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Steve Banfield of INRIX, winner of last year’s Innovation of the Year

Crowdsourced package delivery, wireless over-the-air device charging, an atlas of the human brain, dynamic 3D face reconstruction, and a rocket that can land upright and be used again.

Awards 2016These are some of the top innovations emerging from the Pacific Northwest, and they represent the five finalists for Innovation of the Year, our next category for public voting in the 2016 GeekWire Awards.

For the next two weeks, we’re opening voting in each of 13 GeekWire Awards categories, with GeekWire readers choosing their top picks from finalists selected by our panel of judges from community nominations. Check back on GeekWire each day to cast your ballots, or visit here to see the other categories). All of the winners will be revealed at the GeekWire Awards — presented by Wave — on May 12 at EMP.

Innovation of the Year is presented by Nuance. Last year’s winner was the INRIX intermodal navigation system for the BMW i3. Vote here for your favorite, grab your tickets below, and continue reading for details on the finalists.

Amazon FlexAmazon Flex: Like Uber for packages, this crowdsourced delivery system leverages an on-demand fleet of drivers who pick up packages for delivery to homes and businesses.

Initially tested in the Seattle region, Amazon Flex is quickly expanding to other parts of the country. It’s part of a broader set of new delivery initiatives being rolled out by the e-commerce giant as it moves further into the business of transportation and logistics.

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Supasorn Suwajanakorn

University of Washington digital 3D face reconstruction: This project is led by Supasorn Suwajanakorn, a UW graduate student working with two professors — Steve Seitz and Ira Kemelmacher — under the title, “What Makes Tom Hanks Look Like Tom Hanks.” It’s based on “a novel combination of 3D face reconstruction, tracking, alignment, and multi-texture modeling, applied to the puppeteering problem.”

The technology, which won the Madrona Prize at a UW event last fall, recreates and digitizes faces. “We can reconstruct a person and animate a person so that it still has his or her likeness and preserve his or her identity,” Suwajanakorn told us last fall. “Ultimately, you could imagine archiving anyone, or bringing back fond memories of your distant relatives.”

The Ossia Personal Area Charger
The Ossia Personal Area Charger

Ossia Cota wireless charging technology: This Bellevue-based company is aiming to simplify the way we charge everything from smartphones to smoke detectors to wearable fitness trackers, through over-the-air wireless charging.

A prototype transmitter that we saw at the Consumer Electronics Show was about the size of a hotel ice bucket, able to charge devices up to six feet away through their embedded Cota chips. A Gizmodo reporter called it “the coolest CES demo I’ve ever seen.”

Ossia has raised a total of $27 million and struck partnerships with companies including KDDI, the Japanese telecommunications giant, and Si-Ware Systems, which is building the chips to enable wireless charging.

Blue Origin's New Shepard prototype spaceship blasts off from its Texas launch pad. (Credit: Blue Origin)
Blue Origin’s New Shepard prototype spaceship blasts off from its Texas launch pad. (Credit: Blue Origin)

Blue Origin’s New Shepard reusable launch system: The modern-day space race isn’t just about blasting off. It’s also about landing.

One of the companies leading the way in reusable rockets is Blue Origin, the Jeff Bezos-led space venture based in Kent, Wash. Over the past six months, Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital rocket ship has gone through three successful launch-and-landing tests. People could start taking test flights on New Shepard as early as next year, with paying passengers due to climb aboard in 2018.

Blue Origin’s mission is to “make access to space at much lower cost so that thousands of entrepreneurs can do amazing and interesting things, and take us into the next era,” said Bezos in an interview last week with GeekWire’s Alan Boyle. “I’m very excited about it. We only need two things to be able to do it: reusability and practice.”

Gene expression in human brain
An image from the Allen Brain Explorer shows gene expression across the human brain. (Credit: Allen Institute for Brain Science)

Allen Institute for Brain Science, Human Brain Atlas: The Allen Human Brain Atlas was first unveiled in 2010, but it continues to reap rewards in the form of scientific breakthroughs. One of the latest studies to emerge from the Human Brain Atlas could lead to new insights about Alzheimer’s and other diseases.

The study showed that “we’re really much more similar than we are dissimilar” when it comes to the genetic code for our brain’s wiring, said Ed Lein, a researcher at the Allen Institute for Brain Science. The researchers wrote that the patterns could create “a baseline from which deviations in individuals may be measured and associated with diseases such as autism, schizophrenia, epilepsy and major depression.”

“This gives us an exciting way to look further at the functional activity that underlies the uniquely human brain,” said Christof Koch, the Allen Brain Institute’s president and chief scientific officer.

Vote above and join us May 12 for the GeekWire Awards at EMP in Seattle.Tickets available here or below.

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