Notebook > Technology
Illustration by Ali Douglass

Money lines

Technology | Websites help individuals raise venture capital online

Issue: "2010 Books Issue," July 3, 2010

An artist or entrepreneur who wanted to raise money for a project once had to spend a lot of time vigorously networking, setting up meetings, and asking for money. But a few new websites aid this process by hosting project pages with details about the venture, the amount of money needed, and rewards for investors. Contributions can range from $1 to 100 percent, and project creators give rewards to contributors-a CD, a walk-on role in the film, a souvenir-depending on the size of the pledge. A complete stranger might see a project on the website, like the idea or the rewards, and decide to contribute. If the project does not raise 100 percent of its funds by the deadline, investors get their money back.

Two websites demonstrate the possibilities of this model. Recent projects on IndieGoGo.com include a high-school student eager to pay her way to attend a summer theater workshop, and a production company hoping to shoot a web comedy about Christian dating. Kickstarter.com recently made headlines for helping a group of NYU students raise nearly $200,000 to start a Facebook competitor.

Making a mark

The war between traditional print books and their electronic cousins continues to rage-but Purdue professor Sorin Matei's "Ubimark" project may narrow the gap between paper and pixels by embedding text with bar codes in printed books. When photographed by a device such as an iPhone, the codes work as hyperlinks to a website with annotations, online conversations with other readers, maps, and audio versions of the text. The prototype book is Around the World in 80 Days.

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But Ubimark isn't just intended for books-markers are popping up in magazines and on bus shelter advertisements, where they may link to shopping websites or other information. Eventually, Ubimark may deliver information for tourists through markings on physical locations, an atlas with stories and testimonials embedded through marks, and more. The goal is to "enhance physical reality" with stories, travel experiences, ratings, and other information.

Infected implants

Computer viruses have brought down websites and services since the dawn of the internet. But computers aren't alone in their susceptibility to these viruses-University of Reading researcher Mark Gasson says that many implantable medical devices, such as pacemakers and cochlear implants, are also vulnerable. To make his point, he embedded an infected RFID chip in his left hand. (RFIDs are widely used for passport scanning, inventory control in libraries and warehouses, etc.) Gasson's chip would ordinarily have let him access his workplace and cell phone, but the virus in the chip disrupted the connection.

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