Big Ideas finalists for 2013

Big Ideas@Berkeley is an annual innovation contest aimed at providing funding, support, and encouragement to interdisciplinary teams of UC undergraduate and graduate students who have “big ideas.”

The projects in the 2013 Information Technology for Society category are:

Access (UC Berkeley) | Access will innovate a financially sustainable business model that provides free mobile phones, subscriptions and SMS literacy curricula to the world’s illiterate poor. They plan on harnessing corporate interest at the bottom of the economic pyramid as an untapped market to finance this movement.

Facilitating Independence for Photo Capturing, Browsing, and Sharing for Blind People (UC Santa Cruz) | This big idea is to facilitate independence for blind people in capturing, organizing, browsing, and sharing photos using an iPhone.

FuturePress—Open reading, writing, and collaboration for enhanced ebooks (UC Berkeley) | Electronic books, content sharing, and collaborative authoring have the potential to transform education and community knowledge building, but proprietary platforms and limited authoring tools are standing in the way. FuturePress seeks to change this by building an open-source, cross-platform ebook reader and a web-based collaborative authoring tool.

Health in the Cloud (UC Berkeley) | Health in the Cloud will build an easy-to-use, but comprehensive, platform for the global health community to collect, manage, and analyze diagnostic data. Emphasis will be placed on providing and standardizing powerful techniques for data visualization, co-location of data, and meta-analysis, which they believe is the future of data mining and healthcare.

Low-Cost Utility-Driven Guardian Robot for Older Persons Living Alone (UC Santa Cruz) | This proposal aims to produce a robot that acts as a guardian for older persons living independently that is low cost, low maintenance, unobtrusive, and gives the family peace of mind that their loved one is safe.

m3d (Mass Minable Medical Data) (UC Berkeley) | m3d is the “Google for Healthcare” —an intuitive and fast search engine for clinical and biomedical research.

ParkExperienceMap (UC Berkeley) | To survive, California’s National Parks must become more relevant to people of diverse cultural backgrounds. Drawing on research about underserved populations and parks, ParkExperienceMap, in partnership with the national Park Service, proposes to implement an online participatory mapping system for creating park maps that is tailored to underserved audiences.

Science Foundary: A Series on How Scientists Change the World (UC Berkeley) | The Science Foundary wants to inspire the next generation of innovators. Starting with Berkeley’s nine Nobel Laureates, they aim to film a series of short “Science for Everyone” videos explaining their prizewinning work to spark the young minds of future scientists.

Small, Low-Cost Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for CAL FIRE Reconnaissance (UC Merced) | The Sacramento firefighters memorial has over 1,100 fallen heroes, and UC Merced students have developed a way to improve firefighter safety. While combating wildfires, information is key; therefore, this big idea envisions a cheap way to continuously update CAL FIRE with small, unmanned aerial vehicles.

On Wednesday, April 10, from 2-4 pm, Big Ideas@Berkeley will hold its annual “Information Technology for Society” poster session in B100 Blum Hall on the UC Berkeley campus.

All nine finalists in the IT for Society category will be in attendance, to discuss their innovative projects and answer questions from judges and the public. The IT for Society contest category, sponsored by the Rudd Family Foundation and the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS), supports student projects with the potential to channel information technology to address a broad range of social issues—including public health, democratic governance, transportation, and disaster response, among others. The upcoming poster session will allow teams to share their projects, which have already demonstrated the capacity of IT in addressing major societal challenges.

For additional information on Big Ideas@Berkeley, or the IT for Society poster session please contact or visit our website at