Written by:
Josh Abbott

Tech isn’t all Black Mirror – it does some good too

The Facebook scandal, fake news, the Google walkout… tech seems to be making headlines for all the wrong reasons lately. The next series of Black Mirror is really going to have to go some to shock people.

There is some good stuff going on, though, I’d just like to point out. Sure, you might have to dig a bit harder to find it – it’s the same with all good news stories, I guess but it’s worth it because it reminds you what we’re all in this industry to do.

To save you the effort of digging, I thought I’d bring you some of the tech that’s caught my eye recently, for all the right reasons.

First up is a smartphone app developed by Transreport called Passenger Assist. I like to think of myself of a fairly thoughtful and caring person, but never has it really occurred to me what train passengers who require specific assistance do in case of a last-minute change of platform or delay.

Like most people in those situations, I’m preoccupied making sure that I don’t end up missing the train.

With Passenger Assist, those who aren’t able to run down the steps to the adjacent platform or can’t hear the message on the public-address system can call for assistance and station staff will come to them.

Currently being trialled by London Northwestern Railway, Greater Anglia, South Western Railway and West Midlands Railway, surely it’s a matter of time before this app is doing its good work nationwide?

Another new tech initiative that’s captured my interest is based on fear. Fear can stop you living your life to the fullest if you allow it. It’s a cliché, but it’s true.

Often, the only way of overcoming a fear is to experience it. But how many of us can actually say we actively try to overcome what scares us most?

What if you could face your fears without really experiencing them? Oxford VR, a spin out of the University of Oxford, has started to use virtual reality therapy to cure people of their fear of heights.

Once you’ve strapped on an HTC Vive headset, you’re placed in virtual environments with a computer-generated coach who you can talk to using voice recognition technology.

The boffins behind the programme claim that the virtual environments trigger the same psychological and physiological reactions as real-life situations. But does it work? Well, in a randomised trial of the tech conducted by the University of Oxford’s Department of Psychiatry, nearly 70% of the people who took part lost their fear after only a month of the therapy. How cool is that?

In the future, then, I like to think that tech will help us live richer and fuller lives… as long as the tech giants don’t ruin it for us in their haste to drive even greater profits.


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