Last month, TVO.org scoured SXSW Interactive in Austin, Texas, for creative solutions to Ontario's social challenges. And tacos. Here are five breakthroughs in digital innovation that offer dynamic solutions to problems such as housing shortages, opioid addiction, lack of autism services and more.
Good things come from living in dumpsters, and here's why Ontarians should care. One in five Canadian renters have trouble finding affordable housing and spend more than half their income on shelter cost. In 2015, Mississauga ranked among the worst cities in the country for affordable rental housing and according to a 2016 report from RBC, rental markets in Toronto and Vancouver are creeping into dangerously unaffordable territory. Enter Texas-based Kasita, a small, affordable and transportable living space.
CEO Jeff Wilson came up with the concept after living in a dumpster, taking what was essential in a living space and cutting out the rest. These high-tech tiny homes can be stacked up to 10 floors with an elevator, each measuring approximately 270 square feet with nine-foot ceilings. While official pricing has not been released, Kasita reps say a unit is roughly the price of a nice car.
Most family physicians in Ontario have not been trained to diagnose autism. By the time the disorder is recognized, families often join years-long waitlists for publicly funded treatment. But what if kids in this province could get a head start? Massachusetts-based company Brain-Power uses Google Glass to create a wearable classroom, which trains children with autism using apps such as The Empowered Brain.
The app lets kids wearing the headset improve social skills by helping interpreting emotions from facial and body language, teaching them to make eye contact, teaching them learn languages and more. The program, which connects easily to smart phones or watches, can be operated by either the child or the caregiver, and also monitors sensory overload to help control erratic behaviour.
Carding and social profiling practices are hot topics in Ontario, with new regulations falling short of what carding critics had hoped for. Virtual reality and augmented reality were hot topics at SxSW 2016. So, it makes sense to combine the two. What if those opposed to carding could see things from a policeman's point of view and vice versa? One exhibit at the SXSW VR/AR experience Reality Track did exactly this with the divisive issue of abortion in the U.S.
Across the Line, a seven-minute immersive virtual reality experience puts viewers in the shoes of a patient entering a health centre for an abortion. The visceral experience uses real audio recorded at protests and documentary footage to recreate the abuse that many health care providers, health centre staff, and patients must experience to provide or access health care on any given day.
Ontario has an opioid problem. The number of fatal overdoses increased 24 per cent between 2010 and 2013. Patients in chronic pain want relief, but doctors cannot prescribe much beyond acetaminophen and ibuprofen unless a patient opts for highly addictive medication such as OxyContin and Fentanyl. Ontarians, maybe there is a safer way to 'quell' chronic pain.
Worn just below the knee, Quell, despite its appearance, is not a house arrest monitor. It's a band that brings chronic pain relief to wearers, completely drug-free without a prescription. Quell works by stimulating the sensory nerves, which causes the brain to release endogenous opioids that ultimately reduce pain signal transmission. And it's safe for 24-7 use, according to the FDA.
You have issues with your city. Garbage, noise, construction... the list goes on and on. But every time you try to resolve them, it seems like no one's listening. You get put on hold and no one answers your tweets. Well, there may be a better way. Heard of #GetTheMayor? Developed in Heidelberg, Germany, this platform uses social media and technology to turn passive citizens into active ones.
The way it works is simple: A person goes to the website and nominates a location they want the mayor to visit in connection with a city issue. They then share it on social media and get likeminded friends and neighbours to vote for it. Once the voting is done, the mayor visits the location with the most votes to discuss the issues and explore the different ways that the city can help. #GetTheMayor is a fun and original way younger demographics in local communities can engage constructively with municipal government.
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