Venture Round (April 2018) — UNICEF Innovation Fund welcomes 6 new tech startups developing open source frontier technology solutions to improve children’s lives.
Located in developing markets across the globe, these startups will be joining the Fund’s tech-focused cohorts working on products and services that integrate technologies in artificial intelligence, data science, and virtual reality.
This day marks our official announcement (but more than that), this kickstarts the 12-month journey. The Fund is geared and ready to connect these 6 startups to UNICEF’s community of global experts and partners, cohort mentors, and to each other — aiming to providing pathways to accelerate their solutions to market and connecting solutions to each other to build globally scalable platforms.
So who’s joining? What are their solutions? The fund is proud to support…
Dymaxion Labs (Argentina): The use of satellite imagery algorithms and machine learning techniques to address the growth of informal settlements in Latin America.
In Latin America, more and more families live in informal settlements that often lack access to critical public services such as sanitation, resulting in health and environmental hazards, especially for children. With more updated information about these communities (location, growth) — access to health, education, security, and opportunities can be improved. However, there’s a big challenge in the region: Data collection through censuses is conducted, on average, every 10 years (that’s not very representative of what is really happening on the ground).
Dymaxion Labs is building AP-Latam – aimed to generate timely information and address the growth of informal settlements in Latin America. AP-Latam utilizes satellite imagery algorithms and machine learning techniques — providing real-time info about the communities’ location, and changes in movements (with respect to previous years). In instances of strong climate events and humanitarian crises occurring in risky zones, AP-Latam can also be used for rapid response — monitoring population spread and analyzing the changes, post-event
In addition, AP-Latam measures their growth in Latin American countries through weekly measuring and compares their covered area against historical data. To obtain these results we employ artificial intelligence algorithms to satellite imagery.
PixFrame Studios (Mexico): Games-based learning tools that utilize Artificial Intelligence for customized skills development.
Children with disabilities in countries like Mexico face particular challenges in strengthening cognitive skills such as attention, memory and executive functions, namely the core abilities used to learn, reason and solve problems. Schools’ capacities to diagnose and treat learning disabilities are limited and there are not enough programs to train cognitive skills in an efficient and personalized way.
Pixframe Studios (Mexico) is developing Towi, a software platform leveraging games-based learning tools to strengthen children’s cognitive skills across different areas including memory and attention. Towi evaluates children’s skills through a series of activities, which are then analyzed to develop personalized training paths. Children access these different training activities through an online subscription, by which data is collected on the Towi cloud for access and evaluation by the families, schools and specialists.
Thinking Machines (Philippines): The use of natural language processing to match and optimize huge numbers of data records and datasets.
Growing volumes of data present new problems for social and public organizations. Despite efforts to encourage multi-agency data sharing, organizations and governments often lack the data competencies to capitalize on their data.
Thinking Machines (Philippines) is developing OnTrackPH, a software framework that leverages Natural Language Processing (NLP) techniques to accurately match huge number of records across data silos. In 2016, Thinking Machines was able to link three different Philippine government databases and accurately match records in a fraction of the man-hours needed to do so manually. Further, a website was built around the OnTrackPH engine such that organizations could collaborate and derive insights via an interactive dashboard. Thinking Machine’s solution, a robust matching algorithm and web tool, dramatically increases the efficiency for analysts across Civil Society, Government, and Enterprises to quickly and automatically match and merge huge number of records across datasets
OnTrackPH has already helped reduce data processing and validation time by integrating and matching multiple publicly available big data sets. This will positively impact children’s lives by allowing the public to more closely monitor the spending of government agencies and by providing new insights to civil society and government organizations alike to base their interventions on — for projects like schools, hospitals, and infrastructure development.
Datawheel (Chile): Developing data visualization engines that make it easy to integrate datasets from multiple data streams — empowering decision-makers to make better-informed actions.
Even as organizations have more capabilities to collect and organize data and with modern communication technologies becoming more accessible, there is a still a big gap around the ability to deliver that data back to users in a visually accessible format. Traditional data distribution efforts also are not able to fully visualize data well — failing to deliver it in an integrated manner (health, income, and demographic data are provided separately and not merged).
Datawheel (Chile) is creating DataChile, a country-wide fully integrated solutions and data visualization engine that merges, optimizes and integrates multiple data sets and streams from multiple official sources. Datawheel provides useful insights for the design and evaluation of education, childhood and youth policies. It will also help local governments make informed decisions and monitor key indicators.
TeliportMe (India) & Suzhou Crenovator Lab Corp. (China): Creating Virtual Reality experiences for learning and upskilling.
Immersive education has proven to help children understand concepts faster — and virtual reality presents the opportunity to provide that. However, the content and VR experiences currently being developed and made available are siloed, selective, expensive, and unattainable platforms. Also, these VR experiences tend to be incompatible across different hardware devices when content is viewed.
The goal is to make them accessible and attainable — and 2 of our startups are working to achieve just that.
TeliportMe (India) is developing RemixVR, a virtual reality tool for learning. Students can use the VR tool to immersively learn about complex concepts while also being able to create their own customisable VR experiences and stories.
Suzhou Crenovator Lab Corp (China) is developing VRMaker, a mobile application for Android-based phones, enables children to think, design, and create content for VR devices, utilizing visual programming in a real-time rendered 3D environment. Built with 3D art assets and 360-photos, children can express themselves with pictures and sound in a virtual world, with links to creating virtual reality stories. VRMaker makes the content creation process very simple, and the children can focus on creative storytelling.
Suzhou’s platform is also accessible across multiple platforms and is designed to make the content creation process for VR devices fun, simple, easy, and intuitive. VRMaker contains hundreds of 3D models, such as terrains, trees, animals to create compelling and interactive storytelling modules. The visual programming tool is specifically designed with a variety of digital assets,that can be used to create everything from stories, education content to games.
We look forward to work with each of these startups on developing strong, sustainable business models and in bringing their solutions to market. Creating clusters of open source solutions that benefit humanity — (most especially) positively impact the lives of children living in the most vulnerable and inequitable areas around the world.
Stay tuned for updates.
The UNICEF Innovation Fund is still open for applications. Are you working on addressing similar gaps and challenges? Utilizing frontier technologies? If you’ve got a start-up registered in one of UNICEF’s programme countries and have a working, open source prototype (or you are willing to make it open-source) showing promising results, the UNICEF Innovation Fund is looking for you. Find more information visit: https://unicefinnovationfund.org/