Rudie Shepherd awarded $15,000 as the embeddedSPARK 2010 Summer Challenge Winner for Roombox

BOSTON — Sept. 21, 2010 — Today at the Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) Boston, Microsoft awarded Rudie Shepherd $15,000 as the winner of the embeddedSPARK 2010 Summer Challenge for his innovative project Roombox.

Rudie described his winning device as a video production system targeted for home usage. It featured a 270-degree rotating projection capability along with a touch interface, Web browser and unique abilities like mood-lighting.

Rudie Shepherd’s Roombox embeddedSPARK 2010 Summer Challenge project.

The other finalists in the competition, HomePortal: A family device with a personal “touch” by Serge Willemsen and Wizbuddy (Your Travel Companion) by Rajeev Bhatia, took home the runner-up prizes of $5,000 and $1,000, respectively.

All three finalists were awarded Microsoft BizSpark — a program designed to help accelerate the success of entrepreneurs and early startups globally. The program provides fast and easy access to current, full-featured software development tools and platforms, and a connection to over 2,000 BizSpark Network Partners — including university incubators, hosters, government agencies, investors, consultants and financial institutions, all with a common goal of supporting entrepreneurship. BizSpark startups also have the opportunity to achieve global visibility to an audience of potential investors, customers and partners by profiling their company and posting offers and events in the BizSpark online networking hub, BizSpark Connect.

The contest, which officially launched for the first time at ESC Silicon Valley in April, challenged Internet technology enthusiasts to create an innovative device using the Windows Embedded Standard 7 toolkit with a central theme of “Media Explosion.” This theme asked developers to create an embedded project that approached media in a new and innovative way, and submissions for the contest came from all over the world.

HomePortal, which took home second place, is a multipurpose touch-screen device for the home, featuring a 20-foot monitor, fingerprint reader, multimedia capabilities and user customization. Third place winner WizBuddy is described as a travel companion device with GPS receiver, voice command, speech recognition and touch screen — it even offers social media integration.

It was not an easy decision for contest judges, as deliberations proceeded for some time. Like the last embeddedSPARK competition, the Summer Challenge also progressed through three intense rounds of judging. Participants who advanced beyond the first round were asked to submit a four- to eight-page paper describing the solution along with a three-minute video demonstration of the prototype in action.

We caught up with one of the judges at ESC Boston who had to whittle down the submissions — an arduous task to say the least but a privilege and a pleasure, given the opportunity to see some great innovations.

“I was honored to have the opportunity to participate in the embeddedSPARK 2010 Summer Challenge,” said Stephen Balacco, director of Embedded Software & Tools for VDC Research. “The competition highlights the ingenuity of embedded hobbyists, and I’m pleased to take part in a program with Microsoft that drives industry innovation.”

embeddedSPARK is a partnership between Microsoft and select hardware vendors to bring a complete package offering of hardware and software to hobbyist developers and academics. Currently, under its MSDN Academic Alliance Program, Microsoft provides software for students and faculty in the technology and design fields.

Although the embeddedSPARK 2010 Summer Challenge has officially come to a close, the next competition is just getting under way. Today, Microsoft announced the embeddedSPARK 2011 Challenge, which focuses on the theme “Experience Embedded” and utilizes Windows Embedded Compact 7 as the primary platform for developers. For official rules and details, check out the official page.

To see more submissions from the contest, check out the gallery page on, which details the most-talked about and most-viewed devices, as well as past submissions from previous contests.

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