Mick Ebeling recently gave a TED talk about the homemade eye-tracking device he and a bunch of hackers made to allow a paralyzed man to communicate, stephen hawking style. They did this with an off-the-shelf PS3 camera and some open source software for $50. That’s what I call a righteous hack. Most importantly it has real-world significance. And it’s totally something I or many people I know could have done if I had thought of the idea.
I think a lot of hackers are hungry for this kind of meaningful work. We need a repository of project ideas like the Eyewriter – immediate needs that have a tangible social affect and can be done in a weekend or two. Organize the ideas by skills required and offer the platform for organizing groups of hackers to tackle the problem. There are a lot of developers out there looking for a side project and a way to have an impact. And we also need idea people. Social workers, NGO’s, and every day people to tell us how technology could solve the problems they see in the field.
For goodness sake, hack!