By Kyle Almond, CNN
October 12, 2010 8:59 a.m. EDT | Filed under: Innovation
(CNN) -- Living in Tokyo, Japan, during the late '90s, Geoffrey Barnett found it extremely difficult -- even dangerous -- to ride his bicycle to work every day.
"The traffic is incredible, and there's so much pollution," said Barnett, an Australian who worked in the city as an English teacher.
His students shared his frustration, and they would often talk about Tokyo's jam-packed streets during class.
"It was always a topic of discussion that motivated the students to talk, because it was a part of their life as well," Barnett recalled.
Out of those frequent discussions evolved Barnett's idea for Shweeb, a system of personal, pedal-powered monorail pods that he hopes can one day become an alternative form of urban transit. With Shweeb, pods hang from an elevated track that, theoretically, would stretch to destinations throughout a city.
"Cumbersome, jammed-up cities of today should be rendered into completely accessible worlds once you've got a way to shoot over the traffic," said Barnett, who derived the name Shweeb from the German word "schweben," which means to hang, hover or float. He left Tokyo in 2000 to design a prototype.
Barnett's vision received a significant boost last month when Google awarded Shweeb $1 million for research and development. Shweeb was one of five winners of Project 10^100, Google's "call for ideas to change the world." …