Big Data Gets Creative: 10 Big Data Kickstarters Turning Data Into Impact

August 28, 2014
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Crowdsourcing is certainly no new phenomenon. In fact, 118 years ago, The New York Times attempted what was the most elaborate crowdsourcing initiative to date: sourcing for a new motto. 

Crowdsourcing is certainly no new phenomenon. In fact, 118 years ago, The New York Times attempted what was the most elaborate crowdsourcing initiative to date: sourcing for a new motto. 

In 1896, The New York Times offered $100 to the winning entry for the replacement of The Times’ iconic slogan: All the News That’s Fit to Print. That sum of money was quite a bit back in the day, enough to buy you 600 pounds of coffee or hundreds of new dresses, according to The Atlantic. The newspaper received entries from all 45 states – yes, some even from women – and published a few of what they found to be the most creative. 

In the end, though, The Times stuck with its original motto: paying out the $100 sum to a man in Connecticut who wrote the runner-up, according to the Times, to the newspaper’s already existing catch phrase. 

“It is a very good motto for a newspaper,” The Times wrote of D.M. Redfield’s winning words, “and if The Times did not already possess one which it thinks better, Mr. Redfield’s phrase would doubtless be accepted and put in use.”

With the advent of the Internet, though, interest in crowdsourcing has piqued. Through online crowdsourcing, anyone can, in theory, reach enough people of interest to help fund an idea that nearly anything can find monetary support through a well put together digital presentation, of sorts. 

This idea has spawned multiple websites, each dedicated to its own version of crowdsourcing. Kiva allows users to donate to startup founders in underdeveloped nations, promising a full refund of the investment within a particular time period. Kickstarter and IndieGoGo follow a similar approach, except instead of full repayment, those who donate receive early adaptations of the product in question – oh, and you don’t need to live in a third world country in order to find support. 

Knowing that innovative genius doesn’t depend on monetary status, we went ahead and rounded up the coolest big data projects being masterminded behind-the-conglomerate-scenes. From art to fitness, books to video games, big data is making a big impact – and it just might be your turn to invest. 

Art

FRICKbits

Days to go to meet funding requirements at pub date: 13

Laurie Frick is an Austin, Texas based artist who makes hand-built work from self-tracking data. She follows a personal algorithm to turn anyone’s data into abstract patterns of art. FRICKbits is an iPhone app, or will be, that accumulates your location data into rick patterns and textures over time. 

“All the tiny measurements add up to a data portrait of you. Have you ever wondered what’s really known about you? Everything you post, every time you use a credit card, your phone log, search history, your location …mostly it’s a little creepy, and after we revoke a couple permissions for apps we don’t much care about, we try to forget about it. It feels hopeless. Usually when things are the darkest it’s exactly the time it starts to turn around. We’re at that moment right now, it’s not hopeless. But instead of agonizing about every big corporation tracking us …take back your data and make it something good. Use technology to boost a little self-reflection. Not ugly graphs and charts…but genuine art.”

Wall of War

Days to go to meet funding requirements at pub date: 16

“Wall of War is a massive scale data visualization with intense complexity and a visceral effect on the viewer. The project sources data from the Wikileaks-leaked War records from 2004-2010. It includes events as mundane as a project file being deposited and as severe as air strikes or IEDs. 

With your help, this project will explore the idea of war and the implications of large scale leaks, as well as critique the state of data visualization and information graphics today. A traditional reductionist approach might not adequately reflect the severity, scope, and importance of this data.”

Fitness

StepBOT

Days to go to meet funding requirements at pub date: 16

“StepBOT may be reminiscent of Tamagotchis or Giga Pets, but it is far more! There is a higher purpose to StepBOT – the more steps you take the more you are able to help your 8-bit friends complete missions and reach their goals along with your own fitness goals. Each of the characters in StepBOT have their own set of missions and goals that they are trying to achieve. Whether it is finding a new source of energy, saving its habitat, or trying to find an explanation for its tainted food supply. Empower them with your steps!

StepBOT integrates with FitBits and Jawbones.” 

runScribe 

Days to go to meet funding requirements at pub date: 24

“runScribe is a lightweight running wearable that mounts on the back of your shoe and uses a 9-axis sensor to precisely capture the movements of your foot during the gait cycle. The precision measurements, combined with runScribe’s kinematic engine delivers the most advanced set of running metrics available outside of a professional lab environment.

While other running technologies offer limited information – merely tracking steps, distance and speed – runScribe makes thousands of calculations for every stride and reports on 13 detailed kinematic metrics. The scale and detail of data available through runScribe has never been captured in a consumer device, giving athletes, trainers and coaches real-world data to make informed training decisions.”

Atlas

Days to go to meet funding requirements at pub date: 0 – Funded

“The technology inside Atlas adds an incredible amount of context to your workout. Not only do you have a complete digital log of your specific exercises, Atlas enables you to see how your body is affected. You can see how rest affects each exercise, how quickly your heart recovers, the quality of your form and more. Plus, you can measure your explosiveness, find your max thrust and improve your workouts. The Atlas platform builds on a community of data that will enable everyone to learn the different benefits of each exercise routine.

We collected and calibrated data on the most popular exercises and their proper form from professional trainers and other exercise gurus. The Atlas comes preloaded with that community of data so you can easily compare your workout and analyze your form.

The Atlas app experience lets you dive deeper into your workout data. It will highlight what muscle groups you’ve focused on recently and suggest areas to focus on next. To add a little fun to your workout, you can challenge friends within the Atlas community and compare yourself to fitness professionals around the world.”

Entertainment

Firewalls Don’t Stop Dragons – Book

Days to go to meet funding requirements at pub date: 10

“This book is for my mother, my friends, my neighbors, and all the other totally normal, everyday people like them: people who use computers, but don’t really know (or frankly care) how they work. This book is for people who just want to know what they need to do to protect themselves – step by step, without lots of jargon, and without judgment. I’ve structured this book to give you the maximum benefit with the smallest amount of effort (and cost). The purpose of this book is to cut to the chase and clearly explain the bare minimum things you need to do to protect yourself in this increasingly-connected world of ours. Along the way, if you want to learn a little of the ‘why’ and ‘how,’ in language you can understand, I’ve included a good bit of that, too.”

CONTROL ALT DELETE – Movie

Days to go to meet funding requirements at pub date: 16

“Crichton-esque techno-thriller about hackers and sysadmin fighting to escape a data center overrun by a deadly artificial intelligence.”

Data Dealer – Game

Days to go to meet funding requirements at pub date: 0 – Funded

“Data Dealer lets you ‘play god’ with personal data. It’s a browser game, 100% free to play and released under Creative Commons. Let’s call it an offspring of certain shiny 2010 Facebook Games and the 1990 TV simulation game Mad TV, reborn with the souls of South Park and Bruce Schneier. Or simply: PRISM. The Game.

Data Dealer is full of irony and gleeful sarcasm. It’s about surveillance, privacy, the social impact of technology and fun. What if you had control over millions of Internet users’ personal data? Ever wanted to run your own Smoogle & Tracebook, track your users & ruthlessly collect loads of detailed personal profiles? Now you can!”

Oulala – Fantasy Football (or Soccer, as us Americans say)

Days to go to meet funding requirements at pub date: 0 – Funded

Think Fantasy Football get out of control stateside? Wait until you experience Fantasy Football in the UK, where soccer teams the world over are scored, compared and argued over throughout the night. This app, available since 2013, uses 70 different data points to inform the success metrics of players from all the world’s soccer leagues, and awards prizes to Fantasy Football players who strategize well when building their team. 

Perhaps this app can give a little inspiration to the innovative football fans in the U.S: a data-driven, award-winning Fantasy Football app.

Internet of Things

Plum – Internet of Things Security

Days to go to meet funding requirements at pub date: 0 – Funded

“Welcome to the wild, wild west. At any given moment, literally millions of people are trying to gain control of any device connected to the Internet. Some people do it for the challenge. Others have more sinister intent. Regardless of the motive, what’s hard to grasp is the sheer number and technical ability of those trying. This simple misjudgment of numbers lulls engineers and system designers into a ‘good enough’ zone of comfort. Examples of decent security implementations abound, alongside stories of hackers who walked right through them all. Engineers protected. Hackers laughed.

At Plum, we’ve made security a fundamental piece of the design and development conversation from inception. We know that a collective of Internet guerillas is smarter than any one team. We also know that perfect security does not exist. Given enough time and enough resources, any lock can be picked. We also know that security is part psychology and part technology. Essentially, keeping malicious hackers out is primarily about making it harder to break in than it’s worth.”