Students from India crowned runners-up at the 2019 Imagine Cup World Championship for their AI-powered anti-pollution mask

Members of Team Caeli pose for the camera

Meet Team Caeli–the runners-up of Imagine Cup 2019 World Championship!

Nine out of 10 people in the world breathe polluted air, causing as many as seven million deaths every year, the World Health Organization estimates. The World Bank pegs these premature deaths cost the global economy USD225 billion in lost labor income in 2013.

Statistics like these and their own experience living in the vicinity of New Delhi, which has one of the world’s worst air quality, led five students from Manav Rachna Institute of Research & Studies in Faridabad to embark on a mission to use technology to tackle the problem.

The team, comprising Aakash Bhadana, Ishlok Vashishta, Vasu Kaushik, Dipesh Narwat, and Bharat Sundal, came up with Caeli, a smart anti-pollution face mask and portable nebulizer to help those with breathing ailments like asthma and other chronic respiratory diseases. They won USD40,000 worth of Azure credits for being the runners-up at the 2019 Imagine Cup World Championship.

The mask and nebulizer are connected to a smartphone application via Bluetooth. Caeli mask features an air filtration system and an Air Quality Index (AQI) sensor that constantly monitors the quality of air outside. Caeli app controls the schedule of the drug dispensed from the nebulizer depending on the user’s prescription and pollution levels. When required, the user can switch on the “intelligent mode” and get the instant relief drug automatically.

“Caeli works on multi-disciplinary technologies and makes effective use of hardware capabilities and software intelligence. The device usage and sensor data is processed on the Azure platform,” Sundal discloses.

With Caeli app users can also check the air quality around their neighborhood or workplace and stay informed about their environment’s health. Another feature in the app is to enable users with navigation support to help pick the least polluted route.

Team Caeli's smart anti-pollution face mask and nebulizer
Team Caeli’s AI-powered anti-pollution face mask and portable nebulizer. The face mask features three filtration layers, a centrifuge fan and an air quality sensor. The portable nebulizer when connected to the app can intelligently deliver the right dosage of medication when required.

Inspired to imagine

Their journey with Caeli started with Microsoft’s Imagine Cup—a global competition that empowers the next generation of computer science students to team up and use their creativity, passion and knowledge of technology to create applications that shape how we live, work and play. Inspired by other students who’ve been to Imagine Cup, it took the team three attempts to finally make their mark at the global event.

Earlier in February, Team Caeli won the Asia leg of Imagine Cup and took home USD 15,000. On May 6, the team represented Asia at the world championship in Seattle and competed against the winners from EMEA and the Americas.

Team Presenting at the Imagine Cup 2019
Team Caeli presenting to the judges during the 2019 Imagine Cup World Championship at Microsoft Build in Seattle on May 6, 2019.

The team’s journey to the Imagine Cup World Championship was not without hurdles. “Each team was allotted three minutes to present in front of the panel. We had planned for an introductory video. To our horror, we realized that the audio was not compatible with the sound systems. We lost one-and-a-half minutes trying to fix the problem, and the remaining stretch was a race against time. Thankfully, we were prepared for an elevator pitch kind of scenario and everything ended well,” Kaushik recollects about their presentation in the Asia regional finals.

“The biggest thing we learned is the need to be persistent, to always be persistent,” says Bhadana. “Being at Imagine Cup has been an experience of a lifetime. Interacting with students from various countries on a platform this big and exchanging ideas with experts has changed our perspective about the impact of technology on human lives. We are thankful to Microsoft for providing students like us an opportunity to bring our ideas to fruition,” he adds.

Preparing for world domination

Since winning the Asia leg, the main focus of the team was on improving the user experience and enhancing the aesthetic appeal of the mask. The team tweaked its product design, to achieve over 50 percent reduction in size. The latest prototype is as small as an earphone case.

They were being mentored by three mentors from Flow Ventures, who helped the team not only hone its presentation but also develop a go to market strategy over weekly calls.

“Initially, we were thinking of developing an online portal for sales. But our mentors expanded our horizons and told us how we could look at partnering with hospitals and pharmacies, to gain access to a customer base easily. Their guidance has been critical to our launch and expansion plans,” Bhadana reveals.

During the finals,  the team showcased multiple mask customization options, ranging from cartoon characters to celebrities, to encourage more and more people to wear anti-pollution masks, especially kids. They also revealed how users could talk to virtual assistants from within the mask itself, without having to remove the mask. The team now plans to work on using medical-grade material for the mask.

In case you missed the action, you can watch the 2019 Imagine Cup World Championship highlights here.

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