Passion and performance by Japanese teams at Imagine Cup

By Drew Robbins, Executive Officer, Commercial Software Engineering Lead, Microsoft Japan

The world’s largest student technology competition, the Imagine Cup, celebrated its 16th anniversary in Seattle last month. Out of 40,000 student competitors who registered across the world, the Imagine Cup came down to 49 teams from 33 countries competing in the World Finals.

Japan sent three teams to the World Finals. All the teams made passionate presentations and demonstrations and excited audiences in English even though it is not their mother tongue.

Team ezaki-lab from the National Institute of Technology, Toba College, and team Emergensor from the University of Tokyo both did amazing jobs, but  could not advance to the semifinals.

However, Team MediatedEar, made up of Kunihiko Sato (above left) and Ken Tominaga (above right), progressed all the way to the final three. Their project was a software for hearing-impaired individuals to focus on a specific speaker among a multitude of conversations. The Mediated Ear can relay specific sounds in audio waveforms through deep learning.

In the finals, which were live-streamed all over the world, Team Mediated Ear demonstrated high-level presentation and technology skills. And in the end , they came in third place and won a USD3,000 Azure grant. We would like to congratulate them for their hard work.

The champion of the Imagine Cup 2018 was team smartARM from Canada who created a robotic hand prosthetic, using Microsoft Azure Computer Vision, Machine Learning and Cloud Storage, that uses a camera embedded in its palm to recognize objects and calculate the most appropriate grip for an object. As the victors, team smartARM wins a mentoring session with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, USD85,000 in cash and a USD50,000 Azure grant. Team iCry2Talk of Greece earned second place with a low-cost and non-invasive intelligent interface between infant and parent that translates in real-time the baby’s cry, and associates it with a specific physiological and psychological state, depicting the result in various ways.

This year, we’ve added special Imagine Cup awards of USD15,000 for three key areas: AI, big data and mixed reality. Team SochWare from Nepal, won the AI award for designing a solution to help farmers, and team DrugSafe from India won the big data award for their solution to validate genuine drugs, and team Pengram from the United States won the mixed reality award for enabling holographical teleportation.

I congratulate all teams who challenged the world finals. Their challenging spirit, passion for technology and desire to help people made them successful. We hope they will keep working on their projects. 

For those who would like to change the world, make the world better with technology, please challenge next year! Microsoft will keep supporting students including Imagine Cup. We’re confident those students are symbolic of our hope for a better future built on technology.



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