Google Impact Challenge winners include vision-restoring glasses

Late yesterday afternoon, Google awarded £3.2m to charitable projects around the UK in the finals of its Google Impact Challenge.

The competition was designed to find charitable projects that could potentially change the world using technology. The submissions process began in May and entries were then whittled down to 10 finalists, with three winners chosen by a panel which included Peter Jones from Dragon’s Den and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.

Richard Branson beamed in to the ceremony live from Necker Island to announce the winners, all of whom will receive £500,000.

The successful projects are:

A wearable from The Royal Botanic Gardens Kew that can identify mosquitos through the noises they make (apparently there are subtle differences), which should identify where malaria outbreaks are likely to occur and allow preventative measures to be put into place.

A system from WeFarm that uses basic mobile phones to allow farmers in developing countries to communicate with each other and crowdsource solutions to their challenges, with the aim of helping 5 million smallholders around the world.

A detailed analytics database created by Centrepoint to keep track of the 80,000 under-18s who are homeless – and to try to find ways to stop the spread of homelessness among young people.

A fourth winner was selected by the public, who chose the RNIB’s design for smart glasses that could restore vision. Around 90% of people who are blind have a small amount of vision remaining, and the glasses are able to maximise this, with a prototype allowing some users to identify faces and objects.

None of the finalists go away empty-handed, either: even the projects that didn’t win will still get £200,000 from Google and, along with the winners, receive mentoring as they continue to develop their ideas.

Image credit: Oxford University.

Diane Shipley

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