Microsoft works with West African linguists to digitise local dialect
Guinea – Tech giant Microsoft has joined forces with Guinean brothers Ibrahima and Abdoulaye Barry to unveil ADLaM Display, a new font available to download for free. In the 1990s, the brothers, aged 14 and 10, invented ADLaM, an alphabet of 28 letters used to transcribe Pulaar – the oral language of the Fulani people spoken by over 40m people in West Africa. Aiming to preserve Fulani history and combat illiteracy among their peers, ADLaM stands for Alkule Dandayɗe Leñol Mulugol, or ‘the alphabet that protects the people from vanishing’.
After its first digitisation in the May 2019 Windows update, the font needed an update tailored to the Fulani people’s needs, including social media usage. Type experts from creative agency McCann New York designed ADLaM Display after taking inspiration from the spots, triangles, lozenges and chevron patterns found in traditional khasas (blankets), wodaabe (hats), and textiles of the Fulani culture. Accessing the font will empower locals who don't speak French, Arabic or English in West Africa and connect the Fulani diaspora spread worldwide with their roots.
In Digital Conservation, we previously looked at how conservationists are digitising historical and geological specimens and artefacts, including languages like Pulaar.
The upcoming era of hyper-personalised UX will include demand for local languages rather than just English
Kevlar makes a significant update to its armour
US – Kevlar has long been synonymous with safety for law enforcement and armed forces globally for over five decades. Now the company has introduced a new material that is its most sophisticated update. Created by chemical company DuPont, Kevlar EXO has a fibre innovation with the technology to serve a wider range of protection applications.
Material used for safety equipment, counter-intuitively, uses soft, flexible material instead of rigid plates to keep bullets and shards out. This is because the soft armour can withstand a projectile in the same way a net does – slowing it down gradually. Kevlar EXO surpasses its predecessor and is a lighter, more flexible offering that allows army and police officers to experience next levels of protection. This is because the new material’s pliability allows it to contour to the wearer’s body, giving more flexibility, and is also inherently flame- and temperature-resistant. It is also ignite-proof up to 500°C (932°F).
‘Whether for military members, law enforcement officers, private security or emergency responders, Kevlar EXO users can better manage energy output during the most demanding physical tasks,’ says Steven LaGanke, global business leader at DuPont Life Protection. Whether the updated Kevlar will have wider applications other than in its traditional arena remains to be seen; in our Safety Fits analysis we chart how emerging designers are merging fashion, activism and functional gear.
As personal protection becomes a growing issue, the potential for new materials to be adapted for everyday use is as yet unexplored – and will be limited by costs – the opportunity for offering women and other vulnerable groups ways to protect themselves through intelligent design is growing
Foresight Friday: Dan Hastings, deputy foresight editor
Every Friday, The Future Laboratory team offer an end-of-week wrap-up of the topics, issues, ideas and virals we’re all talking about. This week, deputy foresight editor Dan Hastings discusses Karl Lagerfeld's legacy, African tech workers unionising and lubricant.
: With an exhibition and a Met Gala dedicated to his work, Karl Lagerfeld has shown beyond the grave how iconic fashion designers are un-cancellable – no matter how awful they were. Perhaps that’s why the younger generation of fashion creatives have no choice but to be collaborative
: Over 150 Africa-based tech workers commissioned by Meta, Bytedance and OpenAI and employed by third-party outsourcing companies have voted to unionise. Big tech's Western entitlement to these contractors is shocking – some of them earn as little as £1.20 ($1.50, €1.30) per hour
: As we say goodbye to gal-dem, BuzzFeed News, Paper and perhaps VICE and i-D, I’m reading Ben Smith's Traffic, an investigation into the 'genius, rivalry and delusion in the billion-dollar race to go viral'. It turns out that the era of fast-paced magazine journalism was never born to be financially sustainable or ethical
: The last time I had cash in my wallet, Trump was still president, but let me introduce you to My Lube Card, a CBD-infused lubricant gadget ready to join all your credit and loyalty cards. Elsewhere, 50% of people purchasing vinyl in the US don't even own a record player, and loneliness is as dangerous to your health as smoking
Quote of the week
'Many people invited me to walk the red carpet of the Met Gala in tribute to Daddy, but we preferred to stay peacefully and cosy at home'
Stat: Overcrowding and extreme weather hit Europeans’ holiday choices
Europe – New data from the European Travel Commission (ETC) shows that European travellers have new priorities when it comes to planning their holiday: avoiding overcrowded areas. A lack of crowds sits in third position behind pleasant weather and attractive deals.
Avoiding crowds has moved up from fourth to third place since the Commission’s survey introduced the question in March 2022, following pandemic restrictions being lifted across the EU. More than two-thirds plan to escape in the spring and early summer, before the peak month of August, according to data collected from participants across 10 major European markets, including Germany, the UK, France, Italy and Spain.
The ETC believes the desire to travel without throngs of tourists is a trend that will continue to grow, and Commission members have encouraged this shift by showcasing diverse regions and year-round activities. As revealed in our report on The Destinations Living Our Slow Tourism Future, decelerated tourism is rapidly becoming a reality. Desire for value, also, remains as important a priority as during pre-pandemic times and already air fares are skyrocketing across Europe.
We also chart the consumer desire for a new type of peacefulness in our analysis, Quiet Mode, and the opportunity for travel and hospitality brands to capitalise on this sentiment with off-beat destinations and tune-out experiences is growing