and a product that fits every woman.”

OUI team in the labThe Index Project

OUI is still a beta product being tested in labs. But so far, they’ve demonstrated 100% efficiency in animal testing, which is superior to other contraceptive methods on the market and has confirmed the novel mechanism of action. 

Flash Forest drones 1The Index Project

Flash Forest

Restoring forests in a flash with drones

Reversing the effects of deforestationThe Index Project

Today, only about 15% of the world’s original forests remain intact and we’re now losing about 13 billion trees a year. Current reforestation rates simply aren’t fast enough, as we only regain less than half at the speed of what's lost.

Flash forest drone swarmThe Index Project

Fast and sustainable reforestation solutions are desperately needed – that’s where Flash Forest comes in. The Canadian based company uses drones, aerial mapping software and biological seed-pod technology with the goal to plant 100,000 seed pods per day. 

Trees in the forestThe Index Project

Their technology maps out the best planting locations in an area with an average planting density of 1,000 to 2,000 trees per hectare. By working with local NGOs, scientists and experts, they make sure to only plant natural species with high sequestration rates.

Flash Forest drones 3The Index Project

From there, two drones start distributing the seeds to reach that daily target. This enables planting 10 times faster than the normal rate and at a fraction of the cost.

Index Award 2021 Winner: Flash ForestThe Index Project

“I think that drones are absolutely necessary to hit the kind of targets that we’re saying are necessary to achieve some of our carbon sequestration goals as a global society,” says Flash Forest Co-founder, Angelique Ahlstrom.

Flash Forest seedsThe Index Project

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we have the next 10 years to prevent the irreversible damage of climate change. Planting to sequester our carbon footprint is the one of the fastest and cheapest solutions we have.

Forest view from the topThe Index Project

That’s why Flash Forest is on an urgent run to reforest, rebuild and tip the scale on the climate crisis. Flash Forest’s mission is to plant over 1 billion trees by 2028, The team is in full swing with current tests and planting trials for next year. 

Flash Forest sunset 2The Index Project

Spring 2021 was their biggest pilot season yet with 13 planting projects across Canada and the team are looking to expand their reforestation solution internationally.

A misty morning of the forestThe Index Project

“We started Flash Forest with one clear goal: healing our planet’s lungs. Until that job is done well, no other job matters.”

FungiThe Index Project

BIOHM

Fungi and water > bricks and mortar

BIOHM LabThe Index Project

"Everything starts from being borrowed from the natural world; nothing is wasted, and everything is a resource," says Oksana Bondar, Design Director at BIOHM. That's the driving philosophy of London-based BIOHM, a company team building the sustainable world of tomorrow.

BIOHM_Concrete wasteThe Index Project

Their goal is to redefine the construction industry, which contributes to 23% of air pollution, 50% of climatic change, 40% of drinking water pollution, and 50% of landfill wastes.

Biohm's product developmentThe Index Project

BIOHM leans on mycelium, the root structure of mushrooms, and local waste products as their bricks and mortar. Today, they make insulation – the world's first accredited mycelium insulation, furniture, acoustic panels and many other bespoke architectural elements.

Mycelium panelsThe Index Project

All of BIOHM's products are 100% natural and bio-based, designed to be easily broken down and returned into Biohm's biomanufacturing processes. The materials can then be reused again and for the company’s signature mycelium products, safely cold composted to enrich the soil.

Index Award 2021 Winner: BIOHMThe Index Project

But, sustainability isn’t just at the heart of the company’s bio-based materials, but their circular construction systems and innovative business models. BIOHM tackles sustainability from all three aspects: environmental, economic and social.

BIOHM product developmentThe Index Project

"In nature, systemic thinking means there’s perfect equilibrium and symbiosis between different species and organisms, and this is the same strategy for our business," explains Bondar.

BIOHM Team in the labThe Index Project

BIOHM is now in the process of establishing the world's first mycelium insulation biomanufacturing facility, Biomill Watchet, in collaboration with a community-based social enterprise. All profits from the Biomill will be shared with the local community.

Microscopic image of fungi consuming plastic, From the collection of: The Index Project
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Orb (Organic refuse bio-compound) lighting display, designed in collaboration with Luca Alessandrini, From the collection of: The Index Project
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BIOHM officeThe Index Project

"We're really using this technology as a catalyst for regeneration; environmental, economical and social," says Bondar.

Truepic heroThe Index Project

Truepic

Setting the record straight when it comes to visual media

Truepic_mediaThe Index Project

Fake or altered media is an accepted norm of our digital lives today, but a little harmless fun has turned into a heedless, uncontrollable conundrum. Spreading misinformation, enabling fraud and eroded public trust in digital media as a whole.

Truepic an essential tech for smart phonesThe Index Project

Truepic uses groundbreaking technology to authenticate images and videos as they’re captured. Users upload their material to the Truepic platform that then verifies its origins and watermarks it with a timestamp, geocode and other metadata. 

Truepic's verification processThe Index Project

The result is an authenticated media piece, and regardless of how many times it’s manipulated, the creator will always have an authenticated original.

Truepic_trumpThe Index Project

Today, it doesn't take a lot of creativity to imagine all of the nightmare scenarios possible with manipulated media. From dating websites where optimised selfies and ‘cat-fishing’ is rife to falsified media that has the power to swing elections.

Truepic_twitterThe Index Project

In 2020, a teenager fooled Twitter into verifying a fake congressional candidate via a loophole through Ballotpedia. Following this, Truepic worked with Ballotpedia to verify over 1,000 political candidates in 50 states.

Index Award 2021 Winner: TruepicThe Index Project

"It really runs the gamut of potential vectors for deception here, which is why this has to be solved not on a case by case basis, but we have to create technology that can be used everywhere," says Sherif Hanna, former VP of Research and Development at Truepic.

Truepic for goodThe Index Project

Hanna also hopes this will help just causes and give social media platforms the means to ensure authentic media is prioritised by algorithms.

“We’re trying to reinstill a sense of confidence (...) improve the quality of the content on these platforms, and allow them to surface higher quality content to the viewers,” he explains. “And hopefully drive better conversations versus the chaos we’ve seen ensue.”

TruepicThe Index Project

Truepic is now a software platform, used by a range of beta customers from citizen journalists to Fortune 500 companies. The team is now rapidly working to transform the tech into a chip to eventually be in every media-capturing device be it a smartphone, computer or tablet.

AJL HQThe Index Project

Algorithmic Justice League

Exposing the bias in AI

AJL researchThe Index Project

AI has been a force for change in recent years. From SIRI to self-driving cars, it’s opened up doors that many of us could’ve never imagined. But while some AI tools show great promise, they can also harm vulnerable and marginalised people, and even threaten civil rights.

Algorithmic Justice League founder Joy BuolamwiniThe Index Project

Algorithmic Justice League’s (AJL) mission is to change the dangerous course AI is on; to establish better standards and ensure AI develops and is used ethically without bias. AJL isn’t just an awareness movement but offers a range of practical solutions to tackle the system.

Algorithmic Justice League profileThe Index Project

They offer ways to report AI biases, datasets available for AI research, workshops to help educate people about AI bias and harms, and services to audit company AI systems to see how they stack up in terms of ethics. 

Index Award 2021 Winner: AJLThe Index Project

“You might have seen this on Facebook, my friends and I laugh all the time when we see other people mislabeled in our photos, but mis-identifying a suspected criminal is no laughing matter,” says AJL Founder Joy Buolamwini.

Algorithmic Justice League teamThe Index Project

AJL’s goal is to empower advocates with the tools they need to make a change, support researchers, policymakers, and industry practitioners to mitigate AI harms and biases and, most importantly, build the voice and choice of the most impacted communities.

CodeThe Index Project

Today, AI systems are used to determine who is hired, granted a loan, and even play a role in the quality of healthcare someone receives. It’s imperative we make sure it works for a diverse society, not just the select few.

AJL Founder Joy BuolamwiniThe Index Project

Since its beginning in 2016, AJL has inspired a fast-growing movement that gained significant traction in 2020. Founder Joy Buolamwini’s TED featured Talk alone now has over 1.2 million views. 

The Coded Bias feature now available on NetflixThe Index Project

The Coded Bias film, featuring AJL’s inspiring beginnings, highlights the stories of people who’ve been impacted by harmful AI applications, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2020 and is now streaming internationally on Netflix.

Joy Buolamwini looks in the mirrorThe Index Project

“I invite you to join me in creating a world where technology works for all of us, not just some of us, a world where we value inclusion and centre social change,” says Buolamwini.

LUNARK's exterior in the evening lightThe Index Project

LUNARK

Take me to the moon!

LUNARK in the snowThe Index Project

Designing for a far-out future or a troubling present? For SAGA Space Architects, this dilemma has an easy answer: Both. Their LUNARK moon habitat is built for humans to not only survive but thrive in space.

LUNARK's construction teamThe Index Project

"If you need a space rocket, call SpaceX. If you need a house on the Moon, call us," says Sebastian Aristotelis, one of the lead architects. 

LUNARK exterior panelsThe Index Project

Inspired by origami, LUNARK in its folded state is the size of a cargo bike and increases in volume by 750 per cent, when fully expanded.

Index Award 2021 Winner: LUNARKThe Index Project

The entire habitat is completely self-reliant generating its own energy with solar panels. There’s also a modular interior to enable settlers to change things up, immersive soundscapes and an indoor algae farm.

Karl-Johan Sørensen in the confines of LUNARKThe Index Project

To help inhabitants starve off cognitive problems often associated with a lack of space and light, the designers have added circadian light panels to emulate the daily cycle of natural sunlight.

Spaceshop by NASAThe Index Project

With increasing progress in rocket design, cost reductions and growing public interest, some are speculating space tourism to take off as early as 2024.

Moon by NASAThe Index Project

"[Humans] are originally from Africa, but now we inhabit the most remote areas of the Earth. Discovery is printed in our DNA. Humans will inevitably seek out other planets.”

On expeditionThe Index Project

But, it’s not just about exploring the unknown. Pushing boundaries and designing for extreme circumstances can teach us how to build much more efficiently and sustainably, as well as how to design for environments that could become increasingly harsh here on Earth.

LUNARK in the dark daysThe Index Project

The team built and tested a prototype that the lead architects tested themselves for 61 days on a 100-day expedition in the Arctic on the most realistic simulated Moon mission ever conducted on Earth. 

Credits: Story

Special thanks to Index Award 2021 winners: Cirqle Biomedical, BIOHM, Flash Forest, Truepic, Algorithmic Justice League and SAGA Space Architects. Space images: NASA

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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