A couple of years ago, Google put out a request for ideas that could change the world by helping as many people as possible. The response was phenomenal, with over 150,000 proposals coming in from more than 170 countries. The search giant managed to whittle those down to just 16 and then asked the public to vote for five winners. The results are in, and we're pleased to say that one of the ideas taking a share of the US$10 million prize fund is an innovation Gizmag featured over two years ago, the Shweeb Human-powered monorail.

The basic idea behind Project 10^100 was to dip into the immense collective library of global knowledge and ability, and come up with some solutions to help people – to find a better way of doing something, a practical solution to a common problem, a pooling of fragmented resources, opening processes up to public scrutiny, and so on.

As Google puts it: "We don't believe we have the answers, but we do believe the answers are out there. Maybe in a lab, or a company, or a university – but maybe not. Maybe the answer that helps somebody is in your head, in something you've observed, some notion that you've been fiddling with, some small connection you've noticed, some old thing you have seen with new eyes."

And the winners are...

Google has produced a short video overviewing the work of the winners:

Before taking another quick look at the winning Shweeb project, here's a little about the other four honorees...

US$2 million is heading to the Khan Academy, an organization that provides free online education tools. The injection of funds will be used to expand the Academy's existing library, and also make it available to even more people by having the core content translated into widely-used languages.

The development of a robotics team by FIRST is US$3 million better off thanks to Google's project. FIRST promotes science and math education around the globe by organizing team competitions and getting students some real-world experience alongside science professionals.

US$2 million is on its way to an organization which aims to make government documentation in the U.S. more accessible. Public.Resource.Org is to use the money in an initiative to get all primary legal materials online and available to all.

Another US$2 million is being made available to provide quality education to African students courtesy of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences, which will use Google's generosity to "fund the opening of additional AIMS centers to promote graduate level math and science study in Africa."

The Shweeb

Last, but not least, US$1 million finds its way to Shweeb Monorail Technology, so its concept can be developed and tested in an urban setting. The system merges two forms of existing transport technology to produce one zero emission public transport solution. A personal aerodynamic pod (or tandem unit) is suspended from a monorail structure and powered by the passenger's pumping leg action in a recumbent cycling position.

The pod allows for 360 degree views of the surroundings as it glides along the track, and the designers see electric assist possibilities being made available too. Initially conceived as an urban transport solution to ease snarled up traffic in busy cities, Shweeb systems could also be installed along existing cycleways, across rivers or motorways, at business parks or university campuses, and in tourist spots or leisure parks, like the one at Agroventures in New Zealand.