Innovocracy (learn more below) is at it again, with a new project entitled “Web-Based Volunteer Support Network for Blind and Low Vision People”. The Project is now featured on their fundraising website and we are very excited to tell you all about it! VizWiz is an app (iOS) that provides nearly real-time answers to questions from the visually impaired. They are now raising funds to help expand their rapidly growing platform. VizWiz is a talking mobile device application that offers a new alternative to answering visual questions. Users simply take a picture and speak a question they’d like answered; the picture and question are then sent out to the web to be answered by volunteers. By asking multiple people on the web to field responses, answers to each question can be made in nearly real-time. This “real-time” characteristic is what makes VizWiz such a practical solution for the visually impaired; it allows users to get answers to simple questions on the go.
So far, answers have been provided by workers on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, a paid microtasking marketplace. Unfortunately, as the number of users has grown, this channel has become unsustainable. In order to keep up with the demand and broaden its availability, the VizWiz project is now seeking funding through the Innovocracy platform. The funds will be used for the development of a website that will serve as a hub and answering center for VizWiz volunteers. The site will allow volunteers to sign up to answer questions, track worker quality, and most importantly, allow VizWiz to remain free to users.
Fortunately, as the number of users has increased, so has the number of people willing to volunteer for the service. The innovator behind VizWiz, Jeff Bigham, Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science at the University of Rochester, believes that “building a volunteer workforce may one day allow for more ambitious VizWiz services, such as a streaming video option.” Jeff also believes that both VizWiz users and VizWiz volunteers will benefit from this project, users will experience much faster response times and higher-quality answers, while volunteers will have the opportunity to explore new and interesting ways to get involved in charitable projects.
To learn more and to get involved please visit the VizWiz Project Page on the Innovocracy website. To check out and download the current version of the VizWiz application, please visit the Apple App Store.
Innovocracy, a benefit corporation based in New York State, is a social funding platform created to rapidly commercialize innovation coming out of academic research. Innovocracy is building a network of leading research universities, as well as of individuals with an interest in sponsoring commercializable research, in order to efficiently identify and fund critical proof-of-concept activities and take the first steps toward building companies around university-based innovations. Most of the products and services supported by Innovocracy create social benefit for society, such as those related to healthcare, sustainability, education and extreme affordability. Innovocracy’s social funding site at http://www.innovocracy.org helps inventors raise money from donors with a personal or professional interest in the social benefits of those inventions. All the funds raised, except third-party credit card fees, go directly to the innovator while conforming to the unique requirements of each member university. Learn more at Innovocracy.org.