Smart glasses for blind succeed in Google's competition

18 July 2014
By Tereza Pultarova
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Inspired by Google Glass - an innovation by the Royal National Institute of Blind People is among finalists of Google Impact Challenge

Inspired by Google Glass - an innovation by the Royal National Institute of Blind People is among finalists of Google Impact Challenge [Credit: Royal National Institute of Blind People]

Smart glasses enabling people with vision loss sufferers to see obstacles and an app for tracking levels of homelessness are among finalists of Google’s charity competition.

Altogether ten projects have been selected by judges in the Google Impact Challenge, which invites UK charities to submit innovative technology ideas with the potential to change the world.

"After an inspiring process, we've unearthed ten exceptional projects from ten exceptional charities,” said Dragons' Den star and entrepreneur Peter Jones, a member of the judging panel. “Google's Impact Challenge shows that innovation is crucial to success. You can't stand still."

Each of the ten finalists will receive £200,000 to develop the technology, with the winner being announced at the end of July. The public can vote for their favourite invention through the Google Impact Challenge website, while the judging panel, which also includes Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and Red Nose Day director Emma Freud, will chose an additional three projects.

The four winners will see their grant increased to £500,000. All the finalists will also receive mentoring from Google as part of the process.

A prototype of smart glasses enabling blind people to see obstacles and recognise faces was submitted by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).

Also in the running is a data analysis project from homeless charity Centrepoint which tracks homelessness levels among young people to monitor and protect them, and it uses an app to get feedback from former homeless people on what helped them turn their lives around.

The Impact Challenge is run in partnership with Nesta, a UK-based charity that promotes innovation to improve lives.

Last year's winners included a solar-powered lamp to help those in rural communities and a camera which tracks endangered animals to protect them from poachers.

Helen Goulden, executive director of the charity's innovation lab and another judge in the Impact Challenge, said: "This challenge shines a light on just how many charities are already doing great things with technology to address some of our most pressing challenges," she said.

"We're hugely excited by the 10 finalists who've made it to this stage, there are some fantastic projects in the running - now it's up to the public to decide who should be the grand prize winners."

Google this week announced its own latest innovative project, confirming a deal with Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis to work on the development of smart contact lenses.

The lenses contain a microchip and sensor that monitors glucose levels in the tear ducts, and are aimed at improving the lives of diabetics by making it easier to manage their condition.

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