Great Innovations — Crowdfunding with Innovocracy

I'm a huge fan of crowdfunding, and recently wrote a 3-part series on the IBM Social Business Insights blog that I'm in the process of reposting here on my blog (Part 1). But I'm so impressed with this crowdfunding site, innovacracy.org, and at least one of the projects on it, that I wanted to give it a special shout out.

According to the website, the idea behind Innovocracy is bridging the gap between ideas and reality in academic research:

"Both pure and applied research often reveal potential products and services that can have a positive impact on society. But taking that research and developing it into working prototypes or demonstrating a proof of concept can be challenging. In the academic environment finding the funds to build out and test ideas with commercial applications is often a challenge. Yet finding those funds can unlock the potential of the millions of dollars and thousands of hours spent on research programs. Innovocracy was created to bridge the gap between powerful ideas and beneficial applications of those ideas. We offer a funding source that connects people who want to support innovation in academic research and those innovators found on campuses around the world."

The innovation that really caught my attention is the Web-Based Volunteer Support Network for Blind and Low Vision People.

Screenshot of VizWiz in action.
The captioning reads: iPhone: Double tap the screen to take a photo.
Double tap again to post card and start asking question.
The basic concept is a wonderful example of crowdsourcing at its best. VizWiz is an iPhone application that blind people can use to answer visual questions in their everyday lives. Users simply take a picture and speak a question they’d like to know about it, and their questions are answered by people out on the web, usually in under a minute and all for free.

VizWiz logo
It was released to the Apple® App Store a little over a year ago, and has been a booming success with more than 5,000 users asking over 50,000 questions. So successful in fact with both users and potential volunteers that the current setup is unsustainable and the creator, Jeffrey Bigham, PhD, from the University of Rochester, is looking for $5,500 by September 14th to expand the service by creating a web site hub and answering center.