Published: November 8, 2012 New York Times
IMAGINE putting up a prize of $20 million to inspire others to solve a particular problem. What would your challenge be?
Some of the world’s leading companies, including Google, Qualcomm and Nokia, have sponsored big-money contests challenging competitors around the world to design a host of wonders, including robots that can explore the moon, superefficient electric vehiclesand more accurate methods for sequencing the human genome. The online movie streaming company Netflix awarded $1 million to a winning team of outsiders that helped it develop better ways to predict which films its customers would like.
Carol Padden, 2010 Fellow
CHALLENGE Use crowdsourcing to help the hearing-impaired
The paradox of America’s economy is that while it is hard for many people to find one paying job, almost everybody has several they do free. We are bank tellers when we use the A.T.M., airline employees when we check ourselves in for flights and cashiers when we scan our items at the supermarket.
And we work on the cutting edge of technology, helping Google and Apple refine their voice recognition software each time we ask our phones to name the capital of Burkina Faso (it’s Ouagadougou) and follow up by asking, “How the heck do you pronounce that?”
Carol Padden, who is deaf and teaches communication at the University of California, San Diego, said she wanted to enlist volunteers to crowdsource a labor-intensive service: captioning video for the deaf and hard of hearing. Her $20 million prize would reward the person or team who devised an effective method to tap the power of the Internet to caption videos. She said this could involve “breaking down a video segment into very short one-minute clips which are sent out in the universe to be captioned by anyone. The short clips would be recombined to produce a captioned version of the original segment.”
Like many efforts initially aimed at helping those with disabilities, Ms. Padden noted that the project would almost certainly have broader benefits. Parents pushing strollers, she noted, are grateful for the curb cuts created for people in wheelchairs, just as patrons watching “Monday Night Football” in noisy bars count on closed captions to see what the announcers are saying.