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Project 10^100 winners include Shweeb human-powered monorail

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October 1, 2010

The Shweeb human-powered monorail is amongst the winning proposals for helpful solutions t...

The Shweeb human-powered monorail is amongst the winning proposals for helpful solutions to the world's problems, in Google's Project 10^100 competition

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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.

About the Author
Paul Ridden While Paul is loath to reveal his age, he will admit to cutting his IT teeth on a TRS-80 (although he won't say which version). An obsessive fascination with computer technology blossomed from hobby into career before the desire for sunnier climes saw him wave a fond farewell to his native Blighty in favor of Bordeaux, France. He's now a dedicated newshound pursuing the latest bleeding edge tech for Gizmag.   All articles by Paul Ridden
10 Comments

The Shweeb is a near carbon copy of the Skyway concept promulgated by Kor Product Design and featured in a Bicycling magazine article back in March of 1992, right down to the "You get up in the morning; descend to the second level of your apartment building where there%u2019s a Shweeb port and empty Shweebs waiting for you. You cruise over the top of the traffic jams. You don%u2019t pay parking. You%u2019ve produced no pollution. You arrive at work fit, healthy and ready to go." Read the article from 1992 and the same phrases pop out at you. "You've had a pleasant workout on a miserable day and commuted to work without fouling the air, clogging the roads, or using any energy sources beyond the nourishment you had for breakfast. You stride to the shower room feeling calm, invigorated and socially responsible..."

About the only difference is that the Shweeb uses a cheaper monorail structure instead of the Skyway's enclosed tubes. Both are elevated systems, both promise to let multiple vehicles join together as "trains." Unlike the Skyway, there's no visible luggage space, so carrying a laptop bag to work or groceries home would seem to be very difficult. I'd also hate to be inside one of those pods. With all that clear plastic, no shade and minimal ventilation in the name of aerodynamics, it's going to be a real greenhouse, turning a normally sweaty activity into a ride inside an oven.

Gadgeteer
1st October, 2010 @ 08:48 pm PDT

The shweeb is an idea that clearly comes from the last century. The future needs structure-less traveling systems, or at least not such very awful metallic structure. I really don't understand how the shweeb wen among the best proposed ideas.

Facebook User
3rd October, 2010 @ 03:47 am PDT

OK she invented, he invented, copycat or recycled ideas.....

I like the idea of STEEL wheels, I like the idea of riding on rails, I like the idea of aerodynamic shells....

Riding inside one across country on a 40*C day in the hot Australian sunshine......

Not so much.

Mr Stiffy
3rd October, 2010 @ 07:50 pm PDT

There will be bottled water stands at every shweeb port. It's business brilliance!

GeoMoon5
4th October, 2010 @ 12:41 pm PDT

How do you get down when something stops working? Is evey one going to be backed up with no way to pass? A Huffy 3spd with an aero fairing is going to go 20 mph and cost less than $300USD.

Grant-53
4th October, 2010 @ 07:40 pm PDT

@Grant-53: There is no need to pass anyone, if you catch up with someone slower, the pods join up and the dynamics of travel become more like a tandem bike with 2, 2, 4, etc cyclists combining their power.

There are some things I would change about the design though:

- Provide a shading mechanism within the pod.

- Include a cargo area, perhaps this could be achieved with cargo pods that attach to existing pods?

- Provide electrical assistance for those who cannot or do not wish to pedal. Still way more efficient than cars.

Edgar Walkowsky
5th October, 2010 @ 12:33 am PDT

insted of using this transporation, buy one bicycle and go everywhere u want. but this transporation can be used in national parks, zoo.

Facebook User
5th October, 2010 @ 09:07 am PDT

Nice idea must be put into use and tweaked for different users and environments perhaps a number of rails could be used and "points" could be changed by users through phone apps?.

Facebook User
9th October, 2010 @ 08:57 am PDT

What would make more sense is an ability for the shweeb bikes to run independent of the system. Then one could hope on their bike at home, and ride to a Schweeb stop and join the mainline. Running the rails up and down every street and all the intersections that would be required would defeat the practicality. this would allow the design of several different units such as ones with larger storage capacities, which could allowing UPS to return to it's bike days, and people to use it for their black friday shopping.

Colin Carlson
18th November, 2010 @ 07:41 pm PST

Oh my GOSH!!

our lego robotics team thought of this for our mission!!

this is AMAZING! but sad, because we thought our idea was original...I guess great minds think alike, definitely.

Facebook User
24th November, 2010 @ 09:23 am PST
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