Innovocracy Announces Academic Crowdfunding Project for an App for the Visually Impaired

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VizWiz App Builds on a University of Rochester Prototype Already Used by 5,000 People to Answer 50,000 Questions

Earlier this year, the University of Rochester Human Computer Interaction Group developed an initial iOS application called VizWiz, 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.

Thus far, answers have been provided primarily by workers on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, a paid microtasking marketplace. In order to broaden the availability of the service to a larger portion of the visually impaired community, the project is now seeking crowdfunding through the Innovocracy platform.

“We would like to create a web site to serve as a hub and answering center for VizWiz volunteers. The site will allow users to sign up to answer questions, track worker quality (and perhaps give rewards to the best ones), and, most importantly, allow VizWiz to remain free to users,” says Jeff Bigham, Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science at the University of Rochester. He adds, “Building a volunteer workforce may eventually allow for more ambitious VizWiz services, such as a streaming video option”.

New supporters can make donations through the VizWiz project page on Innovocracy ( as well as download the current version of the application on the Apple App Store (

About the Innovator
In 2009, Jeff appeared on the MIT Technology Review Top 35 Innovators Under 35 for his work on Web-Anywhere, a free screen reader that can be used with practically any web browser on any operating system. He is also the recipient of the NSF CAREER Award which is the National Science Foundation's most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars. Jeff is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Rochester where he heads the Rochester Human Computer Interaction Group (ROC HCI). His work is at the intersection of human-computer interaction, human computation, and artificial intelligence, with a focus on developing innovative technology that serves people with disabilities in their everyday lives.

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 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. In addition, Innovocracy offers to work with select innovators to facilitate the creation of startups to commercialize their research. Learn more at

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